Welcome to Ancyra, our little slice of heaven!
De-Void is a first-person exploration game released by KISS and developed by Pulsetense games, but don't let company names fool you: the achievement that lies before you is the work of a very small team, led by Baris Tarimcioglu, with the help of a writer and a handful of talented voice actors.
Yes, I'm impressed, that a world of such scale could be created with such care and by such a skeleton crew.
Despite the fact that De-Void lacks combat, story and atmosphere blend together so well they keep you engaged from beginning to end. That's because the writing is superb. It brings fresh elements and suspenseful angles at every corner, and in light of the bigger picture, the rapidly-aging genre that are becoming survival games, its pace and drive are welcomed. De-Void, in more ways than one, avoids the growing clichés and pitfalls that often plague exploration as a genre, to instead tell a story you'll be curious to finish.
You play as Elizabeth Woolgather, an employee at Solarix, the company that took to intergalactic travels following Earth's downfall. The venture's primary objective? To find a habitable world, to colonize it and survive. Yet as Elizabeth reaches the base of operation of "Ancyra," she quickly learns that the entire station, as well as the planet on its surface, have been stripped of any life form. You guessed it: it's now her job to figure out what happened, and with the help of the Remora A.I. Wilco, she'll soon discover that the crew has been taken by something beyond the grasp of the physical world.
I'll avoid going any further, as you'd likely accuse me of spoilers, but know that De-Void's atmosphere is what brings the story together, delivering a poignant and satisfying experience. It's that feeling of loneliness, perhaps, which is time and time again overshadowed with doubt as you encounter hints of a history, of the reasons why you might not be. I, like many others I'm sure, was wholeheartedly expecting a solution along the lines of an alien life, that abducted everyone and the AI, à la 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet when the mentionings of an empathic entity came up, along with the sightings of a being that could not be explained (I'll stop, I swear), I realized it wouldn't be so.
Having said this, De-Void does suffer from several shortcomings.
Firstly, dialog starts off before the game has finished loading, and the consequence is a buggy feel: during loading screens, when text covers lore, subtitles will pop up over them, and the audio goes choppy, for a few seconds before stabilizing.
On full-screen mode, my rig also experienced some tearing. It's not a game-breaker, but it happened regardless of my tweaks to the settings, from changing graphics quality to turning on and off V-Sync.
The last gripe I have is that while De-Void looks great, sceneries end up feeling a bit repetitive, especially after a few hours into the game; textures need more variety, so we don't end up feeling like we're traveling through the same patterns over and over again. I realize that's often a limitation of an indie game, but in light of the overall quality delivered, I found myself, well, wanting more.
These are but minor downsides to a solid game.
Lore is deep, and “cutscenes” are gameplay in their own right. The visual effects evolve, such as when Elizabeth grabs a helmet that reveals a world through a transformative lense. These types of details do a great job at building up an ambient with a mysterious feel; as if, in this case, watching shadow figures in the mist. Hats off on the technical feat. It's very mystical and enticing.
De-Void's story and atmosphere are impressive. The focus is exploration, with slow-paced objectives and lore-reading. Don't let that numb you: you'll find yourself wanting to learn more, and the solution concocted works. It may be conservative in terms of action-oriented gameplay, but that isn’t its selling point, and what it does right, it does very well.