Over the past couple of years, a wide number of games have tried to use gameplay as a way to enhance the narrative. Some did this very well, resulting in some of the most important and critically successful titles to date and others managed to fail in both regards. Void Terrarium attempts to make the rather simple concept and basic gameplay a bit deeper by having the two concepts directly link to the outcome. Between a cute girl, cuter graphics, and countless mechanics, is Void Terrarium a must, or should it be chucked into a void?
The basic narrative to Void Terrarium is extremely simple. You play as a robot named Robbie that happens to stumble on quite possibly the last human (Toriko). With the aid of a supercomputer, you receive a number of tasks to ensure her survival. Naturally, this gives your quests meaning, though a lot of the journey relies on empathy and compassion, over a legitimately gripping narrative. Instead of having deep problems, you solve one problem and are presented with another, either through random chance (she gets sick) or need (make her a bed). As a result, how well this storied land is entirely on the individual and how into the core concept you get.
As mentioned above, since every mission is based on Toriko’s needs, the gameplay also revolves around them. Unfortunately, where things really start to fall behind isn’t the concept, it’s execution. Where you’re supposed to view everything in a risk versus reward and strategy heavy light, it instead feels overwhelming, with too many different mechanics to manage.
In terms of straight gameplay, you need to manage Robbie’s EN (energy), health, attack, defense, and manage your item inventory. Since the items in your inventory will have a direct impact on your overall progression, there needs to be a balance of practical (restore energy/health) and valuable (gives a lot of resources/food). Beyond Robbie and his exploits out in the world, you also have to monitor how Toriko is doing. Her hunger will dictate how long you can spend exploring a dungeon, along with other factors like cleaning up her waste. Due to this, so much of your experience is dictated by external factors.
You’ll honestly spend more time trying to make sure Toriko stays alive than actually working on a strategy for the turn-based action roguelike. When push comes to shove, most situations come down to position, knowing when to use items and special attacks and making the best of your options, so every run is dictated by random chance and a multitude of mechanics you need to juggle. Even if they’re not hard to manage, really more tedious than anything else, said mechanics will determine how long it takes to progress.
Arguably the worst part of Void Terrarium isn’t the seven or 10 different mechanics you need to pay attention to, it’s how inconsistent it is. I failed more runs to bad luck than bad tactics, which is really unfortunate, given the genre is built on the idea of learning from your mistakes to overcome future problems.
Sometimes I simply fail to get the right drops. Regardless of skill, Robbie will die if you can’t replenish his energy, which requires certain drops, and without them, you’re screwed. Other times it feels like very little thought was put into enemy placement. I’ve had traps that lock me in place next to sleeping enemies that do a ton of damage, seemingly endless waves of enemies looking to kill me, and countless cheap mechanics result in my downfall. Seriously, I platinumed The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Dead Cells, and Enter the Gungeon, yet Void Terrarium manages to have the weirdest learning curve and some of the cheapest mechanics.
All of this is really unfortunate because the core gameplay can be enjoyable. Running through levels that have untold peril, looking for untold treasure, and trying to maximize progression through the best items possible. Plus, getting blueprints for new decorations, building them for Toriko, and making her home as nice as possible is thrilling, it just comes in waves. Sometimes it’s extremely easy to progress, you’ll find a bunch of cool stuff and have a blast and other times you’ll start a run poisoned, step on a trap moments later and end up dead.
void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium Verdict
As someone who loved A Rose in the Twilight and the whimsical art style found in both of these games, Void Terrarium is a hard sell. At its core, you have an okay roguelike that is bogged down by countless mechanics and things to pay attention to. Fight a monster, heal yourself, replenish your energy, clean up Toriko’s poop, obtain food, drop something for a blueprint, and then rush home because she is about to starve to death. It’s a lot to take in and as a result, falls short of simpler and less management heavy experiences.
[Editor’s Note: void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]