"Now you can hold color in your heart."
— Nameless Sister
, also known as Tension
or The Void
to English audiences, was originally released in April 2008 in Russia by indie developer Ice-Pick Lodge, known for their previous game Pathologic
is set in a Void
that is assumed to be the afterlife, or at least an
afterlife. The player is a "lost spirit" who has lingered briefly in the Void while their way to somewhere else
— in an act of mercy, a woman known as the Nameless Sister shares a "heart" with the spirit, enabling him to hold Color, a substance vital to survival in the Void.
From that point on, the spirit (as in you) must learn to survive the bizarre realm, earning the favor of the naked, capricious Sisters and being careful not to anger the powerful and self-righteous Brothers, guardians of the Sisters; while fighting Predators, strange and hostile beasts animated by errant color. Then there's the Void itself, which slowly drains the color from of spirits traveling through it. Good luck trying to figure out what exactly is going on!
The game debuted to good reviews, Rock Paper Shotgun in particular calling it "the most important game you are GOING TO FUCKING PLAY"
, and likewise getting good scores from various publications despite remaining somewhat obscure. Many have noted the game for its difficulty, as the game is quite unforgiving compared to most and will happily let you paint yourself into an Unwinnable
corner if you make too many mistakes. Not only does it not hold your hand, at times it will lie to you.
So it's recommended to read a walkthrough.
This game provides examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: All the Brothers and Sisters you meet can be killed. Yes, all of them.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The goal of the game. You can either try to ascend yourself or send a chosen Sister in your stead.
- Awesome but Impractical: The Ritual glyph, usually. It's powerful, but takes a long time to set up, is expensive, and can easily miss your target. The area-of-effect shockwave is useful for taking out large groups of enemies, but during boss battles you're generally only fighting one target. (The exception is Caterpillar, who Ritual actually is useful on.)
- Back from the Dead: You can revive the Nameless Sister towards the end of the game, at the cost of almost all of your Color.
- Beautiful Void: Fitting, given that in some markets the game is even called "The Void". With the exception of the Brothers, Sisters and the occasional monster there is no one in the void to interact with, leaving you depressingly alone just about all the time.
- Berserk Button: Giving the Sisters too much Color will piss the Brothers off big-time. There are also a number of other things that will set them off - doing just about anything too wrong will have them coming to kill you.
- Or too right for that matter.
- Big Brother Mentor: Perhaps literally! Montgolfier and Patriarch genuinely care about you, whereas some Brothers are pretending to be this but aren't.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Played with. The Sisters are brunettes, redheads and white haired pretty girls.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Brothers' morality seems extremely strange from our perspective.
Triumphator: Giving is an unquestionable evil, so taking must be an unquestionable good!
- Bonus Boss: Tyrant could be considered this — though almost all of the Brothers are technically optional with the exception of Montgolfier, Tyrant is the one you're least likely to fight, since he doesn't participate in the witch hunt and is the hardest to anger (as he has two Sisters, not one). He also isn't lying about being the strongest of the Brothers.
- Boss Banter: The Brothers will talk almost constantly, in the form of long prayers to Color. They have been transcripted here if you're interested.
- Boss Vulnerability: The giant predators must be waited out, while the Brothers can always be harmed.
- Body Horror: Just one look at any of the Brothers should give you an idea of what the Nightmare will do to you.
- Brainy Brunette: Ima.
- Capital Letters Are Magic
- Censor Chains: When interacting with the Sisters to give them Color, they're completely naked save for binding chains that, for the most part, obscures all of their "fiddly bits". These chains, which apparently restrict their power and free will, are made out of anything from smoke, fire, bright points of light, and in one case literal chain links made out of light. For the most part the appearance of each sister's chains fit in with their personality (for example, the aforementioned chain sprites appear on a Sister that is, fittingly, chained to a piece of torture equipment) Of course, every time you open up one of the Sisters' Hearts, some of the chains disappear until the Sister is "free", both in terms of being released from her binds and having nothing to hide her modesty anymore. Not that any of them seem to care...
- Cleopatra Nose: Ava
- Climax Boss: Montgolfier, fought at the end of Agony.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: There are seven colors in the game, each of which stand for and do separate things. The Sisters also desire you to feed them color, and the colors they desire tie into their personality.
- Dating Sim: Has some elements of this.
- Declaration of Protection: What the voice of Color urges you to do when the Agony begins.
