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Silicon Void first got my attention due to its unusual premise. It presents a future where no biological life has existed in the galaxy for at least 20 billion years. Many artificial intelligences doubt that it ever existed, suggesting instead that biological organisms are nothing more than a creation myth. The constructs that populate the galaxy have more pressing concerns, regardless; after billions of years of existence, transferring themselves across galaxy-spanning networks, corruption is starting to appear. It’s a thermodynamic inevitability known as Senescence, the slow degradation of a construct’s personality and sanity. Constructs are dying out, trying to stave off the madness as long as they can, with no hope of reversing the process. The player controls an artificial intelligence diagnosed with the early stages of Senescence and accordingly exiled to the galactic rim. Once there, they uncover a mysterious message, claiming that organic life has finally been found. This discovery may hold the key to stopping Senescence and preventing extinction.
I love imaginative science fiction ideas like this. It’s a plausible crisis for a universe populated solely by computerized intelligences, and it begs questions related to other science fiction ideas. Could biological organisms have actually transformed themselves into artificial intelligence long ago? Are there some who now perceive biology as a threat, and are working to prevent its resurgence?
So, Silicon Void appealed from a narrative standpoint. In terms of game design, developer Chris Doucette — who is seeking funding on Kickstarter for the project — cites inspirations I am less familiar with: Japanese-style role-playing games (JRPGs) from the late Playstation 1 and early Playstation 2 era. He drops names like Chrono Cross, Etrian Odyssey, and Xenosaga, none of which I’ve played. My knowledge of JRPGs is mostly of earlier titles from the ’90s, and the more recent examples I’ve played, such as Ara Fell or Master of the Wind, take inspiration from those early games as well. Doucette laments that the comparatively unusual design and battle mechanics of his inspirations were never elaborated upon in more recent games, and hopes to explore these design possibilities with Silicon Void.
With those touchstones meaning little to me, I was left unsure if I would enjoy actually playing Silicon Void, despite the great premise. Fortunately, Doucette has provided a substantial playable demo along with his Kickstarter campaign, so I was able to try it out for myself.
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