Overview – developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America, Void Terrarium 2 is a direct continuation of the story established in the first title. The hybrid dungeon crawler and caretaking sim returns with a new story, updated gameplay and new game systems. This game is available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation family of systems, with a link to each version of this title at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Void Terrarium that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story of Void Terrarium 2. I will only be covering the core features and mechanics of this title, this is to prevent spoilers and ruining the secrets the game has to offer. Please note, I have previously covered the first Void Terrarium, which can be found (HERE).
Story – Void Terrarium 2 follows on from the events of the previous title, with Toriko safe from the threats that sought her demise. After overcoming the dangers and challenges of Cloud AI, it appeared that Toriko could live in peace. Unfortunately, that peace could not last, as Toriko has started to show symptoms of disease again. Her body is slowly deteriorating, to the horror of Robbie and FactoryAI.
This situation is unlike anything they have experienced, with this mysterious illness being completely unknown to them and not like anything Toriko has suffered from before. As they do their best to care for Toriko, including moving her to a new and hopefully safer home, Factory AI makes a discovery. If they want to find the answers that they seek, they will have to not only explore the wastelands of the present, but also the world of the past.
Gameplay – like the previous title, Void Terrarium 2 is a hybrid of roguelike dungeon crawling RPG and caretaking simulator, where the player must complete tasks to progress the story. With the player quickly thrown into the deep end, playing through the prologue before the game starts properly, branching the first game with this one. After this, the player will go on a journey to establish their new home.
Once the new home base has been established, the player will be able to start building a new Terrarium for Toriko, along with new items to decorate her home. To accomplish this, the player must collect resources by exploring the wastelands, a collection of dungeons that is home to a variety of monsters and machines. The player will also be able to talk to Factory AI, where they will receive many of the tasks they must complete, with the ability to freely save and load progress.
The tasks that the player must complete range from collecting a specific item, to reaching a location or crafting a required object in the home base. The player can also speak to the big screen companion in the home, where they will be given hints and story details to push the narrative forward. They will also provide some tutorials for the different features, mechanics and systems that are introduced over time.
When leaving the home, the player can plan their path from the map to explore, with new areas often branching off into others as they are introduced. These wasteland dungeons are made up of themed areas, where the player explores floors (called Layers), while trying to complete their various objectives. The floors are made up of randomized rooms, enemy placements, looty pick ups and many secrets that the player can discover during an expedition.
While exploring the wastelands, there are three very important things for the player to keep track of. The first is HP, which measures the total health of the little robot, when this is depleted they are defeated and sent back to the home base. Next is EN, an energy meter that will be depleted over time, with each action and special ability using up the precious energy. When the EN meter is empty, the players HP will be drained, leading to a quick death if not remedied quickly.
Last is the Pet Nanny, affectionately called “Penny” by FactoryAI. This device will monitor the status of Toriko while the player is exploring the wastes, providing information related to her health, hunger and cleanliness. The player is able to use up EN points to play with Toriko, provide food for her and clean the terrarium remotely. Keep an eye on this mini screen as Toriko will require urgent care if left for too long, but the device allows quick return home.
Inside the dungeon itself, everything follows a global turn counter where each action causes the dungeon “clock” to tick forward by one. All enemy movements, status effects (like poison) and other actions are tied to this system. Enemies can also roam freely until they encounter the player. The combat has a turn based style to it, where enemies and the player can make actions until either all enemies involved are taken down, or Robbie is defeated.
Defeated enemies will provide varying amounts of experience, which will level Robbie up when they meet specific thresholds. When a new level is gained the player is able to pick from a selection of perks, with each of them having a “rarity” that affects how powerful their effects are. The different perks and abilities will affect the current excursion in the wasteland, but be aware that once the player leaves their level is reset to 1.
During the course of the game, there are boss battles that the player will be involved in. These encounters take place in arenas, where Robbie will be pitted against their foe in a fight to the death. The battles can be very challenging, with a high chance of defeat if the player is unprepared, so a lot of preparation is advised. The effective use of items (discussed below), can quickly turn the tide of battle in favour of the player and give a shot at victory.
During the explorations of the wastes, there are items that can be collected and used to get through the objectives. These items can be contaminated, which will affect how effective they are and the abilities they have. Here is a run-down of the items that can be found in the wastelands;
- Combat Items – weapons and shields can be collected and equipped in the wasteland, each with their own unique skills and abilities. The equipment that can be found has a mastery system, which will level up over time and provide new skills, bonuses and effects.
- Repair Items – batteries, tool kits and other items can be used to heal Robbie. The most important items are Batteries and Toolkits, which will allow the player to restore EN and HP points. The EN items are most important for taking care of Toriko while exploring.
