Raft, but in space? The demo for Voidtrain worries our author, even though the game does everything right at first glance
The Steam demo of Voidtrain only lasts 30 minutes. But I had such a queasy feeling the whole time The story, the flow of the game and the design of the new survival game from developer and publisher Hype Train Digital looked so damn familiar. But I couldn”t put my finger on where.
Hadn”t I played all this before? After the demo ended, it hit me like lightning. Suddenly I knew why Voidtrain seemed so familiar to me. And why, despite high hopes, I was looking forward to the 2023 release with a good dose of scepticism
What is Voidtrain about?
Voidtrain is a base-building survival game in first-person perspective where you gather resources, research blueprints and build what the train can hold. At this point I have to address the elephant in the room: Yes, Voidtrain is pretty obviously cribbed from Raft, a game by developer Redbeet Interactive, and many mechanics have been shamelessly adopted. But the developer studio Hype Train Digital has not simply shot the raft into space, but has added a few aspects to the familiar principle.
These include, among other things, a friendly English narrator who drives the story forward. And this is where the little voice at the back of my head speaks up: “Where does this look familiar? Where have you seen this before?” But before I can think about it in more detail, the voice from off-screen already tells me what it”s about:
As a nameless engineer, I got caught in a snowstorm on a research trip. I was only saved from freezing to death by an empty warehouse that suddenly appeared. In this hall there is stupidly a huge portal into the so-called Void, which immediately pulls me into it.
(The machine that pulls me into the Void is decorated with Nordic runes. I wonder what that means?)
Survival in a vacuum
I wake up in the Void on a trolley, which Voidtrain owes its name to. It chugs along tracks through space. It”s not much, but it”s at least equipped with the bare essentials to get me around the Void. Everything else is survival standard fare.
My wobbly vehicle is surrounded by small floating stone debris with resources hidden among them. After building a research table, I use a smelter to process wood and scrap into iron and copper, which I in turn use to build equipment and crates. With fat and organic material I satisfy my hunger, but it didn”t really become a burden in the short demo.
Yes, Voidtrain, unlike other survival games, has only one need that I have to satisfy. Thirst, oxygen or other necessities are not known to the game. This is a welcome change, especially since I move around in space and oxygen recharging has always annoyed me in other games.
(The world of Voidtrain is stunningly designed, even if I can only see a little of it.)
To collect resources, I simply jump off the train and “swim” there. But unlike in Raft, the engineer, clever as he is, simply ties himself to his ride. While this limits how far I can “swim out”, it also prevents me from losing my vehicle.
While I understand the thinking behind this decision, it frustrates me to no end that exploration around the train is limited to three metres. As beautifully designed as the world may be, I can”t explore it because I”m tied to a rope.
(Classic survival fare: In Void Train, I have to acquire resources to unlock new building types.)
The first pit stop
After I”ve done my first build and some track, I”m greeted by a glowing triangle on the track. Before I can wonder, the mysterious trig shifts into third gear and pulls me at the speed of light into a tunnel, at the end of which is a kind of underground station.
It seems to be abandoned. At the end of a short jump-and-run passage I find a skeleton. On the desk in front of him is a revolver, which I take. The Colt is – at least in the demo – the only weapon I have in Voidtrain to defend myself against the dangers that appear later on.
Those who have played Raft will recognise the shark here, which is a space-age version of the popular antagonist. In addition, however, there will probably be other moves with human NPCs to board and fight. In the demo, the only thing that could be seen was another train at the end, which I draw attention to myself by honking. In the trailers (on the Steam page) however, whole battles with human NPCs already show up:
Why I have a funny feeling about this
And then I finally remember where I know all this from: Breathedge This is from the developer studio Red Ruins Softworks, but it was released by Hype Train Digital. There are clear parallels between the two survival titles. For example, a great introduction to the story, narrated by a sympathetic voice from the. Voidtrain”s humour, while not as crude as Breathedge, has enough similarity that it stands out. Even some of the resources look like they have been taken over one-to-one.
This gives me the feeling that Hype Train Digital is trying to do Breathedge again, but this time using Raft. Not exactly the most innovative trick! On the other hand, an online co-op mode with up to four players and some tools that make it easier to move around in the Void (a grappling hook, for example) gives me hope.
The Early Access phase of Voidtrain is currently running (exclusively in the Epic Games Store).
I”ll tell it like it is: the demo didn”t show me enough to make a decent judgement about Voidtrain. Yes, the game does many things right and adheres to all the survival precepts. Diving through the Void triggers feelings of happiness in me because I finally don”t have to squint at the oxygen bar while floating through the scenery. Hype Train Digital concentrates on the things it can do: a nice story, a funny narrator and a lot of fun. Can that be enough to make it a stand-alone game and not a Raft knock-off a la Breathedge? We”ll have to wait for the final release to find out.
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