Title: Void Terrarium++
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: Dungeon Crawler RPG
Post-apocalyptic themes aren’t uncommon in gaming today. However, I appreciate it when developers try new things within that space. Void Terrarium++ is an interesting release from publisher NIS America. It was previously released on Switch and PS4 but has been upgraded to an all-new version for PlayStation 5, hence the ++ in the title. While I don’t recommend double-dipping in this adventure, I find it a breath of fresh air for those needing a casual dungeon crawling experience.
Void Terrarium++ tells the same story as before, and the core beats have gone untouched in this release. A toxic fungus has plagued the Earth, forcing humanity underground, to which they slowly died off. Players assume the role of a robot who has stumbled across a human-like girl still alive but in need of nourishment. An AI named factoryAI also wants friends to talk to, so she lends some guidance.
From here on it, the human girl named Toriko’s life is in your hands. Players will need to venture out and obtain items to convert into resources that can be used to upgrade Toriko’s home-terrarium and keep her safe. There are multiple dungeons throughout the game that vary in length, but completing them isn’t really necessary.
Void Terrarium++ has a strange approach to the dungeon-crawling RPG genre. For starters, no matter how far you get, progress will be made by filling up your inventory with items. If you die, items are converted into resources, and every time you leave the dungeon, your level resets to 1. To push players to go further is Toriko, who will often become infected with various diseases.
Players have to keep a close watch on Toriko through a Nanny system. It allows players to see when her terrarium needs to be cleaned or when she isn’t feeling good. It also puts a time limit on dungeon exploring. While you can spend all your time grinding levels, Toriko will soon need you to feed her, so there’s always something to take you out of the dungeon.
Missions are generally vague descriptions of items along with which floor to find them on. This is provided by the AI computer, which always comes across as if it’s hiding something. There still isn’t a skip text button, but you can speed up the text through the options menu. The pacing is ultimately held back by these requirements. Asking the player to get to the 10th floor but putting a challenging monster room on the 8th floor can bring progress to a crawl.
You’re ultimately at the mercy of the procedural nature of the dungeons. If you don’t spend time, obtain a decent loadout. Higher floor enemies will knock you out. The most annoying of them being ranged shooter robots and poison bugs that will poison you every time unless you have a large supply of throwable weapons. This creates a balanced struggle that weighs on the fun of the experience since enemies only vary mostly by color, but their attacks are all the same.
Still, anything you do, no matter if you die, add to your inventory of resources that can be used to purchase permanent upgrades and items for Toriko, which come with their own bonuses. This will allow you to get further into the dungeons without having to grind levels, but the legendary upgrades that you randomly stumble upon will vanish between runs, which is sad.
This game requires some understanding of turn-based dungeon crawlers, wherewith every move you make, an enemy will then take a turn. It allows for strategy, but it could also result in a quick death if you don’t take advantage of the items in your inventory. Thankfully, due to the upgrades, item management, and early deaths, because less of an issue, the more you improve your robot, and Toriko will also become less needy. The later dungeons in the game retain their challenge, but the environmental theme changes don’t really do enough differentiation to the core layout, resulting in repetitive runs.
This game is all about helping Toriko, so knowing that a quick trip to a dungeon could give you enough resources to build her a nice bed is as good of an incentive as any. The narrative progresses based on milestones, but everything flows at its own natural pace. You begin to have a sense of ownership over your Toriko, making another dungeon run not so troubling. Their relationship is charming, and the entire experience isn’t overly taxing on the player unless they ignore her and get a game over.
Sadly, if you’ve played Void Terrarium on Switch or PS4, I don’t think I can recommend this version of the game. It’s just way too similar and few extra diseases and emotes aren’t enough to replay the same narrative. I’m actually confused why these PS5 exclusive features just couldn’t be an update to the last-gen versions as there are very few if any visual enhancements, and the adventure is largely the same.
Void Terrarium++ is a fun dungeon crawler RPG that doesn’t need to be exclusive to PS5, but it is. Fans of last-gen versions shouldn’t feel required to upgrade because this is the same adventure with a few added diseases to cure and emotes to obtain. Still, it’s a low-tension and overly charming title and one that I feel is worth it for new players. The game loop is addictive, and the reward of making Toriko safe and happy is enough to push on to the next dungeon floor.
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