There are enough good space conquest games out there to fill a Babbages (Stars, Master of Orion, Emperor of the Fading Suns, Star Control 3, Spaceward Ho!, Deadlock, Star General); Adrenaline and Electric Moo, however, have decided to be unique and create one that is patently derivative, inferior, and confusing.
Well, at least it adds diversity.
Inevitably, when a style or genre heats up, the knock-offs aren't far behind, and that's pretty much all Into the Void is: an overblown attempt to tap a rich vein of player interest. It's flashy and often quite handsome, and some obvious programming talent went into making it look good. But no equivalent design talent went into actually creating the game content, and it is ultimately a flop.
The setup is so familiar it hardly bears repeating: A large universe is yours for the conquest as you explore and colonize planets, research technologies, build ships, fend off five other races, yadda yadda yadda - you know the drill.
Becoming emperor of the universe, by either military or economic conquest, has never been so tedious. ITV is built around the biggest "Huh?" gaming interface this side of Gary Grigsby's Pacific War. Making a good game wasn't enough for the folks at Electric Moo (great company name, by the way); they had to reinvent the wheel. The familiar, easily navigated, and readily understood starmap of similar games is replaced with a large, continuous, sprawling universe. It's quite lovely, and you can zoom in on planets and watch ships fly to their destinations. It's also so large and hard to navigate that it's totally impractical and unusable, leaving planetary management to a baffling set of pop-up interfaces.
These interfaces have no words on them to explain their functions, only animated images that you need to puzzle out like hieroglyphics. Plus, you have to hit most function buttons TWICE to get them to work. I have installation cards that are more detailed than Into the Void's "manual," so no help is to be found there, leaving you to puzzle your way the best you can. Even better, the quick start instructions - what passes for a tutorial - call things by the wrong names and don't point you to the right screens. At least the documentation is printed on nice, shiny paper.
Some of the screens are so lovely that you almost forget their utter pointlessness. I wish there was some depth to designing new ships, for instance, since the ship design screen is a beaut. But, of course, there is none: You mix hulls, engines, and weapons to make a new ship that is nearly indistinguishable from its cousins, and then get to use it for boring combat resolutions that have no tactical aspects and barely seem significant in the context of the game.
There are six measly structures to build on a planet, and these help in gathering resources you need to make ships, research new techs, grow food, and so on. There's a faint attempt to create a diplomatic model and some covert activities, but they never add up to much. It's all quite clumsily put together, there isn't much to do, and what there IS to do has been done better countless times.
Into the Void is a big, pretty box with nothing inside. It's a lazy game, one where the actual gameplay seems to have been an afterthought. It runs smoothly and it's coded competently, but with so much good competition out there, this hardly seems worth the effort.