If you are a gamer, you probably know what polygons are. They have been used in most modern games since 3D came into vogue and are tiny flat triangles with which various objects and models are created. In recent years, another rendering technology has become widespread – voxels. These are 3D cubes, each of which is rendered separately from the others – so the entire voxel environment consists of millions of tiny particles created in real time. They are more challenging to work with than polygons, however, in games built on an engine using voxels, there can be much more realistic and pleasing to the eye details.
You didn’t think that we would bypass the most iconic voxel game, did you? You know what Minecraft is only the best-selling game in history, and its success has inspired the developers of hundreds of other voxel games with procedural world generation, destructible environments, and a spirit of exploration. If one-day voxel games take over the industry, it will be because of Minecraft.
Inspired by classic RPGs, Echo Generation masterfully uses voxel graphics to make players feel like they’re in a 3D pixelated RPG. It’s also good that the title turned out to be quite interesting – several interesting mechanics are screwed into turn-based battles in it, and to understand the atmosphere of Echo Generation, imagine Earthbound, but only inspired not by the works of David Lynch from the 90s, but by the work of Spielberg from the 80s.
This is also a challenging game, so you will most likely have to look at online guides a couple of times during the passage.
While Blade Runner’s spiritual heirs are plentiful (including the recent controversial Cyberpunk 2077, which is full of references to that movie), there are surprisingly few video game adaptations of Ridley Scott’s cult sci-fi. Perhaps the fact is that the point-and-click adventure game, released in 1997, did everything perfectly the first time.
It was made on a breakthrough engine for its time, where voxels were used instead of polygons, which ensured the drawing of a detailed environment and amazing animations. Currently, the game is being ported to modern consoles, and one can only hope that its re-release is just around the corner.
Games with voxel graphics tend to be set in the relatively near future, spicing it up with a slightly unsettling mood. Due to technical limitations, people and environments turn into cubic abstractions. This is the best fit for the format of dystopian science fiction, which has always been at the center of thinking about what exactly makes us human.
An example is Cloudpunk, one of the biggest surprises of 2020. In it, we have to play as delivery infrastructure workers in a city with flying cars. And the local neon voxel landscapes are as beautiful as cold and unfriendly.
Games with procedural world generation are often created on voxel engines since voxels (unlike polygons) do not need to be tied to a specific point in space. This means the game can create complex terrain in real time voxel by voxel rather than blending polygonal surfaces. Fugl is an excellent example of this. This is a relaxing game where we control a bird soaring over a colorful voxel world. The game looks simply luxurious and has a meditative effect.
The Tourist, created at the intersection of the platformer and life simulation genres, invites us to travel to a quiet tropical island to uncover its secrets and rich history. The project is similar to Stardew Valley in many ways. For example, namely, its unhurried pace, lack of annoying clues, and an abundance of mysteries, but here it is presented in a significant voxel aesthetic.
If Stardew Valley conveyed a sense of a simple lifestyle through pixel art, The Tourist sets a slightly dreamlike mood with its visual style. The game can be described as a good vacation somewhere beyond the boundaries of our reality.
One of the best survival games for beginners, and its accessible and intuitive gameplay is combined with excellent graphics. As in No Man’s Sky, you need to explore various procedurally generated planets, craft the necessary items, build bases, and engage in terraforming multiple star systems.
One of Astroneer’s strengths is its bright and colorful visual style. To draw characters and objects in the game, polygons are used, while the surfaces of planets consist entirely of voxels. Thanks to this approach, the terraforming of worlds occurs in real time, making it possible to depict this process reliably.
A life simulator set in a small town by the sea. The game’s atmosphere is reminiscent of Steven Universe, from which all magical elements were removed. The quiet local town is gradually falling into disrepair due to the attacks of giant sea monsters. We also have to earn a living by catching fish and monsters to make the town prosperous again.
Moonglow Bay boasts a charming visual style and laid-back gameplay, and you can find the game in the Game Pass library.
Unlike many voxel games, which are giant sandboxes that you can freely explore, Bonfire Peaks is a series of puzzles in a tight space where we have to climb cube platforms and burn obstacles. Local puzzles make the brains hard, but the atmosphere is diluted with relaxing music, muted visuals, and unhurried gameplay that allows you to stretch the pleasure of the game.
The authors of Severed Steel demonstrate the versatility of the voxel environment in all its glory, moving as far as possible from the slow and thoughtful games from our selection. Before us is an adrenaline-filled first-person shooter where everything depends on your reaction and the ability to make decisions on the go.
The game features fully destructible environments that can be used to get close to enemies. Moreover, Severed Steel has its level editor, where you can create arenas for spectacular shootouts with your friends.