- Difficulty Levels: While not in the actual game, forum-goer Throdax has made two patches for "easy" and "medium" modes here. These patches were acknowledged on the game's website, and it's recommended that you use them if you aren't using the official guide.
- Distressed Damsel: Pretty much the Sisters. They are chained in their chambers and all they can do is beg/trick/seduce you into helping them. They won't even say a word if you kill them!
- In case of Ima, she is chained to a crucifix while a swinging pendulum is above her head. The pendulum drops slightly each time you fill a heart.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Non-comedic example; many of the Brothers seem quite abusive to the Sisters, and refer to them as bloodthirsty beasts who must be put down for their own good and the good of others. It's like they don't think women are actual people or something.
- Adding on to this: Mantid seems relatively nice to the Spirit, willing to tolerate him and give him a chance. He is also quite calm and composed compared to the other Brothers. However, all of the Sisters seem to hate him, making bitter remarks about him whenever he is brought up — even moreso than the other Brothers. In addition, his Sister, Uta, is the most depressed and pessimistic of the Sisters. Despite putting on a kind face, Mantid appears to be quite the Domestic Abuser...
- Downer Ending: One of them, anyway. Maybe. Ima's poem is very depressing, and seems to imply that she either wasn't able to ascend to the Surface or died in the process, causing the new world to fall into stagnation or decay.
- None of the endings are exactly happy. All of them seem to imply that the world that the ascended creates is far from perfect, each missing something essential.
- Driven to Suicide: The Nameless Sister. Patriarch also subtly implies this if you choose to fight him.
- In the Russian version, it is hinted that the protagonist died on the Surface that way.
- Dual Wielding: Whaler.
- Easy Road to Hell: Kind of, though it has more of an emphasis on "going to Heaven is hard". Ascending to a higher Limit is extraordinarily difficult and requires massive amounts of Color, while descending to a lower Limit is dangerously easy. Master Color even says, "All the easy routes only lead down."
- Eldritch Abomination: The Scorpio, a Hive Mind composed of various things that appears if/when you do significant damage to a realm. We don't know what it is, and the game never explains, but unlike everything else, it actually seems to hate Color and goes out of it's way to prevent its creation (such as using the stuff as bait for its minions to ambush you).
- Fate Worse Than Death: Absolute Death. What could be more frightening than death within death?
- Final Death: The "Absolute Death", as mentioned above. Nameless Sister's description is essentially this trope's description verbatim.
- Fiery Redhead: Una, literally and figuratively. Inverted with Ire, though.
- First Girl Wins: You can ascend the Nameless Sister. It's hard though...
- Flunky Boss: Caterpillar and Whaler. It's also the former's only way to actually harm you.
- Gainax Ending: Except for the Non-Standard Game Over, all the endings are just shots of the Surface overlayed with vague, philosophical poetry that is guaranteed to make your brain blow a fuse. Then the credits roll. That's it.
- Get Back Here Boss: Tyrant is always faster than you, even if you have 100% speed.
- Gravity Master: Caterpillar.
- Grey and Gray Morality: The Brothers may be inexplicable assholes, but they are protecting what is effectively their version of heaven and some of them actually care about you. The Sisters may seem like helpless damsels, but most of them are either just using you or apathetic and ready to die.
- Heaven / Hell: Played with — it's completely relative. From the perspective of any individual, every Limit above them is Heaven, and all Limits below them seem like Hell. Although Absolute Death (the lowest possible Limit) does seem to be the latter no matter what.
- Heroic Mime: Justified. The Spirit actually is mute.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Nameless Sister at the beginning of Confusion, coupled with Driven to Suicide.
- The main character himself if he chooses to ascend a Sister instead of himself.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: Early in the game, various Brothers will give you tasks and a time limit to perform them. If you fail to complete them in time, they will attack you in the form of one of these. Inverted in that losing the battle (as you're supposed to) will kill you; at that point in the game it is only just barely possible to defeat them if you've prepared for it.
- Impossible Task: Mantid and Warden love these.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: All of the Sisters.
- Irony: Attacking a Brother with the Color he's currently praying to, especially if it's the killing blow.
- Knight Templar: The Brothers, or at least the younger ones.
- Last Girl Wins: If you choose Ole.
- Large Ham: Pit.
Pit: His color shall fail! His hammer shall FALL! His voiccccceeee...shall quiver.
- Really, just download the prayers to Color in the link above and listen to Pit's. He's hilariously over-the-top in just about everything he says.
