Before me stands a glowing golden tree, erupting through the remains of a shattered greenhouse. A whispery voice implores me to venture forth and take the glowing item hovering above the bridge. It’s my new heart, I’m told, I’ll need it to live. Yep, this is going to be a weird one.
You’re a soul that’s nearly but not quite dead. Instead of punching your ticket for good like everybody else you’ve fortuitously (or not) landed in a grey and alien world inhabited by the Sisters, who rule over the Void, and their protectors and oppressors, the deformed and nightmarish Brothers. It’s the interplay between these two factions and the unique, oppressive aesthetic of the world that combine to make The Void a fascinating and unnerving experience.
However, before you can begin to uncover the secrets of this dark and unforgiving purgatory you’ll need to master Colour. Colour is the lifeblood of this world. It’s your armour, your weaponry and your magic. You must consume it relentlessly to survive. In the dying, monochrome world of the Void what little Colour there is left is draining quickly away. If you want to live, you’ll need to cultivate it yourself.
You can mine meagre amounts of the stuff from the mines or loot it from slain enemies, but the best way to gain Colour is to grow your own garden. Infusing dead trees with Colour will bring them back to life and, in time, you’ll be able to harvest their glowing leaves to sustain yourself. You store Colour in the various hearts you acquire as you explore. Your hearts work to convert this Colour into Nerva, the substance used to cast your glyph-based abilities and interact with the Void. Here’s the rub: if Colour leaves your hearts completely, you die.
Staying alive proves to be an almost impossible struggle. As soon as you step outside of the Sisters’ chambers you begin to fade at an alarming rate. It’s all too easy to find yourself in a situation where there simply isn’t enough Colour in the world and you’re forced back to an earlier save. In some ways this works well to instill in you the same addiction to colour shared by the Sisters and their cravings. There’s a desperation to having to check every corner of a chamber for those precious tiny shoots of colour that’ll allow you to survive the cycle and reap a fresh harvest from your garden. More often than not, however, this proves to be unforgivably punishing. Reaching one of the multiple possible endings will prove to be a severe test of patience for most.
If you have the persistence, unravelling the politics of this strange society and finding your place in the torrid hierarchy of the Void is an utterly fascinating experience. Your appearance in their world is a source of much controversy among the Brothers and the Sisters. As you move from chamber to chamber each twisted character will give you their perspective on your sudden appearance in their world. Some believe The Void is dying, and you have arrived to deal the killing blow what will end their colourless existence, others believe that you are like the Brothers, and should train to join their ranks (a disturbing prospect). There are a few different ways the game can end, and you’re given a surprising and refreshing amount of freedom, including the ability to completely sabotage the narrative by slaying the Sisters outright.
Visually, The Void stands as a testament to what a game world can be, with some truly gorgeous and original design. The nubile sisters flaunt their nakedness as an explicit sign of their power and vulnerability. Their abodes, too, reflect their differing personalities and outlooks. The Brothers are hideous, twisted beings worthy of the label ‘nightmarish’, their warped machine bodies and rearranged limbs occupy a dark and uncomfortable space somewhere bet ween Geiger and Lynch. Initially you live in abject fear of the Brothers, but as you grow your relationship with them evolves and changes in intriguing ways.
It’s odd to find such creative and narrative freedom existing in parallell with such a restrictive and ruthless resource system. It can be painful to see a Brother ransacking a Garden you’ve spent so long cultivating. If you’re low on Colour already this can prove fatal. In fact, as a seeming admission that the difficulty is pitched too high, the developers have released a series of cheat codes accessible via the console. For those wanting to enjoy the world and the story without the pressure of managing your Colour this is an invaluable crutch.
It’s dark, melancholy and truly original. It’s a beautiful living nightmare, exhausting and inspiring in equal measure, but it’s not for everyone. It works best as an immersive experience piece and it’s mechanics can get in the way of this, but if you’re willing to persist then The Void will deliver something truly unique.
Sombre and punishing
but truly original.