App Review: The Void — Where No iPhone Has Gone Before

title=The Void

An epic RPG has arrived on the iPhone, featuring battles, leveling up, upgradeable weapons and online features. Forget goblins and warlocks though, The Void takes the adventure to the final frontier.

The gaming section of the App Store has been subject to a serious cute overdose as of late, with Rolando, Topple and even Zombieville USA leading the colorful pack. Now it’s time for everything to get a little darker — a little more Star Wars Episode II — with the release of The Void.
Beaming down to the App Store, The Void is an RPG that aims to blend traditional leveling up with Asteroid-esque space combat.

Launch Configuration

Before even purchasing your first ship, you’ll discover that the instructions are bewildering, and the size of the soon-to-be-conquered galaxy, overwhelming. This blend of information and visual overdose culminates in the idea that you’re about to delve into an epic adventure.
Galaxy Map
In fact, it’s a multisense overdose as the music — a sci-fi soundtrack featuring ’80s-esque sweeping orchestral synthesis — instantly sets the scene. While the in-game sounds are somewhat lacking, the music is to be applauded, as it draws the player in and intensifies the atmosphere.

Flight Path

Jumping into a battle and making your way across the galaxy requires a ship and considerable weaponry. The game hub is where all of the planning, purchasing and managing occurs. The hub is broken down into four sections: Galaxy Map, Weapons, Equipment and Shipyard.
The Galaxy Map provides access to different areas of The Void’s sprawling world. The galaxy is, however, separated into stages that need to be completed in order to advance. As such, it’s worth noting that The Void is not free-roaming, à la Elite, but takes a more traditional, non-RPG approach.
Throughout the game, you’re represented by your ship. There’s no avatar or character and, in fact, seemingly no other individual characters with which to interact. Setting that issue aside for a moment, the Shipyard allows you to choose from a selection of ships, each carrying a stack of stats detailing their varying defensive and aggressive ability.
Once a ship has been purchased, it can be armed and upgraded in the Weapons and Equipments sections, respectively. During battle, you’re able to pick up new weapons and equipment from defeated enemies.
There’s a spectacular range of gear available to unlock — homing missiles, machine guns, turn thrusters — all of which bring an added element to battles, whereby you’ll be scavenging dropped gear from defeated alien craft. Additionally, you can sell scavenged gear, which is great for raising funds or ridding yourself of duplicate items.

Battle Stations

The main game takes its inspiration from Asteroids and, after all the anticipation, is underwhelming. Missions are disappointingly simple, too — a typical level sees you having to destroy all the enemies or all the space crates on a given stage. Although the game makes use of the iPhone’s motion-sensor for turning your ship, the rest of the controls are poor.
Dogfights are slow, flight is sloppy and each stage ends up feeling like a sci-fi chore — more akin to cleaning up the galaxy. If the game was called Space Janitor, my expectations would have been appropriately set and I probably would have enjoyed it more.

Impact Imminent

Despite the fact it’s pitched as an RPG, The Void most certainly is not. The game is light on story, barely establishing the player’s role within the intergalactic milieu. Throughout playing, I felt unsure as to what the purpose of all this space combat was.
This mindless feeling stemmed from there being no establishing story — and thus no story arc — as I advanced through the game. As such, it feels like The Void has a large portion of the experience missing: There is no actual role-playing and no interaction with other characters.

Summing Up

The Void succeeds in several ways: the sci-fi atmosphere, complete with Jean Michel Jarre-esque music, is a real joy. Plus, the range of weapons on offer, alongside being able to unlock and purchase new ships, really pushes you to keep playing. However, there’s nothing inventive or inspiring about the actual levels and they end up feeling more like a grind than an epic adventure.
Perhaps if the combat was executed more effectively, it would draw attention away from the lack of story. Unfortunately though, the plot is severely lacking and, in essence, the game is a nothing more than a beautified rendering of Asteroids. And although Asteroids is great, it’s certainly not epic.