First Look: The Void

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With all of the indie bundles that have been flooding the internet (and taking my cash out with the tide), it comes as no surprise that independent title The Void stealthily wove its way into my Steam library. After spending a rather intimate 45 minutes with it, I’m thrilled that it did.

Before I even begin to describe the game, it’s extremely important to note that, in order to gain anything from it, you must be open to atmosphere and immersion. If you’re the type that looks at a Big Daddy in Bioshock and sees numeric properties, stop reading this immediately.

The Void begins slowly, drawing you in with a vague cinematic, the camera weaving through dim city streets and structures as a female voice eerily whispers about souls and hearts. Upon gaining control, you find yourself in the midst of a colorless island surrounded by colorless water, constantly whispered to by the female voice about how you must save yourself from death. The control scheme and surreal, twisted environment immediately scream influence from Realmyst (a version of Myst, the 3D point-and-click game from an age past, where you could freely move about the environment). It may appear a first person shooter, minus the shooting. In fact, for the first half hour of the game, there’s no combat – merely learning about the bizarre world that is the Void and the lore surrounding it.

The entire game revolves around the manipulation of Color. Color is your life force, your resources, your attack, and your defenses. Everything you do that isn’t moving or jumping uses Color. Most of the time, you’re simply collecting wisps of it off the ground, but you gradually branch out into using it to breathe life into dead trees, speak with characters, and attack enemies.

From what action I’ve seen, however, The Void is anything but an action game. Holding down the control key, which allows you to draw with Color and therefore perform an action, also slows time down to a dramatic crawl. Fast reflexes and quick thinking don’t matter very much – what matters is the smart manipulation of the various Colors at your disposal. Every Color affects your abilities in different ways (such as making a shield spell last longer), meaning that you get to decide how to play, and are limited only by your Color reserves.

Unfortunately, the Color system itself is somewhat confusing. I still don’t fully understand how I can transfer Color from the pool that fills my abilities to the pool with which I can draw. I’m sure the whispering girl told me, but I was likely distracted by the eeriness of it all – and it is extremely eerie. Between the odd, disjointed sounds, the fact that wisps of Color whisper to you as you pick them up, the bizarre appearances of enemies and the dead, desolate environments, The Void is incredibly unsettling. Some might even classify it as a kind of intellectual horror, the kind where the more you think about your situation and what’s taking place, the more nervous you become. Maybe I’m easily taken. Maybe I’m easily scared. Maybe one or both of those explain why I was tensed up the entire time I played it, but the fact that the sum of The Void’s parts gripped me so well gives it a fantastic first impression. I love a good atmosphere, even if it’s passively nerve wracking.

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