I played Solarix before joining the PulseTense team. It was a standout title among a collection of indie gems I discovered upon my glorious return to PC gaming, and it stood out because it seemed tailor-made for me. It was unapologetic in its homage to Thief and System Shock, two of my favorite games, and it was drenched in a brooding, nihilistic sci-fi atmosphere. It explored madness and isolation, the wages of discovery, and the fragility of a humanity burdened beneath its own ambitions, and in the end, it left you feeling far more despair than victory. It had soul. A shadowy, cynical soul, but soul nonetheless.
When I came on as writer for a Solarix spinoff, my gut instinct was to jump directly back into the world of Solarix and find other angles of the story to follow. A prequel, perhaps, or a parallel storyline following a secondary character. Ultimately, however, these ideas revolved around a basic formula of “more of the same.” Looking to escape these cliched approaches, the core game design was already deviating entirely from Solarix’s old school stealther in favor of putting story front and center. The goal became less about creating a companion piece to Solarix, and instead take pieces of the world and reinterpret them. Soon we had abandoned the notion of traditional continuity altogether, in favor of a more abstract connection between the games.
There are several models of legacy for stories. There are the sequels and prequels, utterly traditional in their approach to continuity. Then there are the more ambiguous “spiritual successors,” which take the paradigms of a story and recast or update them. Then there are the in-betweeners, stories like Silent Hill 2, which occupy an oblique relationship to their predecessor. James’ Silent Hill looks and feels different than Harry’s–and lies separated, though not completely removed–from other continuities within the world. This approach is similar to the intricately overlain continuities of comic book universes, where the same characters might be wildly different personalities or inhabit totally different worlds.
De-Void operates a space that is at once both a part of and apart from Solarix. I like to think of it as an “anti-sequel,” in the vein of the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane, which maintained only the most obtuse connections to its predecessor. From Solarix to De-Void, essential structures and threads are present, elements of the world persist between the two games, but they are framed uniquely. The logic that connects them is based on thoughts and associations. If Solarix depicts the physical death of the Ancyra colony’s remote pocket of humanity, De-Void is the deathbed fever-dream, a vision of infinite regression towards oblivion.
This poetic mentality, however, should not be taken as a denial of a connection between the two games. Indeed, this connection is part of the greater mystery, and there are plenty of clues for thoughtful Solarix players to sink their teeth into. But De-Void is an experience all its own: quieter than its forebear, more internal, and holding new mysteries all its own.