The Void review
Great Presentation, Devoid Of Enjoyment.
Establishes a suitably unsettlingly atmosphere.
Colour system great in theory.
Gameplay way too slow and sluggish.
A little picky in controls.
Extremely vague at times.
Very difficult and punishing.
Sometimes a certain game will pop up that decides it wants to shy away from the norm and deliver a rather unique gameplay experience. When The Void puts the entire game focus around colour and how it is used to affect the protagonist and the environment then any gamer should sit up and take notice.
Things get off to a wonderful start with the visuals. The Void is a cold desolate place intentionally washed in dark muted shades of grey. The designers were able to truly convey a sense of emptiness and loneliness here and the player is left at unease at they explore. The environment is also quite surreal, with layouts pulled from deep within the mind. You can find towers extending high into the sky, branches twisting and turning in various directions. As you make progress in the game the environments slowly begin to change in slight but noticeable ways. Colour begins to seep slowly into the realms and creatures stir and prowl around.
The characters are quite striking in their appearance as well. The sisters are beautiful women who seem to tempt with their seductive ways (yes, they're naked and yes, the game's idea of censoring spectacularly fails to cover them, but if that's your primary focus then you're probably missing the point). The brothers offer a stark contrast, existing as human/object hybrids that define monstrosity. Mantid, the first brother you're likely to meet, has numerous spears piercing his body acting as limbs. Feel free to get creeped out at their appearance.
The interface is quite excellent as well. For most of normal gameplay, there isn't actually any HUD on display, making it much easier to immerse yourself into the game. Icons appear when you near things you can interact with, and when you want to you simply hold the left Ctrl key to bring up the palette on the left side of the screen.
The music used in the game is large muted, which helps create the sense of isolation in The Void. By leaving the player to listen to the atmospheric sounds it conveys the feeling very effectively. In addition the game plays out the shrieks of predators as you near them and voices will speak out to you as you play. It all works quite well. On top of this is all the dialogue that is effectively voice acting, matching in well with each scenario you come across. Fortunately if you're not able to fully keep up with the dialogue then subtitles are provided for your convenience. One minor complaint I would say is that sometimes extra dialogue appears on the map screen, but since your life is ticking around when there you rarely have a chance to actually listen to it fully.
Through a combination of these elements the game really provides you with a somewhat unsettling experience. The Void doesn't bother with cheap jump scares to ambush you with around the corner. Instead you're left to wander through creepy desolate landscapes, hearing these voices coming from seemingly nowhere and fearing just when one of those monstrous brothers might finally decide they've had enough of you and come to kill you. Never quite knowing when you might be attacked until you hear the distinctive sounds made by the predators adds onto this.
The story is... well, certainly confusing. What you know is that you're dead and have wandered into the Void, where you may yet have a chance at life if you're able to collect colour. That's about why any sense of clarity ends. You meet your first sister and she offers some simple instructions, so you go do them. Then the brothers appear and things get more complicated. Eventually, as you continue to interact with the different brothers and sisters, it's hard to figure out what parts are true and which are lies purposely spewed out to play with you. It's interesting to learn about the different aspects of the game world, such as the relationship between the sisters and brothers, but it is all played out rather vaguely so don't be surprised to feel a bit lost in proceedings.
So the most important gameplay element to cover is the colour system, which is basically "everything" to the player. Colour acts as your health, where you fill your hearts with lympha colour and it is slowly drained as time passes on the overview map (whereas time remains still while inside chambers), but as it drains it is converted into a usable nerva colour. In this sense it doubles as your mana, which can be used for various actions. What this turns into is an intricate resource management system. Lympha is your lifeblood and the game ends when you run out, but to get more you have to convert lympha into nerva and then use it.
The game offers a few options for gaining lympha, which will mostly be in the form of scavenging, growing trees and mining. Scavenging will be the first one, where during each cycle you can find a few grass sprouts around that you can collect for a little colour. Growing trees is more important, where you're able to infuse trees with colour in order to collect more back from them when they mature in a cycle, and continue to give diminishing amounts in subsequent cycles. Mining comes later and is simply the process of locating a vein of colour in the walls or cliffs and extracting the lympha from it. This becomes a careful balancing act between the colour you spend for actions such as moving around the map and mining against the colour you gain back in return. Get it wrong and you won't have enough to keep yourself alive until the next cycle and then it's game over.
