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Holy Fuck Laughingman You Brilliant Fucker.

  • Frogge
  • 02/06/2019 02:45 PM

The Endless Empty by Laughingman22
Length: ~4.5 hours

Hold on, I thought this was meant to be a surreal trip through the mind, what is this perfecly accurate to real life recreation of America doing here?

You know, I have to thank rmn's current review event. While I'd been meaning to play The Endless Empty for a while, and I was genuinely extremely hyped for its release, I just didn't have the push I needed to play it. I knew I would probably like it a lot, but I lacked the motivation. Then the event comes around and gives a bounty for reviewing this game. Perfect, I think, this might be the excuse I needed to finally give this game a go. Honestly, thank god I did. While I expected to like The Endless Empty, nothing could prepare me for how much I actually would.

The first thing you see upon launching the game is an empty title screen. Even the name of the game is nowhere to be found. Just your classic three options and a star, a recurring image you will see many times across this game. The game messes with you the moment you open it up. I like it. And it doesn't really stop there. The game instantly hooked me in within the first ten minutes by absolutely brilliant writing. You are introduced to the main character's love interest, who he calls "more than a pretty face" and "a star." So you can't see her face, it's instead a star. Clever, but we're only getting started. You know straight off the bat that you are in the mind of a dying man, presumably suicide. Afterwards, we meet our first party member. The brilliant writing shines through once again as you find out your party member's identity immediately - a neuron from the finger that pulled the trigger. Holy fuck laughingman you brilliant fucker. Within these first 10 minutes, I was already blown away by the creativity in the writing. Sure, the mind of a dying man setting is nothing new, but out of every game I've ever played that handles the concept, The Endless Empty probably does it better than any other. It also helps that you pretty much know from the start and it isn't treated as like a huge plot twist or anything.

So one other really creative thing about this game you instantly find out is that unlike most other rpg games, your currency isn't money - it's memories. It works pretty much the same way money works in any other game, but I even just the wording makes it fit the theme perfectly and I'm all for it.

This pretty much keeps up for the entire game. The writing in The Endless Empty is brilliant from beginning to end. Nearly every line of dialogue I read in this game left me thinking "Holy fuck laughingman you brilliant fucker." Where a lot of these sorts of surrealist rpg maker games are kinda weird just for the sake of being weird, everything in The Endless Empty blends together perfectly to create a meaningful experience where everything provides some sort of commentary on us as human beings. The game is divided into four chapters - anxiety, creation, logic, anger, and the last one that I forgot the name of, but it's not that relevant. More on that later. Anyway, anxiety largely deals with sociological subjects. The main theme looks like capitalism on the surface, but I feel that it's more among the lines of society being kinda fucked no matter what sort of society we're living in. It takes place in a part of the mind where everyone is faceless, and money dominates all. Creation's chapter is a lot more colorful, and pretty self explanatory. It's about the wonders of creating, but also the insanity that can spring off as a result. Logic's chapter is easily the most simple, and one where I struggled to see much of a deeper meaning. Logic is smart. That's... kind of it. There isn't much of a darker side here like in the rest of the chapters, but it's a nice mid game breather, I suppose. You're then greeted by Anger, whose chapter is all about war, discrimination and fascism. The final chapter is basically a sort of boss rush, and it's the shortest and most plain chapter in the entire game, to the point where it even felt kind of rushed, like by that point the developer kind of ran out of ideas. Even so, the first four chapters are so well written that I don't really mind.

The first chapter in particular has so much to say, probably evident by the fact that it's the longest and most fleshed out chapter of them all. Even to people who generally don't enjoy games, I feel like this first chapter might really leave you thinking. I can easily see myself recommending this to my friends from sociology class because the social commentary here is absolutely top notch and provides some amazing perspectives I hadn't even considered before. My favorite example has to be this company you end up having to join who is thriving from the hate for capitalism; they're selling anarchy, brainwashing people into thinking they're opposing the government and then using that to make even more money for themselves. Holy fuck laughingman you brilliant fucker.

Hey wait a goddamn minute, is this an allegory for this gam- Oh fuck you.

