I have to say, De-Void is definitely a game with properties like polar opposites. This is exactly why I am very hesitant about what verdict I should give this game. It definitely has its very positive aspects, but also a few negative that make me go “all hell no” on it. I also do acknowledge that it was mainly developed by one guy and kudos to him for doing that, but I wish some stuff were a bit more thoroughly put into consideration.
Let’s talk about story first, since this is the main aspect of the game and it will be the main point of the review. As a first person adventure game, the main goal in De-Void is to explore the game’s world and find out what happened to a missing space colony crew on a planet called Ancyra. Ok, I liked the story and I mean I really liked it. A complete mystery filled with conspiracy, betrayal and ultimately madness, De-Void’s story made me want to find out more and more until the very end. However, I believe it created more questions for me than answers and then there was this abrupt ending, kind of like a cliff hanger, which left me all “but…but…what about my questions?”
Okay so we are sent on this space station, which is supposedly deserted to investigate what is going on and there we are greeted by this AI named Wilco. So he supposedly helps us achieve our goals, which are primarily to discover more about the disappearances, but then he suddenly begins f*cking us up, hence why I used supposedly above. It’s definitely not the Solarix experience (even though it is kind of part of the world’s story), but it was good as a standalone.
As great a story as it is, it let me down on a few aspects. I feel as if some parts were missing, left unexplained or just completely ignored. Sometimes the game’s story would make you jump from one place to another without even telling you what the heck is going on and you’re left to just wander around until you find the spot to clicky clicky in order to advance. And hoooo, this is a bad thing. Okay, you have objectives or logs as the game calls them, but there is very little sense of direction in the game. I know it’s an exploration game but when you’re stuck in an area trying to find what to click or where to go in order to progress, it becomes a triggering experience very fast. I struggled with this mainly in the last area of the game, when I got so enraged running around in circles, that I just wished to get it over with. At first when you’re at the station it’s not very hard to find stuff, even down on Ancyra it’s not very difficult about halfway through, but then the last few places, especially the last one had me running around like an idiot for about half an hour until I raged and cheated where I had to go. Seriously, some clearer objectives might be nice or at least don’t make the area like a maze.
The story itself is explained in logs, which we find throughout our journey and they are not particularly hard to find. There was this deserty area part of the game where I was walking around the desert finding out logs and my character’s thought echoing I don’t even know where but this brings me to the other bad thing. Why do you make the player walk so much? I mean, there is a sprint yeah, but when you’re sprinting in such a vast area, it doesn’t seem like a sprint at all, more like crawling. Then there was go walk from area one to area two and in the meantime the path between these is ridiculously huge. And here I’m not even talking about the station part, because ignoring all backtracking, things were relatively close to each other.
I was also left disappointed by motives a bit. I mean, we just find this AI and magically it gains our trust immediately and we do all it wants, just to f*ck us up later? Then this mysterious creature, which supposedly drove everyone mad as I understood. I wish I would have known more, like where did it come from or how the hell did it get into me? Not to mention it kept telling me I was special and then nothing … no elaboration, no anything. And this artifact, which the colony was supposedly investigating. It was just left as a psychological factor.
I didn’t feel an emotional attachment to the story, neither to my character. Yes, I was interested in what was going on, but it felt more like watching a movie, rather than playing a game, due to lack of interactivity. The game had all these object spread out throughout the station and Ancyra, which you can pick up … to what end? I mean, I pick’em up. I play with them a little (and by play I mean spin them around, because your character refuses to move while holding an object) and then leave them where they are. What was the point of that? I wanted to use these, not just look at them.
And then again we play no part in the story itself. I mean, the game just tells us things, tells us where to go, then stops telling us where to go, but there is no development. It is what it is, and as soon as you find out a bit of details, everything else is just glitter. Also we play no part in it, there are 0 player decisions, maybe it wasn’t intended as such a game, but isn’t this why games are games and not movies or books, because players play a part of them. And from this problem we face no character development in our character, nor Wilco for that matter, whatsoever. I feel as if even if my character died, I wouldn’t care, because she was portrayed as an observer. There is also lack of cutscenes. Now, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but maybe it would have been nice to put some at least on transitioning phases.
All in all, the biggest thing which triggered me about the story (or any story for that matter) is the fact that it did manage to draw me in and keep my interest, but then it answered nothing and ended abruptly, which brings me to the next cons.
The game is hell of a lot short. I mean really, really short. In total I have 3 hours of game time on it, but if I have to strip a few things (like my obsession to go everywhere, the need to replay a section, I will elaborate on that later, run around like an idiot at some locations, and the fact that I did minimize it a few times and even went afk for a while) I could have probably finished it in 1 hour tops. Maybe that’s the problem with the loose ends. I feel as if the game is in a rush to end and maybe if they added twice the amount of content it has now, everything could be explained, make sense and the players could all be happy.