Aside from simply painting colour you do gain access to various glyphs in the game. These are used for various purposes, such as donating colour to something in the void, boosting your own abilities or unleashing more potent attacks against enemies. The more colour you pour into a glyph the more potent its effect, but of course this also means less colour left in your reserves afterwards. This is another element that ties in with resource management, as while many of these actions can be useful in the short term, they use up valuable colour that you may need for something else. In a way, the interaction with enemies is made interesting due to this. You can indeed fight enemies either by painting them directly with colour or using various attack glyphs for more spectacular damage. However, more often it is preferable to avoid encounters to conserve your resources. The way enemies are integrated into the environments also helps build some tension. While each chamber has its specific list of possible enemies, the ones that actually appear will differ depending on how long the game has been going on and the amount of colour you've already used in that domain. In addition, the spawn points appear to be random, so while that bat creature started off across the other side of the chamber the first time you enter an area doesn't mean it won't spawn right about the entrance the second time around.
OK, so I've been fairly positive so far, but that's about to come to an end. I loved the idea behind the colour system and wanted to love the execution, but unfortunately after 7 hours of playing I came to a simple conclusion - I wasn't enjoying it.
The biggest problem the game has is how awfully slow everything is. This isn't such a problem at first, especially as the game slowly opens different features of the game to you, but soon enough you'll notice just how long anything can take. As managing resources is an important process you'll find yourself going to the colour management screen in order to move colour around between your reserves and your active hearts. You'll be doing this a lot and it's a painfully slow process to ensure, but not doing it so much easily leads into failing. Part of this also ties into the fact that filling your active hearts with certain colours bestows certain benefits (for example, filling up on crimson increases your attack strength). Not like the game actually tells you this, but it does mean if you want to benefit from those bonuses then you'll be spending a lot more time moving colour around. With 7 different colours and a potential for around 20 hearts by game end it's a lot to deal with constantly.
The slow pacing generally extends to other areas of the game too. The beginning is painful to do if you've already got an idea of what you're doing, general movement speed can be pretty sluggish and it can take a surprising amount of time to build up enough colour from your activities to do anything meaningful with it. Given that you have to donate colour to the sisters in order to open up new chambers, which in itself can take a lot of colour, then you can find yourself repeating the same set of actions a lot just to make any kind of progress.
For the most part these are solid and good. I didn't really have any problems actually moving, looking around or jumping. I was also able to quickly get used to holding a button to be able to paint colours. However, the game can be a little picky at times. Sometimes I found myself moving around a bit until the game decided that, yes, I was actually looking at the colour grass to allow me to collect it. This can also affect gylphs, where the game decides you failed to correctly draw a glyph when it doesn't actually look like it.
The vagueness of the story is something I mentioned before, and that also extends to the gameplay. The game does explain some of the more basic features to you and will go into detail on what a glyph does and how to use it when you collect them. However, half the time it simply won't help at all and may even outright lie to you. This can be somewhat frustrating when you're left without a clue of what you need to be doing next. On its own this would probably just be something you'd grin and bear, but the reason I have such a problem with it in this game is the huge cost involved.
That's because the game is incredibly difficult. Yeah, the bosses can tear you a new one, especially if you accidentally trigger the wraith of one of them too early before you're anywhere close to being prepared. Yet the bigger danger comes from simply running out of resources. Colour management is extremely difficult and punishes even the slightest errors severely. It's entirely possible to play yourself into a corner where every possible choice leads to a game over, forcing you to load an earlier save or, in the most extreme cases, might even force a player to completely restart in order to take what they've learned and not repeat the same mistakes. Which means replaying the same mind-numbing sections yet again.
For me, that isn't fun. It certainly works to increase tension by constantly keeping the player at the edge of failure, but it also makes it extremely frustrating to play. Combine this with the sluggish pace of the game that can turn exploring new chambers into boring grindfests in order to build up colour supplies and you basically remove all interest I had in the game.
Which is a shame, because I really wanted to love The Void. The game really excels in creating an unsettling environment and the colour system was really interesting with so much potential. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enjoyable. Instead I ended up bored and frustrated by the game's shortcomings, to the point that I eventually had to abandon it. Whatever secrets the lategame may hide will have to remain hidden, because I can't stand to play another minute of such a flawed gameplay experience.
was this review helpful to you?
In order to comment on this user review you must login