However, it's pretty much a set standart for these types of surreal games that there's some deeper meaning and social commentary, but here's something I wasn't really expecting - likeable, entertaining characters. The bosses of each area, who all basically share the name with their chapter, are also your party members. They will join along after you beat their chapter. That being said, you can only have one with you, but you can switch who's tagging along in the blue room. More on the blue room later as well. Anyway, the first time the game forced me to choose between two party members, I thought I would actually have to sacrifice one and could only keep either one of the two, and this was the moment I realized I really had a hard time choosing. Luckily, this didn't end up being the case, but it still set off my realization that I was kind of getting really connected to this cast. Static is a silent protagonist- well, actually, you can name him midway into chapter 1 after trigger finger realizes he doesn't have a name to refer to you with. So I named him what any sane person would - Skinny Penis. And that's what I'm gonna call him for the rest of this review, so get used to it. Anyway, Skinny Penis is a silent protagonist, and you sort of only see him speak through the man whose mind you are in during flashbacks. I love his designs, but don't particularly care for him, with him being silent and all (though he's pretty good in battle, so still got attached to him one way or another). However, the side characters really make the cast here, and most of it is thanks to the humour.

Yeah, there's some humour thrown into The Endless Empty. While it's not a comedy game, nor is it anywhere near even being called lighthearted, some of the moments here are genuinely pretty hilarious. I found myself laughing a lot at the Sphinx's riddles section in particular. Basically, the Sphinx tells you that you must answer his riddles in order to pass, but the riddles are ridiculously dumb, and so are the answers. As far as I know, there's actually no way to fail this section, so you can give him some half assed stupid answers and you'll still get through just fine. There's also Creation, who delivers some of the funniest lines in this game with his sort of death obsessed grim nature that shines through at the worst possible times.

My only minor complaint with the writing is that spelling and punctuation errors are extremely common in this game. I found a gazillion typos all the way throughout. As for the punctuation, the game basically only ever uses full stops, never question marks or exclamation marks, even when it seems like it should. It also never really makes use of commas to break up sentences. At first I thought this was all on purpose to make the writing appear more weird and trippy in a way, but with how much every character made the same errors, I kind of just started assuming that no, it wasn't actually intentional. It doesn't take away a lot from the game, and everything is still easy to understand, but a proofreader wouldn't hurt.

No, sorry, I did not understanding.

The only other sour apple here is that since the final chapter is so short, Anger pretty much gets no time to shine. I doubt this would really work, but maybe if Anger joined you in the beginning of his chapter instead, or just didn't ever really join you at all it would feel less like he was thrown in there just because the developer felt the need to make every boss a party member and more like he was thrown in there because the developer legit wanted to explore him as a character. He does make a pretty good villian in his chapter, though, so I guess it's not a huge issue that he doesn't get too much screentime.

Usually where these sorts of games go sour for me is the ending. A lot of them have really abrupt endings, and I was kind of preparing myself for this for The Endless Empty too since I saw a comment the developer made on steam saying the ending was intentionally meant to be abrupt, but I was surprised to find out this actually wasn't the case at all. The ending itself is pretty damn good, and I always love when games let you talk to the side characters before viewing the ending. It's a cute touch! There's apparently six endings, but I only got one. Well, I don't know if you can actually call them endings, it's actually one cutscene before the ending that changes depending on the choices you have made across the game.

Basically, there are six forms you can take in The Endless Empty. The Businessman, Punk, Artist, Observer, Violence and Nothing. I personally beat the game as the Artist (who, ironically, has my least favorite design of them all, but I feel his choices were the most accurate to me), but I don't think the difference is really that big. The actual ending still seems to be the same every time, so I won't go back for the others. It does, however, add a good amount of replayability to the game, alongside the fact that you can only have one boss battle party member with you. Interestingly, I wasn't just the artist, I also carried Creation with me as my party member since I liked his skills the best. I didn't even really play around with Logic or Anger mainly because I had gotten really attached to him pretty quickly. Not only in battle, he's also my favorite character in general. AND he has my favorite design! (Ironic considering the artist form is my least favorite and all) Anyway, going back to the ending, my problem here wasn't that it was abrupt, but rather that it felt a bit too silly. It has this weird pop up and happy go lucky tune playing in the background. With how emotional moments just before were, I'd have expected something more emotional, the kind of credits that would let you cry a bit while they roll down. Not here, though, you get cheesy ass 80s credits. I guess criticizing credits is a weird thing to do, but it still kind of prevents the game from leaving that lasting feeling of emotion after you finish it, the kind that makes you wanna scream and tell all your friends to play it immediately. I mean, I still did that because this game is so fucking good, but more emotional credits would've helped more!

