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Voyageur review - A compelling yet repetitive sci-fi journey

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Prepare for adventure

Product: Voyageur | Developer: Bruno Dias | Publisher: Failbetter Games | Format: iPhone | Genre: Adventure | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.1.1
There are many space games on mobile, but few truly feel alien. You may mine and scavenge among stars and stations, or engage in tactical combat, but it's the rare game such as Out There and Galactic Keep that delve into the otherworldly possibilities of science fiction.

Voyageur is a welcome addition to that category, bringing wonderfully alien places to life through well-written prose and a minimalist approach, although a repetitive nature hurts the game's lofty ambitions.

Explore, adventure, escape

Deciding between those three words is your first choice in Voyager. They decide your starting stats - wits, grace, charm, luck - and then you're dropping onto a random world, with an unknown journey ahead. With each faster-than-light jump, you move closer to the galaxy's center, choosing from a selection of planets and managing supplies, credits, and items. Voyageur describes itself as a literary RPG, and it certainly lives up to that moniker. 

Domed cities beneath an amber haze. Pressurized shelters sustaining life amidst eons-old ice. Shaded streets swept by desert sands. Voyageur's many planets and ports are varied places, the details of their sights, sounds, peoples, and cultures dripping from every description. Visiting each of these worlds is the game's greatest drive, compelling you to continue onward to see what fascinating places you encounter next.

Much like Fallen London or 80 Days, locations are presented as text and series of options. A dockyard can outfit your ship with crew quarters, while cargo can be bought or sold in the market or unique cybernetic prosthetics installed at a vendor. With new places comes new opportunities, depending on your stats, crew members, your character's traits.

With knowledge gained from a religious monument, you can attend lectures to share your esoteric secrets. A larger crew lets you mount a scientific expedition into dangerous territory. How do you handle a stowaway, or being ambushed by pirates out in the void? Will your actions upset your crew? 

A circular journey

Your actions can have a number of consequences, usually changing or adding to your traits, earning money, or increasing relevant stats. A shady or ruthless trait could open new doors for you on a more lawless planet.

Where Voyageur succeeds most admirably is condensing those RPG aspects - the choices, the character building, the cause and effect of your actions - into a concise text-driven framework that moves at a brisk pace. A cross-galaxy journey never takes too much of your time, nor is the need to manage your resources ever as challenging as Out There. It's very much a game aimed towards those looking to explore at their own leisure.

Unfortunately, that galaxy begins to feel small after a couple of hours, as the procedurally generated design of Voyageur rears its head. Similar details appear in planet descriptions. Certain options and events repeat: another lecture to give, another heated discussion, another colonist to pick up, another stowaway.

While experimenting with different options does help you create your character differently - for example, helping a stowaway versus taking them in - the allure and thrill of discovery does gradually loses its luster. 

But even despite that sense of a smaller universe, Voyageur's early experience and the compelling descriptions of its odd alien worlds and cultures makes this an exciting new entry in the interactive fiction genre.
Voyageur review - A compelling yet repetitive sci-fi journey
Reviewer photo
Christian Valentin | 10 February 2017
Solid writing and interesting sci-fi worlds balance out Voyageur's repetitive late game issues
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