"Death like another waking dream"
The Endless Empty is a videogame made by Erik Sheader-Smith using RPG maker VX Ace and released both on Steam and rpgmaker.net in November 2018. This game has been described as "a surreal post-life adventure", taking place solely in the mind of a dying man.
A person has just died, but hasn't completely accepted it yet. His brain is trying to come to terms with this grim event, disconnected form reality and in a state of degenerative decay. The mind's inner structure has been thrown into chaos: the memories are confused, the details have been erased, no personality, friends or family can be recalled and no clear view of reality can be grasped. For the mind's denizens, the world is steadily coming to an end.
What remains of memory is a confusing wreck, but there is a truth hiding among those fragments. There is a story, there is a way to go on and there is a persistent, intoxicating presence. There is the memory of her. Of the rockstar, her composer and the music they made together. What is the link between this story and the mind's ongoing ruin? That is up to the characters to find out.
The Endless Empty is an adventure RPG focused on exploration and choice. It delves deep into the idea of death and afterlife as the characters, odd incarnations of mental concepts such as Anxiety or Logic, must ask themselves questions as "Now what?", "What if I lived my life wrong?", "Is there even something after this?". The trip will send the characters through a surreal view of the mind's realms that remain operational while resolving puzzles, fighting bizarre enemies and coming face to face with the idea of Death.
The game makes itself pretty memorable not only through its plot and characters but also its graphic style (which is this close to being Dada) and its music, which mixes classical, funk, rock and electronic rhythms to make you feel the atmosphere of the surrounding realm.
The release trailer can be found here.
The Endless Empty contains examples of:
- Apathetic Citizens: "I knew this room was a good buy. I can peacefully view the destruction of the universe just outside my window". Then again, there is little the average citizen could've actually done in this situation.
- Body Horror: Most enemies and NP Cs show different forms of this trope and, in occasion, the environment itself.
- Defeat Means Friendship: The boss for each area, once defeated, becomes a new party member.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The first few screens of the game are rendered in grayscale. This, coupled with the detached and sorrowful BGM helps setting the mood.
- Difficulty Spike: The bosses are not easy to defeat, particularly the first two. Anxiety is a Wake-Up Call Boss since you can reach him being level 10, but he'll quite probably kick your ass.
- Driven to Suicide: The plot starts with a person who has become "tired of living" and has been lying on a pool of their own blood for about five minutes. However, it is not 100% clear is it was an actual suicide.
- The Heartless: Numerous thoughts have become corrupted and vicious thanks to the surrounding decay. They serve mostly as random encounters.
- Ironic Name: Paradise and Utopia, the two cities in Anxiety's realm, are a couple of awful towns of crowded, moving skyscrapers consumed by hypocrisy, consumerism, greed and awful advertisements. An NPC says that Paradise is a great place to live once you get used to the noise, pollution and low wages.
- Another NPC explains that both cities have apparently been blessed by God. He never imagined that being blessed would be so stressful.
- The Plague: The death of the mind is acting like one, devastating the mental realms, collapsing the brain into dead zones and making many thoughts go violent and insane.
- Planet of Hats: Justified by Trigger Finger: "the brain likes to organize information, so I'm sure that thoughts of similar motives group together".
- Quest for Identity: In a manner of speaking. The blurry memories that rise through the plot are very confusing for the dying person, who cannot even form a view of their face. However, they manage to remember the rockstar and their mutual story.
- Rainbow Speak: Each of the main characters (and some NP Cs) have one particular color for their dialogue text, with the exception of Creation, whose speech is rendered in many colors.
- In Death's case, the dialogue box changes from black to pale gray, so Death can talk using black letters.
- Signature Scent: Anytime the memory of the rockstar is evoked, the smell of lilacs fills the room.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, as there was "a concerned man" on the protagonist's life, clearly a psychologist. The image of this same therapist drives the characters from a realm to another at the end of each chapter, while talking to the protagonist, presenting choices and trying to make them feel better.
- Title Drop: The end of the first recollection is only the first time the title is dropped in the game proper.