In PC space-based management sim The Banished Vault, planning is everything.
We don’t mean that in a “Whoops, we’ve missed the train, so now we’ll have to get a hotel,” kind of way. Fail to think ahead or miscalculate by even one move and your charges, The Banished Vault’s Exiles, will meet a lonely demise.
Your vault, a Warhammer 40k-style space church, is being pursued by a galaxy-erasing entity known as The Gloom – but, at times, the latter’s presence seems unnecessary. Just being out in the void is grim enough. You’re in control of a handful of humans in a vessel that once housed thousands, and there’s no way this is going to end well.
Your task is to keep at least one of your Exiles alive, rattling around in your vast monastic vessel. You drift between solar systems, gathering up enough resources to put your charges into hypersleep. And without thinking ahead, you’ll hit dead end after dead end.
Need alloy? You’re looking at two separate trips at least, each of which will require fuel. Still, now you’re here, you can build a fuel converter and… oh. You’ve just used up the last of your iron. On the plus side, the building you have built looks amazing, like it’s carved out of wood. So at least you have something to look at while you expire. But it’s when you actually start planning and thinking ahead that The Banished Vault comes into its own.
So you sit down and start thinking about what you need and where to get it. The Banished Vault is turn-based so you’ve nothing to lose by getting a pen and paper out. Then you pick up the gorgeous manual, which we’d heartily recommend you either purchase or print out. You can use the in-game manual but we found that too fiddly for our tastes. Plus, even though it’s turn based, every minute we didn’t have one eye on the main map or planet map, we were worried that we were missing something.
So, you’ll pore over the construction requirements and you’ll plan a rough route, considering what resources you need, how much fuel you’ll need to get there. And if all goes well, you’ll make it out in the nick of time, all Exiles intact.
At least, at first you do. The further you press on, the tougher The Banished Vault becomes. If you’ve played Pathologic, you’ll have some idea of what to expect. This is a game where you’ll fail, and you’ll fail a lot. Can that be frustrating? Absolutely. But it makes getting things right so, so much more rewarding.
Success is sweet but you’ll prize your resources (human and non-human like) so much that leaving even one behind is painful. Speaking of painful, the further into each run you fail (there’s a roguelite element going on here) the more you’ll drift into resentment – and that’s when it’s time to take a break.
Our biggest takeway from our time with The Banished Vault is that it’s going to be the Marmite of strategy games. If the idea of pulling out pen and paper and meticulously planning every move makes you roll your eyes, this isn’t for you. Yes, it’s got a wonderful aesthetic but and we were happy to get scribbling. But, even then, there were occasionally times we felt like screaming.
The Banished Vault can be seriously, seriously trying. But ultimately, its atmosphere, fantastically gloomy story and its satisfaction factor still kept us coming back for more. If you think you can take on the challenge, jump on in.
The Banished Vault is available now on PC via Steam.