In lieu of having the time to actually write anything of my usual length, or the two reviews I have cooking, I’ll announce news of a game that’s fallen off the radars of most: The Void, from Russian developer Ice-Pick Lodge. Formerly called Tension, it’s been available for ages in Russia and Germany, and is coming to English-speakers in a couple weeks.
Never heard of Ice-Pick? Your loss. They made one of the best and most important games in history. Only it’s not really your loss, because it was also one of the most broken and FUBARed games in history, as so eloquently told by John Walker. With this, their second outing, early noises suggest that Ice-Pick has done it again, only this time without the FUBARing.
That first game, the FUBAR one, was Pathologic. Very few played it, fewer still could stomach it for more than a few hours. But it was monumentally important. Grim, brooding, eerie, Pathologic presented a world that’s hard to describe – a game about a town so ravaged by an unknown disease that even its structures were getting sick. A game that knew it was a game, and even told you so. An open world that was truly open, and brutally unforgiving: where if something happened without you present, you just missed it, period, and tough luck if that means you can’t finish now. A game where even things as innocuous as the food would give you nightmares. An insane place literally plagued; by a gruesome history, a blood-drenched present, and a doomed future. A slow, slow, slow game so badly translated that it approached incomprehensibility. Buggy enough to overwhelm an entomologist. Unplayable by most people, and not just because of the bugs. But just amazing, for reasons that are best described in Quintin Smith’s beautiful three-parter Butchering Pathologic.
Anyway, The Void looks to follow Ice-Pick’s tradition of plumbing dark depths of the human soul. Actually, in The Void you are a soul – the Void is where souls go when they’ve lost their owners. And the journey necessary to get it back is one of profound exploration through a realm that hungers for color – one resource you must master and use as trade, food, and firepower. It employs a glyph-drawing system (similar to what we saw in Arx Fatalis), something which I’ve never really been enamored of, if only because I’ve never seen it that well implemented. I’m hoping that Ice-Pick has overcome this issue in The Void.
Like Pathologic before it, The Void looks to be a slow-paced game about exploration, one in which you must return color to the world and free yourself by breaking your soul’s bond with Sisters, lissome females protected by hideous Brothers (yes, yes, I know). Once again it seems like the game will be unforgiving and deliberately tricksy, and not necessarily “fun” in the classic sense. But it looks worth it, particularly since English-speaking reviewers lucky enough to get an early copy are saying that The Void is brilliantly translated and largely bug free.
It also looks like this game is unabashedly carnal, including as it does very dark and disturbingly erotic undertones, copious nudity, and reflections on sexual control and domination between the genders. It is not, nor was Pathologic, a game for Little Timmy. But then, it’s about time we get more games that aren’t for Timmy. Ice-Pick Lodge is not about space marine shooters; it’s one of the creepiest, most creative, most genuinely artistic and thoughtful development houses around today, and I’m hoping they’re able to continue producing work well into the future.
You can learn more about The Void by reading Quintin’s RPS review yonder.