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VoidExpanse Alpha Preview: Spaceship ARPG
I’d heard that indie spaceship RPG VoidExpanse was described as “Diablo in Space,” and while that’s an ambitious and ultimately inadequate analogy, it does offer many solid elements and mechanics of an Action-RPG with the combat and randomly generated galaxies of a space sim adventure.
If you’ve played Space Pirates and Zombies, Space Rangers or other space sim games you may already be familiar with the concepts of spaceship customization, mining asteroids and hunting bounties. When starting a new game you generate the size of your galaxy and create your character’s portrait from the hilariously limited pool of aesthetic options (to be fair, I can’t imagine that’s a high priority in the Alpha stage). Multiple classes are available from the baseline Adventurer to more specialized play styles like Merchant, Engineer and Scout, though I haven’t been able to ascertain much of a difference at this stage.
As is typical when starting out on your grand space adventure you arrive in a busted up civilian ship that’s barely able to fly let alone fire its single laser. The mouse controls your weapon’s tracking while the keyboard pilots the ship, creating an interesting, and at times frustrating ballet of combat maneuvers during each engagement with the many hostile pirates and enemy factions.
Each ship has multiple hardpoints that come in three varieties (laser, ballistic, missile). Each hardpoint also has its own arc radius and turning/lock-on speed, creating a fairly complex array of options. All the initial ships seem decently balanced to allow for various specific styles and strengths, like the Fang Hull which has four stationary missile hardpoints and the Boomerang with three lasers mounted on one side.
The hardpoints are only slots; each weapon must be found as loot of a destroyed enemy or purchased at the various space stations that dot the galaxy. Even in this early Alpha stage an impressive variety of weapons are available. Lasers alone come in beams, pulses, or cannon flavors (with appropriate damage and DPS to compensate). Each Hull has a number of equipment slots such as shields, engines, fuel and radar, while bigger and more advanced hulls allow you to equip more ARPG-style consumables and useful devices (like the all-important mining laser).
Faction-based storylines and randomized missions seem plentiful and can be acquired at most space stations of your chosen faction. They’re all told through basic dialogue boxes and act as a checklist of typical MMORPG fetch and kill quests – Kill X Pirates, Bring us X of Y Mineral, Deliver this package to X System. They give a decent incentive and motivation to explore certain areas, and from what I can tell the meat of the story and overall objective are the evil alien Xengatarn from which each major faction (Order, Freedom and Fanatics) have different methods and motivations with. In each galaxy I generated the Xengatarn controlled at least half the systems, no doubt representing a huge amount of high level play.
The one aspect I was disappointed in were the skill trees. Thanks to the constant threat of pirates and plentiful fetch quests, leveling is fairly fast. Each level confers a bunch of points you can spend on various skills (though confusingly each skill has a different cost, anywhere from 5-25 points for a single skill point). Other than some critical upgrades like unlocking more advanced hulls and weaponry, most skills simply give incremental stat boosts like +2% cruising speed. This works well in ARPGs like Path of Exile with its impressive spider-web of skills, but here there’s a very limited selection. As it’s early Alpha I have no doubt that every aspect of the game will be improved upon, and I certainly hope they can make the skills a bit more exciting or interesting.
While many elements of VoidExpanse have been seen in other space and ARPG games, the real draw comes from the seamless multiplayer. AtmoicTorch plans on enabling server creation that can support up to hundreds of players exploring the galaxy together, trading, crafting, upgrading equipment, and hunting down pirates, aliens and each other. Combine that with full and open modding support and you’ve got an extremely ambitious indie game with some solid groundwork for a fantastic experience. Keep your eyes to the stars and on AtomicTorch’s blog to keep up with development.
VoidExpanse can be pre-ordered to get instant access to the Alpha.