Recommended Game – Void Terrarium
Void Terrarium is a story about fragility and the tragic beauty of life.
It tells this story by way of a somewhat niche mode of gameplay, that of a Mystery Dungeon Roguelite.
Frustrations abound for first time players, particularly when they go into the experience blind.
When the movement first becomes Grid based, players unfamiliar with Mystery Dungeon styled gameplay tend to feel disoriented. This is where my Article comes into play.
Void Terrarium hit a chord with me, and so I want to see people enjoy it as much as possible.
Your protagonist will move along a Grid. Both on the screen proper, and along a Minimap visible on the right side of the screen. You can use either the D Pad or the Left Analog Stick to move.
You have one Normal Attack executed with the X button, and you can stand still and face any direction by holding Square and pressing in that direction. The Triangle button will open your Inventory, what you carry is very important in this game. The Circle button will let you Dash when it is held, as well as to Cancel and Back out of Menus. Dashing towards a small enemy like a Bit will let you Swap places with them, but it won’t work on anything bigger.
Pressing and holding L1 will open your Ability Menu, during which time you may execute any Special Moves you’ve learned (These will consume Energy) and are mapped to X, Square, Triangle, and Circle.
Mystery Dungeons are exactly what they sound like.
Mysterious (Procedurally Generated) Dungeons. And you’ll be traversing them a lot.
I love this type of gameplay, and the Controls feel right in line with other games of the subgenre.
No two dungeons are the same.
And anything you collect will usually be broken down into Resources of four types.
With the exception of Food items and special Crafting Materials.
Whatever you bring back will usually be broken down into one of 4 Resources.
Enemies will come from all sides, and you can only see as much as your character can.
There is a Stamina system, traditionally it would be Food, that is depleted over time and whenever you use Special Moves.
A new kind of Parental Advisory.
What keeps me invested, will keep you invested, is a little girl.
Quite possibly the very last little girl this Ruined Earth will ever know.
She is sick, very sick, frighteningly often. And there are so many possible afflictions…
I’ve not seen her in the same gruesome condition twice.
A consequence of her eating Contaminated food, catching sickness, or simply being unlucky.
These afflictions range from sorrow and a fractured leg to her body being covered in lesions.
Sometimes, you could argue that these are Black Humor moments. I call them gut punches.
I love my real world daughter, Aria, she’s 7 years old. This game is a horror movie to me.
True fear is seeing our cherished ones in danger, and Void Terrarium capitalizes on that.
You feed her, you play with her, you protect her. She is limited to living in a very small space.
A safe space that you put together, the eponymous Terrarium part of Void Terrarium.
That is in essence the game outside of progressing the story through dungeon diving.
Progressing the Story is where factory.AI comes into play.
You’ll find this friendly (And emotional) AI that was once in charge of protecting the last remnants of mankind.
But playing the role of God to underground human colonies was perhaps too hard for them.
And they lost their temper. And they made a mistake. And the humans all died.
And so factory.AI has wept without end for a century before our story begins.
They call out to you affectionately, acting very much like your co-parent in raising the little girl.
I really adore their character, though I can all but smell the air of Tragedy coming off them.
Mark my words, they are cursed. Maybe the player is too.
Contamination and feeding the Girl
Objects you find may be Contaminated by the Fungus based Plague that wiped out most humans a century ago. Contaminated objects will usually function differently depending on their level of Contamination.
Sometimes the Contaminated version of an item will be more useful to you than the Normal one.
You’ll notice that this game doesn’t have a lot of guarantees. That is very deliberate.
Risk Assessment IS the core Strategy of this game. Speaking generally, you’re gonna die.
But what you’re carrying when you die is what really matters. Food for the girl, Resources, etc.
And each time you Craft a piece of Furniture for the first time, you’ll gain a permanent Stat Boost.
So building a bunch of new stuff Furniture for the Girl will help you get much further in the game.
Unlike the Robot, the Girl is a biological being that needs to eat. And since she can’t leave her Terrarium, it falls to you to find Food and feed it to her. However, she will get sick if you give her food with too high Contamination Levels. So only feed her Contaminated Food if she’s near to starving to death or if Contamination Levels are low enough that you think it should be relatively safe.
An Allegorical Gameplay Loop
You’ll notice a pattern that I’m sure was intentional as you progress through this game. You do the legwork, while an affectionate voice welcomes you home each day.
You go out not knowing if you’ll find what you need, and often return empty handed.
Sometimes you have Food, sometimes you have badly Contaminated Food and nothing else.
And you must make due with whatever you have for the sake of the girl you both care for.
While routinely working yourself to the point of death.
If you’re picking up on a 9-5 Working Parent vibe, that’s because you should.
This allegory is beautiful and terrifying and everything I wanted from Void Terrarium.
Provided you know what you’re getting into, Void Terrarium is a Mystery Dungeon Roguelite that pulls mercilessly upon the heart strings while offering very solid and enjoyable gameplay.
Very good, very niche. I loved it, and have updated this Article in celebration of a re-release of Void Terrarium coming soon!
I’m 30 years old today and a parent of one delightful seven year old. I love just about everything about videogames, and am thrilled that I can write about them. Advocating for the poor is my other hobby, and I will gladly offer whatever aid I can if approached.