Okay, but in the story lie some very important philosophical questions and I like how deep it digs. This is probably the strongest part of the story – how it embodies philosophy in itself. We face a very basic modern philosophy here – we have humanity at its peak (shown with all technology and how we space travel to other worlds) and then on the other end the inability to deal with itself. It’s like the game shows us how building up to our peak, we were able to grow, but in this growth we destroyed our own sanctuary, thus being forced to move elsewhere and then when humanity had to start from scratch, it was unable to, because of the vague understanding we have about ourselves as a civilization, culture and foundation. De-Void shows us how this society failed to realize itself and see the potential in itself and thus this led to their destruction. This is the basics of psychological horror and mystery and I give kudos to the writer here about this point.
The game also touches strongly on human emotions with the device we use – Amber. We were told that Amber shows emotional anomalies, and they appear based on the individual person. Now, it’s all good and all, but I don’t know anything about my character so makes me question why stuff appear to her as they do. I feel emotional motives could be greatly elaborated on.
Let’s move on to the world. Okay, the world is very pretty. I mean, the space station’s background details and the fact that you actually go to these places … well most of them, were so beautiful. Most of the time I would just stop and look at the scenery and awe. On Ancyra is the same. The jungle was very luscious and colorful, the desert was unwelcoming and dry and I loved those crashed vehicles all over the place (even if I disliked the amount of walking in between each one of them, but at least it creates the right feeling for a desert … you know, vast, unending and stuff). And also the mines, the dig sites, the deserted yards, ah bliss for my eyes. One part of the story tells how people just wander off into the desert on their own accord. Yeah, as cool as that sounds, yet again no elaboration about motive and what happened to them. I don’t wanna self-guess what could possibly happen to one in a desert, because I’m not that stupid, but I wanted to feel it into the game itself.
Also there were some locations which were just there … I mean there was nothing for them there to be for and quite frankly I went to them just to find that out. Reminded me much of the objects, I would pick up, which served no purpose at all. Okay I understand it’s an exploration game, but you have to have tons of guts to make a player go somewhere for nothing and none of those “meaningless” little places had anything visually stunning about them, so it was just a waste of time and space.
As beautiful as the world was, I feel like the vibe the story was intending to put through was kind of dulled by the scenery. Everything was so bright. The space station, the planet, everything. Like a few shadows here and there and a darker dimmer atmosphere could have gone a long way for De-Void. Okay I understand it’s a desert and it’s day, but my point exactly. Why make it a day? Why not a night? Or at least dusk. It would be so much more psychologically engaging if I had to explore all those places during the night or if it was a darker setting at all. Also, a day/night cycle could have been implemented to bring realism. This is like switching Amnesia or Outlast, or even Silent Hill’s everything in a game setting such as Journey or Okami or Ori and the Blind Forest. It ain’t happening, if the atmosphere sabotages you. Now, I know it’s not supposed to be a horror game, thus why I said a few shadows and a bit darker atmosphere.
Sounds … goddamn I hated those doors!!! What is up with the sound when the doors open, man? I mean that startled me more than enough times I’d like to admit, but seriously. Either they are too loud compared to everything else or just the sound itself is so inappropriate. It was a sound of a space door opening, but come on, why? Other than that, the music on the background was okay. My only concern with it was that when you get stuck in an area and know not where to go or explore a huge area the loop gets repetitive. And also some of the soundtrack were not appropriate for the setting. Again I would have liked to hear something darker, more engaging, like for example that fail excuse of a game No Man’s Sky soundtrack, which was pretty much the only thing the devs nailed.
Before the conclusion I want to mention some technical issues. Now I have no idea if it’s my PC’s fault or not. I am inclined to think it isn’t, because it is running heavier games smoother, but dayum my FPS was shit. It spiked a lot for me and to top it off, I felt like I was playing in slow motion at few times. I have run some very graphically heavy games on my computer and maybe it was my fault on some part, but De-Void took too many resources for what it showed. Also the game froze for me a few times and given the lack of consistent save points or even checkpoints, I had to replay some areas over again, including exploring the large desert twice … and I was not happy with that.
I also want to occupy a sentence and say … please include a jump … god I hate games where I cannot jump. I mean, are my feet nailed to the floor? I know it wasn’t a necessity, but come on. Some players (a lot actually) find something very satisfying in just jumping cuz the motion of it all. And I am one of them. I want to jump!
Okay, so we reached the final verdict … god I still don’t know what to give this game. It’s as if the positive and negative is tearing me apart and I just don’t know if it’s worth it all. Okay, I am inclined to give this a 6/10. Now, I do feel I am being overly generous here, but also not, because there were just some points in the story which were very good and I see that this game could do even better if it is polished a bit. However, I feel as if I cannot recommend De-Void, at least not to everyone. The game is either going to be enjoyed completely or spat on and I believe the vast majority might not do it good. But hey, if you’ve got a thing for exploration and mystery then De-Void is just the game for you.