- General Items – these are items that can be used to help the player, including explosives, status effects items and potions that provide temporary boosts. They can be very important during tense battles and they are single use. There are also Blueprints that can be picked up, unlocking new crafting options when returning to the home base.
- Special Items – the special items are objective focused, with resources that are used for crafting the special items that are required. These include crafting upgrades, medicine for Toriko and improvements to the Terrarium.
- Food – there is food that can be collected from piles found in the wastelands. This food can be used to take care of Toriko through the Pet Nanny system. But it can be contaminated, which can lead to negative effects when eaten.
All items aside from objective materials and food will be broken down when Robbie returns to the home base. This can occur in three different ways during expeditions to the wastes. If Robbie is defeated in battle or runs out of EN leading to being shut down, choosing to return to the terrarium via the Pet Nanny to take care of Toriko and by completing the objective they are assigned. There is no penalty if the player is defeated, so a bad run isn’t a game ender.
When returning home the items collected will be broken down into the resources that can be used for crafting items, these are Organic, Inorganic, Electrical and contaminated. Each item is worth resource points, turning into crafting points when a set threshold is met. These points can then be used to craft objects from recipes for the Terrarium, giving permanent bonuses the first time they are made in the home base.
The food that is collected can be added to the vault, however there are limited spaces meaning that decisions will need to be made. So it is important to decide what to keep based on contamination and shelf life, as food can only last for a set amount of expeditions. When in the home base, food must be given to directly to Toriko, which will recover some of her lost health but can increase her contamination level and make her sick.
While at the terrarium, the player is able to decorate Toriko’s home, adding items onto one of four layers. These items can also affect the environment of the terrarium, changing the humidity and temperature of it. The environmental effects can be used to grow plants which can be harvested and placed as decorations. The different items can also affect the mood of Toriko, as well as the sanitation of her home which the player can clean up with a broom.
Alongside the returning systems of Void Terrarium, this time the player can enter a virtual world with an 8-bit RPG style to it. The virtual world is accessed by using memory shards that have been collected on expeditions, with more of it becoming open as they are picked up. While in the VR world, the player is able to interact with the memories of the past, learning about what happened before the collapse of humanity.
Inside the virtual world provided by the memory shards, Robbie can obtain quests from the residents, which will provide blueprints for crafting new items. These quests can involve speaking to other characters in VR, obtaining a specific item from the wastes or by crafting a special item. The flow of time matches that of the world outside of the VR, with some objectives requiring the player to go to the wasteland before it can progress.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this title, starting off with the controls.
Controls – the controls for this title are easy to use, with all of the essential functions easily accessible. The movement is tied to the left side of the controller, with a refined aim option using the right thumbstick. All of the inputs work well, but there is the chance of possible missing actions when affected with status effects or a lot of enemies on screen. This title is comfortable to play in both handheld and docked play, with a variety of controllers.
Difficulty – there is no difficulty options for this game, making for a brutal challenge given the randomized nature of the dungeon crawling. This can be very difficult for players, with the chance of items being scarce from the start of an expedition. This challenge can be offset by the crafting system, as permanent upgrades can be earned from crafting. This progression system will balance the difficulty over time, better preparing the player for the challenges they will face.
Presentation – visually this is a mix of beautiful 2D art, bold 3D models in the wasteland and cutesy pixel art in the VR world. The different visual styles contrast together, creating a fantastic blend of soft beauty and harsh desolation. The sound consists of music and sound effects, with all of the dialogue conveyed through text, which ties the whole experience together. The different thematic tracks on the soundtrack work well, adding a varied atmosphere to the world of Void Terrarium 2.
Final Thoughts – I spent a lot of time playing the previous title, which was a brutal yet satisfying challenge. This sequel takes everything that the original did and expands upon it, with the new terrarium, added VR elements and improved dungeon crawling. There is emotional warmth to the relationship that is portrayed through the interactions between Robbie, Toriko and FactoryAI as the story progresses.
There is a level of stress that comes into play during the exploration of the wastelands, as the care systems and Pet Nanny can cause a level of panic when she needs urgent care. This is made worse when there is limited food items spawning in the dungeons, as the risk to Toriko is amplified when her health is low. These systems can increase the difficulty of the game, however the experience can be very rewarding for those who persevere through the challenges.
I can recommend this title to all fans of dungeon crawlers and rogue-like games. The difficulty may be off-putting for some, but it is a very fun and charming experience that has a compelling narrative to it. This is another excellent title from Nippon Ichi Software, showcasing another excellent mix of emotional storytelling and challenging gameplay that is both compelling and rewarding to play.
In the end, I give Void Terrarium 2 a final score of 4.5/5. This is an outstanding sequel, taking all of the systems and storytelling beats that made the original such an engaging title. The difficulty is brutal and the caretaking system can be stressful, but the overall experience is satisfying and rewarding for players. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)