A title that is near-impossible to memorize, void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium comes out this week for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch courtesy of NIS America. We tested the PlayStation 4 version.
NIS America is no stranger to odd titles for their games, this particular one reminding me of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (which is from the same creators as Void Terrarium). Even though I just refer to that one as The Firefly Diary and this one as Void Terrarium, they do a nice job of cementing these titles as something that’s a bit different – something meant for a niche crowd, and in this case that’s been applied to the dungeon crawler genre.
In a post apocalyptic twist, the world’s became a hazardous place for humans as we encounter Toriko, a young girl who meets a discarded maintenance robot. He takes care of her and creates a place for her to live in, away from the toxic dangers of the outside world. To reinforce this terrarium and protect Toriko, you’ll need to venture outside to gather resources – but the world’s a dangerous place for little maintenance droids – even if you’re being helped by an AI friend of yours. Venturing out also means you’ll slowly reveal what happened to the human race and why it’s in a state of near-extinction, which is an important part of the narrative.
It’s a pretty grim setup for the story, but much like The Firefly Diary this is a game with a beautiful and almost fairytale-like visual art style. It’s almost as if the colorful visuals are meant to present a glimmer of hope against a dark narrative background, and it’s a juxtaposition that works to great effect. Not only does it work narratively, it also makes for a look and feel that is quite memorable.
Gameplay-wise, Void Terrarium isn’t as unique as its visuals might suggest. Venturing out into the world is basically a trek into a randomly generated dungeon, while returning “home” acts like a hub environment of sorts in which you apply your various boosts and upgrades. This includes improving your stats, but you can also unlock new abilities that will help you inside future dungeons. In addition, some of the loot you pick up inside your dungeons will let you craft improvements for the terrarium and help out Toriko, which ties your dungeon crawling exploits to the main narrative.
Movement and combat aren’t real-time while in a dungeon, but the action is done in such a way that the turn-based nature of the game feels very dynamic and action-oriented. A relatively simple control scheme helps, with a basic attack and the chance to equip special attacks as you unlock them. You’ll also need to monitor your robot’s life and energy gauges while on a mission, since recharging isn’t exactly the same as eating in other dungeon crawlers and your robot nature introduces a few light roguelike elements as well – letting you go back in with better equipment each time.
While the gameplay doesn’t offer anything new so genre purists might be looking elsewhere, but the interesting story and wonderful presentation make Void Terrarium quite worthwhile. There’s a decent amount of content with over 10 hours of gameplay time in the campaign, so if you enjoyed the vibe of games like The Firefly Diary and enjoy a bit of dungeon crawling every now and then, give this one a look.