Anybody know braille?

Did I convince you to play the game yet? No? You don't really care about the story and writing? Well, fuck you, first of all- I mean, don't worry! There's more to be enjoyed here!

The Endless Empty is actually well worth playing for its visuals and music alone. The game looks absolutely amazing from beginning to end, especially if you're a fan of the surreal, and not just in the writing. Character designs are simple but very memorable and the environments always feel unique and interesting to explore. There's a lot of cool little details here, like how npc sprites actually animate when you talk to them, and in really creative ways too. Most characters don't have a face, and while some do, and that's the part of them that animates upon talking, most actually are animated in really cute little ways. For example, the black silhouttes in chapter 1 that only have their tie visible. When you talk to them, their tie begins to shrink and grow as they speak. Holy fuck laughingman you brilliant fucker. Also really clever how every character actually speaks in a different color. It adds a lot of personality to them! Trigger finger speaks in blue, anxiety speaks in green, Creation uses a mix of colors, Logic speaks in white but has a blue outline and Anger speaks in red (I think. I actually kind of don't remember if he did, given that he gets little to no screentime and all)

And for once, we're actually gonna look into the music! While I never bring this up in most of my reviews, I feel it would be a crime not to do it for The Endless Empty. This game has a fully original soundtrack, which is already kind of rare to see in rpg maker games, and it's a really good one. When the developer composes their own music, of course, they can make each song fit their respective scene or area perfectly, and such is the case here. Every track here enhances the atmosphere by a good ten times, and this game even made me do something I rarely ever do - I went back and listened to a few of the tracks on youtube. Creation's boss theme has to be my favorite from the game, but I also really like Anger's. Also, the main background music that plays when you explore the town in Creation's chapter sounds a lot like Another One Bites the Dust, and I just can't unhear it. If you enjoyed the soundtrack for OFF, you're probably guaranteed to like this game's soundtrack too.

Sound effects are also done pretty well. Managing menus has never sounded so good, and I love that every character has a little sound effect that plays when they speak, just like their text colors.

Man the new Predator movie looks dope.

So what about the gameplay? So The Endless Empty is basically your usual rpg with adventure game elements. You'll walk around and interact with objects to progress the story, and there's battles in between. As far as the adventure game elements go, there's nothing particularly frustrating here. The game's mostly very linear, and I only got stuck once in the entire game, in chapter 1, but luckily Trigger Finger gave me a hint in the blue room (again, I'll get to the blue room in a sec) that immediately made me realize what I actually had to do. The only section that might be a little annoying is the constant back and forth travelling you have to do in chapter 4, but even so, the game gives you some news broadscast cutscenes in between to keep you busy.

As for the battles, there's a bit more to talk about here. The Endless Empty is, surprisingly, an extremely easy game. I only died to four enemies in the entire game, those being Anxiety's boss fight, the first butterfly guard miniboss in creation's chapter, Logic's boss fight and the broadcast battle near the end of Anger's chapter. And the only one of these who actually gave me trouble was Logic. The rest I managed to beat pretty easily after one or two attempts. Logic, though... Oh boy. I fucking hated the Logic fight, because once he got to the form where he deals those heavy blows to your entire party every turn, I could not for the dear life of me figure out how to get past that form. I tried poisioning him and just guarding until he died, because he's immune to all your attacks in that stage, but I could never survive long enough for the poison to kill him. I was going to try switching to Anxiety and inflicting him with worry (a state that's basically poison except much more powerful), but you can't go back to the blue room (I'm getting to it!) to switch to anxiety if you've entered the room with the boss, and I saved in there, so I was stuck having to fight him with Creation. Eventually, after over a dozen failed attempts, I gave in and went into the game files to change his HP to 1. After that, though, most battles were extremely easy since Creation's Daze ability has a really good chance to paralyze enemies for a while, giving you a lot of time to attack them without them being able to doing anything to you. I mostly found myself just following a pattern of using Creation's Daze ability to paralyze, then attacking with Skinny Penis' Heart's Cradle attack and Creation's Swarm attack, switching back to Daze if the enemy ever broke out of the paralysis. This actually made most late game battles laughably easy. Even the final boss gave me literally no trouble because I could just paralyze it.

