Game Spotlight: Vault of the Void (Early Access), Bandit Gang’s First Look

Team Bandit is excited to present a first look into a new early access game: Vault of the Void. Akaean and Decode  discuss their thoughts on their experiences so far.

Introduction

Vault of the Void is an indie card-based roguelite developed by Spider Nest Games. True to its origins, it tells the age-old story of an adventurer spelunking into the darkness of a dungeon to expunge some greater evil.  In this case, the Void itself.  Along the way, you will collect cards, build your deck, collect a variety of powerful artifacts, and use everything at your disposal to survive the trials ahead. 

That old adage stemming all the way back to Dwarf Fortress is certainly relevant here.  Like most Roguelite games, Vault is a relatively short experience that relies on random generation and high difficulty to increase replayability.  Each trip through the dungeon may be similar, but no two trips through the dungeon will ever be the same.  Different cards in your decks, different ways to upgrade those cards, and even a variety of end-of-stage bosses that you can encounter along your journey add to the sense of novelty. The game also has multiple difficulty modes, allowing players to challenge themselves both through increasing the difficulty of the base game or through various “challenge coins” that add additional unique handicaps to change the game experience.

The game never ends, when your whole world depends, on the turn of a friendly card

Card games are a natural fit for roguelites- as we have seen with the success of other indie games such as Slay the Spire.  Vault of the Void is no different in this respect.  Randomness is part and parcel of the roguelite experience, indeed randomness is where the replayability of these games comes from.  Vault of the Void takes full advantage of this natural fit to create an enjoyable experience.  There is that element of randomness in what cards you find to put in your deck, what cards from your deck that you draw into your hand each turn, and what upgrades you have available throughout any given run will all change the experience and add to the replayability of the game.

Yet, like any good roguelite, what ties the experience together is the element of skill.  A good roguelite player is one who is adaptable, the skill to be able to meet whatever challenges lay ahead using anything and everything the game has given them to work with. 

Game Overview

Each run of Vault of the Void consists of progressing through two randomly generated floors, defeating the boss at the end of the floor, and a final boss rush.

Unlike many roguelites, Vault of the Void does not encourage exploration.  The game provides you with full information of what enemies are on the floor, and what loot you can find on that floor.  It will also show you what boss will be waiting for you at the end, so you can prepare as best as you can.  There is a hitch though, whenever you progress a tile, it will close off access to other tiles!  This means that a core part of the gameplay comes from planning a route through each floor of the dungeon.  Carefully picking and choosing based on what is available to be able to best meet the challenges ahead.

Path Building

The meat of the gameplay comes from the card battles.  The card mechanics are easy to learn but difficult to master.   The game uses a mana system where more powerful cards cost more mana to cast.  The player can generate additional mana by discarding cards that they don’t want to play, and at the beginning of the turn, some mana will be restored.  Cards have a variety of effects, such as dealing- or blocking- damage directly, applying buffs and debuffs, or even drawing additional cards.  Openers gain additional effects if they are the first card played, and Chain cards gain additional effects if they are played after other cards. 

Boss Fight

The monsters you face along your journey all approach the game from different angles.  Some of them have resistance to the various status effects in the game, others may buff themselves or debuff your character.  The game is open about the enemies you face, and even provides helpful hints.  This allows players to strategically make use of the resources they have and plan out their fights in advance.  If you are using a deck that makes use of a particular status effect, such as vulnerability, you can either purposefully avoid an enemy with an immunity or resistance to vulnerability, and maybe lose out on certain rewards in doing so, or you can use the cards and relicts you have found along the way to put together an alternate strategy to get through the encounter.  

Difficulty and Tactical Challenge

Vault of the Void offers a wide variety of intense difficulty modes and challenge modes to offer more and more challenging play experiences.   The game also offers a series of optional challenges, called challenge coins, which change the way that the game is played and offer unique strategic advantages and disadvantages.

There are three different characters that you can choose from, each with a unique playstyle and associated deck. These player character options are each generally focused around two or three keywords, and the cards in their deck are focused on these keywords as well.  This leads to a streamlined feel for each character with a bit of strategic depth in terms of how you use the keywords available to you.

The Hidden One, for instance, has a package of abilities associated with Bleeding. He is more targeted towards people learning the game, and applying direct damage and blocking direct damage.  The cards in the Hidden One’s deck focus on playing off Bleeding, his signature keyword.  There are cards that may apply a debuff to a bleeding enemy, or increase the ability to block an enemy with bleeding.   Each deck you build will test your limits to find combos and synergy with your chosen character’s keywords.

Switching decks Opportunity

The biggest limitation of this system is that it doesn’t allow a player to use cards from a “different” deck to build their characters in different ways.  If you don’t like the bleeding mechanic, there is no way to play without it when using the Hidden One.  You would need to use one of the other two characters. This can result in games with the same character feeling similar to each other and it makes it easy to fall into old habits.  In some sense it also almost requires scarcity to encourage deck diversity, because the limited way to build the decks can often lead to an optimal build.  

This isn’t a huge issue though, as anyone who has played games like Nethack are painfully aware that there is very frequently an optimal build to win the game.  I mean, whose first wish isn’t for Grey or Silver Dragon Scale Mail afterall?  In fact the three different character options in Vault of the Void means that endgame decks for these characters are going to be considerably different from one another. Unlike Nethack, players won’t be decked out in near identical “ascension kits” by the end.

Replayability

As with most roguelites, Vault of the Void offers a fairly limited set of choices to the player as they progress through a run. What makes it feel fresh and engaging is the different combinations of paths and abilities that you encounter, greatly adding to the sense of novelty and the game’s overall replay value. A successful run should generally take only a couple of hours, cruising through the two floors and conquering the final boss.  That said, not every run will be successful, and due to the randomness built into the game each run will be different.  The replay value comes from the varied experience and challenges that each run will invariably offer.

Losing is fun!

The replayability of the game comes from approaching challenges in a different way.  There are three different characters at the time of writing, each with his or her own unique playstyle and available deck.   Yet due to the randomness of the drops within the dungeon, no two runs with the same character will ever be exactly the same.  As you play through the game, you will unlock a growing library of enemies, abilities, and cards.  Unlocking everything will require completing the game, with multiple characters, a large number of times.  For completionists, the goal of unlocking everything will offer new and exciting challenges to players.

Vault of the Void by Spider Nest Games is available now in early access on Steam. Check the game out here

In case you decide to get the game, you can redeem the code ” banditgang ” to get your very own Team Bandit Gang cardback!