- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Publisher: NIS America
- Release Date: 14/7/20
- Price: £22.49 / $24.99
- Review code provided by NIS America
INTRODUCING: VOID TERRARIUM SWITCH REVIEW
void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, or just Void Terrarium, is a game that caught me off guard. Officially its genre is listed as “RPG,” but that is the tip of the iceberg. A more accurate description might be Rogue-like turn-based action-RPG with a touch of Tamagotchi. If there sounds like a lot, it kind of is. Yet Nippon Ichi Software has managed to blend all these elements into a game that feels fresh and easily accessible, while still having significant depth.
The player will explore the world as the small robot nicknamed Robbie. He discovers the last human left alive (later named Toriko), and with the help of the immobile factoryAI seeks to protect her. To do this, he explores the various human colonies in the area fighting off robots, mutants, and more to gather the necessary supplies.
Each time a zone is loaded, it is randomly generated making every trip a new experience. Add to this the fact that Robbie’s level is reset to one and he starts with no equipment, and now we have the Rogue-like element of the game. After returning back to The Scrapyard that acts as the main base, all extra items are turned into crafting resources.
There are not a huge number of zones in the game, but they are all utilized multiple times, and have enough differences in visuals and music that they do not become dull. The story, as limited as it is, turned out to be the biggest surprise of the game with it hitting in ways I never expected near the end. Though this was somewhat undermined by a far too long, and frankly unnecessary, final zone.
THE LITTLE ROBOT THAT COULD
In the field, the combat appears at first to be action-based. However, it is quickly shown that the system is turned based, with action-like controls. Every square of movement, attack, or item use is a turned and every other monster similarly uses a turn for their actions. While it took me a little bit to get used to the system, it actually worked fairly well, forcing more strategic approach to movement and placement than a typical action game while remaining faster-paced than a standard turn-based RPG.
Perhaps the only real downside is that it can be very easy to hold a movement button too long, or do some other action on accident that not only wastes a turn but can potentially put the player in a dire situation. Without careful planning it is easy to become surrounded, and this is the quickest way to destruction. Thankfully dying is not a set back so much as an expectation.
The only way to exit a level besides reaching the goal is to be destroyed. There are no additional rewards for clearing a zone entirely other than maximizing the chances of gathering rare resources. Either way, the next time Robbie visits, his level will be reset and everything starts anew. Since each zone will have to be tackled many times before Robbie will be strong enough to reach the goals, even dying on accident contributes to progression.
It should be noted that in the early, simpler zones the turns are barely noticeable. However as the game gets more complex and the zones larger the time between turns becomes noticeably longer. This is especially true whenever enemies that have ground effects are present, even if they are not visible on screen. While this did not hamper my enjoyment of the game, it did break up the smooth action feel I experienced early on.
Of course, at its core, this is still an RPG and the mastery of the RPG system is ultimately the key to mastering the game. Equipment exists for Robbie to pick up and use, with a weapon, armor, and MOD slot. The weapon and armor slots are straightforward, and typically have a right answer for any situation. The MODs can be more complex, with the weaker ones giving straight bonuses while the more powerful MODs also having drawbacks.
Since Robbie’s level is reset after each expedition, each new journey is a new chance to try different builds and find the one that works best for the player. Each level does grant a small bonus to Robbie’s stats, but what really is the key to the system are the skills. Every level two skill is presented at random (though this can be increased to up to four through upgrades) and the player chooses one. They range from common skills like a small augmentation to attack or defense to rare skills that offer incredibly powerful bonuses. Stacking these bonuses in creative ways can turn Robbie into a nigh-unstoppable force, and that is when the game is at its best.
To help with reaching this powerful builds, the player can equip “knacks.” These are essentially jobs such as fighter or medic that alter the appearance rate of certain skills. Choosing defense-oriented knacks will make it so offensive knacks will only show up rarely, though mixing the knacks can create far more complex arrangements than this. In addition, there is a skill removal system unlocked through rare craftables that allows a small number of skills to be removed completely from the pool. Ultimately customization is tied to crafting, one of the most important systems outside of combat.
BUILDING A BETTER FISHTANK
The crafting resources obtained from exploring are used to create various decorations for Toriko’s protective Terrarium as well as equipment for Robbie and story items. Character progression is accomplished entirely through this crafting system, as each piece of decoration gives a permanent bonus the first time it is completed. While the bonuses are small, they give just enough extra strength to push further and gain more levels each run.
Once the decorations have been made, they can then be used to customize the terrarium. The system is fairly simple but allows for extremely detailed decorating choices. Some items are merely visual, but others Toriko will interact with, like the stuffed animal or bed. While this is all entirely unnecessary, seeing Toriko explore her small habitat is definitely one of the joys of the game.
Beyond the terrarium are the items for Robbie. These range from straight upgrades, like increasing inventory space (absolutely vital as the game progresses), to the knacks used to customize the leveling process, to the active skills Robbie starts each expedition with. Initially, he will only start out with a single power attack, but after unlocking all the upgrade slots the player can choose up to four of the game’s special attacks to start a level with.
While I never had an excess of crafting materials, the fact that each zone would take several attempts to complete meant that I usually had enough to complete whatever story items I needed while still creating decorations and upgrades.
Probably the most unique system is Toriko herself. To care for her while out on expeditions, Robbie has a small, digital pet representation of the girl. This shows her hunger, corruption, and other stats. Since dying is no big deal for Robbie, the tension for the game instead is in keeping Toriko alive – not as easy a task as it first seems.
Food is found out in the field, and can be in various states of corruption. Only so much can be stored at a time, and it eventually expires so more is constantly needed. Given that it is not always possible to find food on an expedition, and staying away too long can cause Toriko to starve, leaving her health as a constant worry.
In addition feeding her too much, corrupted food can lead her to getting ill, which requires a short expedition to get the required medicine lest she dies from the illness. Thankfully, her other needs besides food can be handled remotely using the digital pet tool, so taking care of her does not become a burden.
Without a doubt Void Terrarium surprised me. It blends a number of genres together into a cohesive whole and presents a charming story of a small artificial family that left me unprepared for what was to come. The repetitive nature of the expeditions may be a turn off to some, but the surprisingly deep systems kept me engaged throughout.
- Simple to learn, difficult to master leveling system
- Well done narrative
- Terrarium custimization
- Limited variety of zones
- Final zone felt unnecessary
Fans of roguelikes will undoubtedly enjoy this game, but the charm and gameplay will attract others as well.