Anyway, as for what the blue room is (at last!), it's basically a heal room of sorts you can find across the world. It works as other things too, though. You can change who your third party member is here, you can buy things from a creepy dude in the corner and you can talk to trigger finger to get some flavor text. I kind of wish everyone gave you flavor text instead of just trigger finger, and even with just trigger finger, the flavor text sometimes feels very plain. Anyway, blue rooms are actually extremely common throughout the world, so I never found myself having to use healing items outside of battle.

The game actually has random encounters, which I usually hate, but luckily they're kept pretty minimal in The Endless Empty. Encounter rates are low, and in larger, maze like areas, they are conviniently disabled so you don't have to worry about constantly running into an enemy as you explore. In fact, for once, I think encounter rates may have actually been a bit too low. After getting through the first two chapters, you almost never come across random encounters save for one or two maps here and there, instead the game switches to a more miniboss rush sort of style.

That being said, the first chapter is probably the most annoying of them all in terms of battles. While this isn't as prominent in later parts of the game, when you first start, your chances of missing are so ridiculously high. I found myself not being able to land a hit more than half of the time on enemies, and it's worse considering they even have a good chance of evading. Luckily, as I said, this isn't much of an issue later on into the game, but just expect to rarely ever be able to land a hit for most of the first chapter. In fact, I believe this wasn't an issue for me in later chapters because I used skills because I had lots of MP, not because missing rates were smaller. I think it's actually your default attack that has a high chance of missing because I did sometimes find myself missing in later battles after running out of MP. So my recommendation to anyone playing is to stick to skills as much as possible rather than attacking normally. One thing I appreciate here in the first chapter is that the game levels you up a few times without forcing you to battle so that you don't end up being underlevelled and having to grind to fight the boss. It only seems to happen in chapter 1, but it works well.

Road work ahead? Uh, yeah, I sure hope it does!

The last thing I have to mention here is whether or not the game is polished, and yeah, I would say that it's actually pretty well polished. I only came across one bug in Anger's chapter where the map with the void monster didn't seem to have any collisions so I accidentally walked right past the encounter my first time by going across the walls. Luckily, I went back and ran into the enemy because it gave me one of Skinny Penis' best abilities in the game. Some collissions can also be a bit weird at times, but I suppose that's a given for a game like The Endless Empty that uses maps made up of photorealistic images rather than sticking to a grid. There's also the afromentioned issue of needing a proofreader, but otherwise, The Endless Empty is a product with a lot of polish.

The Endless Empty clearly had lots of effort put into it, and it really pays off. There's extremely minor issues to be found here, but nothing in particular to ruin the experience. I'm surprised this has flown under the radar for the most part. I couldn't find any playthroughs on youtube, the achievement for completing the game has a very rare collection rate, and I'm, you know, the first to review it on here. I really hope that changes, because this game is seriously fucking good. Holy fuck laughingman you brilliant fucker, you made one hell of a game.

I give the Endless Empty five weird fucking stars out of five.


And the game has merch! Well, I know I'm buying this t-shirt as soon as I can.


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I may be a fucker, but brilliant I doubt it.

Anyway, thank you so much for the thoughtful and well written review!
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
This review makes me wanna play!
I wanna marry ALL the boys!! And Donna is a meanc
I may be a fucker, but brilliant I doubt it.

Anyway, thank you so much for the thoughtful and well written review!

I just gave you a perfect score review. I think brilliant is a fitting word for any developer who can make something like that.

I'm happy you like it!

This review makes me wanna play!

You absolutely should.
Had my eyes on this for a while, sounds like its going to be a fun game to play through on Stream!
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