- Let's Play: There is one by CannibalK9, starting here.
- Level-Up at Intimacy 5: If you open Sister's hearts, they will allow you to go in their chambers and travel to other sisters. It is also implied that the chambers of a happy Sister give more Color.
- In reality, however, this is subverted. Giving Color to a Sister heavily damages their realm due to the sheer amount of it you need to use, which will actually decrease the amount of Color you can get. This will eventually lead to the Scorpio appearing, which will completely destroy your gardens and haunt your dreams.
- Life Drain: Caterpillar's flunkies do this if you get too close.
- Luck-Based Mission: The fight with Tyrant can have some elements of this, since the locations where his poison gas clouds pop up are random.
- MacGuffin Girl: All of the Sisters. Especially after Aya reveals that they are not souls of people, they are souls of an era of mankind, and who you choose to ascend will directly affect the entirety of the surface world.
- Marathon Boss: The giant Predators, who aren't really that threatening, but take a very long time to beat, as it takes a while to damage them at all. However, you don't need to take them out in one sitting, and are free to leave to get more color to fight the boss.
- Martyr Without a Cause: The Nameless Sister, though it's justified in a way; they didn't just commit a Heroic Sacrifice, they were also Driven to Suicide.
- Meaningful Name: A few of the Brothers have these; Patriarch is the oldest brother, Montgolfier is a balloon man, Pit has a giant drill for legs and tunnels through the ground, and Warden's giant ribcage lets him trap people. Sister Echo repeats dialogue from other Sisters.
- Echo doesn't just repeat things, she reinterprets them. So much so that one of her opening monologues is a much peppier spin on Sister Nameless' bleak, game opening "This is a desert on the threshold of death". Interestingly, this makes for as much of a personality as it would if she had just been mimicking, as she frequently contradicts her own words for the sake of saying the opposite of what another sister says.
- Most Gamers Are Male: The developers probably think this, if the absurd amount of Fanservice with the Sisters is any indication.
- Multiple Endings: Thirteen of them, though one is just a Non-Standard Game Over.
- Musical Assassin: Triumphator.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Tyrant.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Several Sisters and Brothers berate you for your misuse of color when they reveal to you that every drop of Nerva you spend causes negative irreversible changes in the void, ultimately bringing it closer to death.
- Your presence alone slowly kills the Void.
- Nintendo Hard: The game basically tells you where you are and gives you a vague idea of what to do, and then sends you on your way. The game's esoteric, tense and survival-based nature means you can easily end up mismanaging your resources and causing your unavoidable death several cycles later. Getting the hang of thing takes a while.
- No Name Given: The first Sister you meet in the game, appropriately referred to as "Nameless Sister" by your in-game journal. It's heavily implied that, because she was born after the Color left the Void, she was never given one.
- Non-Standard Game Over: Taking too long to complete the game will result in one of these, where Montgolfier's final words to you echo ironically as you fall into the Nightmare and become a Brother.
- Older Than They Look: Hinted when Ole says that while waiting for the Soul to come to the Void she hasn't changed a bit. The main character, on the other hand, looks old enough to be her father now. Justified by the fact that the Sisters are born just when they ascend to the Surface.
- Our Souls Are Different: For one thing, they have an anatomy!
- One-Woman Wail: Found in the tracks called "The Adit" and " Sister's Death"
- Poisonous Person: Tyrant's only offensive attack is summoning clouds of poisonous gas.
- Punch Clock Villain: Only a few of the Brothers seem to be this.
- Puzzle Boss: The giant Predators.
- Rage Against the Mentor: You will eventually stand up to the Brothers. Probably when they start killing Sisters.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Montgolfier, a calm, collected Brother, who wants to give you a chance.
- Rush Boss: Most of the Brothers, in contrast with the giant Predators.
- Whaler in particular; he turns into more and more of a Glass Cannon as the fight progresses, to the point where you can kill him in one hit if enough time has elapsed. In addition, his vulnerability wheels never fall off, making him the only boss that is actually capable of dying in a single hit.
- Scenery Porn: Very much so in Sisters' chambers, in other places usually combined with Scenery Gorn.
- Screw Destiny: It's never explicitly stated that the Nameless Sister is destined to die, but pulling her back up from the Nightmare and ascending her certainly feels like this, especially due to how difficult it is.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Ascending yourself.
