You wake up to find everyone in your research team is gone, vanished into thin air. The local AI tells you he can’t find them, but he suggests confronting the anomalies he detects might reveal something important. But what is real and what is a simple construct of your limited mind? This is what you face in De-Void
Genre(s): Exploration | Adventure
Developer: Pulsetense Games
Publisher: KISS Ltd.
Release Date: September 2016
Played: Full Story
Purchase At: Steam
Source: Review Copy provided by Developer
When De-Void opens, you find yourself stranded on the research station, with no one around you and the AI reporting that he can’t locate the rest of the crew. He suggest reaching the communication array to reboot his systems, so that he may work at full capacity, but when you get there, everything seems to be alright.
He tells you that he detects Empathic Anomalies, strange time-space fluctuations with an emotional component, like emotional imprints on the environment, or ghosts as the protagonist calls them. When the character tries to find them, she only hears whispers and disembodied voices but can’t do much about them. The AI suggests you use the Amber, a helmet that will allow her to experience the world through his many sensors. This, somehow, allows you to see the ghosts and hear their conversations fully, giving you glimpses of the plot.
In this regard, the game is very close to Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, as you explore the station and then the surface of the planet you’re orbiting looking for more anomalies and hearing the conversations. Along the way you establish contact with the subject of the research, and extra-planar entity, one that seems uniquely interested in you and attempts to gain your favour through philosophical queries.
The problem lies in most characters speaking vaguely and never really saying anything that might give you backstory or clues as to where the plot is going and what happened to everyone. They mention terms you think are important but there are very few explanations. This is a philosophy-heavy game and I really enjoy that, I love coming up with my own interpretations for the questions you’re presenting. But I also like a coherent story and want to at least end up with a basic glossary of terms for the plot and its characters.
You know you have a failing in storytelling, especially for an exploration game, when you have to give these explanations in the loading screens. Also, if you tell me about the extra-planar being and how the AI might be hiding things from me before I actually meet them, you’re ruining any surprise or emotional effect these encounters or revelations might have. It’s storytelling 101: do not spoil your story.
As an exploration game, you’ll spend your time with De-Void walking from one point of interest to another, dealing with whatever comes your way during this journey, and again, De-Void does a very good job of posing some intellectual and frankly existential questions, but the exploration itself, which is central to the pacing and understanding of the story, is perhaps the worst I’ve experience so far in this genre. The soul crushing ennui in fact made me question my life, specifically why I was still playing this game.
The main reason behind this tedium is how samey and ugly the environments are. There is a maddening amount of texture recycling, not that these textures are much to begin with. Any reader of The Mental Attic will know that I don’t really pay much attention to graphical quality and don’t usually call these things out, but for a game built using the Unreal Engine, the visuals are decidedly shoddy.
De-Void is a brown and gray game, with metal structures and sandy wastelands. When you can make an alien planet feel mundane and unexciting, you have failed on some basic level.
And that is when it’s sunny. For some reason, the developers of De-Void decided that it would suit their game to make the exploration and discovery as hard as possible, so soon after landing on the planet and your first encounter with the “entity,” you have to deal with weather effects, from heavy rain to a blizzard and these only serve to completely obscure your view and make it impossible to distinguish anything of import in the already bland environments.
And then there’s the Amber-view, which is completely monochromatic and without any details. And yet, the game wants me to believe this is how the AI’s advanced sensors detect things.
I spent most of my time wandering, lost in the map, trying out all identical-looking doors for that one threshold that would open to me, and this is with squinting and figuring out which black wall (in the rain) had something even remotely resembling a door.
I hate to say this, I really do, but the visual design feels lazy, an afterthought. I am not someone who gets hung up on graphics, but visual design is very important in an exploration game. You need to give the audience something to gaze upon, to ogle, to feast on and in this regard De-Void is decidedly barren.
Sound-wise, there is very little to say. The voice acting is decent enough and the music is ok, but it’ll all fade into the background thanks to the maddening boredom.
De-Void has some fascinating philosophy behind it, but sadly, as a video game, it has a shocking lack of polish and quality, and anything its thought exercises might attempt will inevitably fail due to the unforgivable tedium of its poorly implemented gameplay and visuals.
1.5/5 – Bad