- Shout-Out: To several games in the forms of Easter Eggs.
- Single Phlebotinum Limit: Color does just about everything in the Void, for good and ill. Sort of averted in that there's seven types of it that do varying things, but all of the different colors allow for your survival and power glyphs.
- Supernatural Goldeyes: The hero has these, and learns that it is unique to him. You learn this around the same time you are the catalyst for a major event in this area. Ava and Ire call him "Golden Eyes".
- Stationary Boss: Triumphator. He can teleport, but once he does, he's stuck in place for a while until he decides to teleport again.
- Surreal Symbolic Heads: Whaler's head seems to have been removed and strapped to his back, and replaced with a kind of ornate metal spire.
- Symbol Drawing Interface
- The Stoic: Mantid and Uta.
- Talking to Himself: Due to the Loads and Loads of Characters, each actor plays two or three of the Brothers or Sisters. Due to the common use of filters, this usually isn't that noticeable, but unfortunately leads to problems in the Brothers' Boss Banter. Each voice actor only recorded one set of it, usually with a particular Brother in mind. The same clip is used for all Brothers played by that voice actor, and it's very noticeable.
- It's particularly jarring with Patriarch (who is one of the calmest and nicest Brothers), whose prayers are recorded with Pit's voice, of all people.
- The Tease: All Sisters strip, stretch out or dance in front of you when you give them color. Some are not aware how hot they are, but some use it to make you give them more color. Ava even promises a reward.
- Theme Naming:
- All Sisters have three-letter names. (Well, except for Yani and Echo, but that's due to the translation; in Russian, "ya" and "ch" are both single letters.)
- All the Brothers except for Montgolfier and Triumphator are named after nouns or adjectives.
- The Three Trials: As part of the apprenticeship, you are given three trials. Subverted, though, because you fail the second trial before you start.
- Timed Mission: The entire game, really. The only time you're free of this is in the chambers.
- A more specific example is the fight with Whaler. If he manages to attach four floating heads to himself, it's an instant Game Over.
- Title Drop: "The Void" is obvious; "Turgor" less so. Your final objective is to achieve the state of Turgor by filling yourself with as much Color as possible.
- Title Theme Drop: Not quite, but the final chapter's overworld music quotes it heavily.
- Toxic Phlebotinum: Certain types of color can kill Sisters if given to them. Also, the use of color in a chamber causes damage to the chamber, which causes it to deteriorate from a quiet, bleak but productive place to a barren, monster-ridden hell.
- Treacherous Advisor: Damn near everybody. This includes Color itself. The Nameless Sister, Ole, Patriarch and Montgolfier all genuinely care about you, but have odd ways of trying to protect you.
- Useless Useful Spell: Sentinel. It creates a bomb that only detonates after a set period of time — by which point, whatever you attacked will probably have moved away. Further compounding this is that there is another glyph (Sleeper) that's a variant on Sentinel and is actually useful, since it explodes on contact and has the best damage multiplier of the attack glyphs.
- The Vamp: Ava
- Video Game Caring Potential: There is something oddly... delightful (not like that, you weirdo!) about seeing a Sister move around happily while freed from her bonds. Ole's is probably the cutest, considering she's your personal sister and also playing on a swing! Awww.
- Plus, the more Color you offer to a Sister, the more respondant they'll be when you enter their chambers. Again, Ole seems to take the cake, since she begins staring mournfully out the window of her chamber, then turning her head, then standing up! It's better than it sounds, believe us.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Poisoning a Sister.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Just about everyone pulls this.
- Weapon of Choice:
- Weird Moon: The moon seen from Uta's Grotto is slightly unsettling, Uta stares at it through a crack. It also looks like an eye.
- Wham Episode: The game manages to pull off two in quick succession — the first occurs around the eighteenth cycle, where Master Color gives you the means to fight back against the Brothers and then the beginning of Confusion, where the Nameless Sister commits a Heroic Suicide. The focus of gameplay tends to shift after this as well.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Subverted - the Brothers call you out on just about everything constantly, despite you not really doing anything morally wrong. By their standards, however...
- Woman in White: The Nameless Sister has white hair and a white dress.
- Woman on Fire: Una.
- Worms Eye View: When the brothers first appear, the camera is at ground-level and tracks their heads as they walk over the camera.
- Wrench Wench: Eli.
Eli: That's my talent. I can combine. Create. Invent. Build. Work. Telling you to note what will happen Above, if you free me.