A dark, beautifully illustrated visual novel that completely gripped me!
Lake of Voices is a horror/fantasy visual novel in which you and a fellow guard, with the help of the guide, have to cross a dangerous lake with deadly creatures in order to get to a village on the other side that needs your help. But you’re not the only two crossing the lake tonight, and the trip is full of perils that not everyone is going to survive.
Lake of Voices is a story that forces you to accept that there’s no perfect way to handle dire times and asks you to decide what, and who, is going to be sacrificed.
Anyone can be saved, but not everyone can be.
Kikka the Steadfast is a sensitive and empathetic woman who uses a mask of stoicism to protect herself from the harsh world she lives in. Much of everything she’s done has been an attempt to find some semblance of security, including the career path she chose to pursue. Kikka works as an official guard for one of the many tiny villages in the region. Her most recent assignment is to travel with fellow guard Bemelle to an allied town that’s been under siege by raiders.
With an ever-present sense of urgency, the two find themselves on the shore of Sinnlos, a cursed lake of black water that is home to the Nixi; twisted creatures who take joy in drowning humans. The two need the assistance of a nameless guide to even attempt to cross the maze of bridges spanning the dark waters. But they are not the only ones seeking passage that night. The guide agrees to lead them all, whilst also giving a warning that a group this large has no chance of making it across whole. Someone will be lost along the way. None of them volunteer to stay behind, regardless. And so the ill-fated journey over the lake of voices begins.
I have been enchanted by Lake of Voices.
So this game is free, and my first thought when I started playing it was, why? I would pay for this! It’s fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever been so immersed in a game or visual novel before. Everything about it worked so well together and just captured me. Over an hour would pass and all sudden I’d surface like, “Where am I? What’s happening? What’s real life, again?” I can’t tell you how many times my eyes watered with emotion while playing. I even shed actual tears once or twice. So… here are all the reasons I loved this.
– The artwork is beautiful. Really, just beautiful. It’s all so ethereal and striking, and I really love it. And there’s enough variation in background, facial expression, and even lighting that it always matches what’s going on. There’s also extra artwork for certain moments (including three for each character) that you unlock as you go. I wanna show you all the artwork, but I don’t want to spoil it because it’s such a part of the experience.
– The music is haunting and smoothly changes to suit whatever is happening at the moment.
– All the dialogue is voice acted really well.
– The storyline is eerie and dark and kept me on edge. It has sad moments and hopeful moments and profound moments. The more you play and take different routes, the more character backstory and world backstory you learn. And one ending in particular really makes you look at the whole story a little differently.
– It’s unlike any other visual novel I’ve ever played because many of the choices have a time limit. It forces you to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment without truly being able to consider the pros and cons of each, as if you were actually there.
– It’s a good length and has multiple different endings. My first playthrough took between 60 and 90 minutes even though I ended up dying before I reached the end, and it took me about 13 hours in total to get all the accomplishments, unlockable artworks, bonus scenes, and endings. It’s also more complicated than other visual novels I’ve played because there are some choices that don’t change the immediate outcome, but they do affect what options you have later in the game and what endings you can get. It has to do with how close you get to different characters. So even if you think you’ve seen all the outcomes of a certain decision, you might get different options or outcomes if you start over and make different relationships earlier on. I think that’s really interesting. There are also special endings available for each character, some of which could be considered romance (including a F/F one), and some of which are decidedly not romance; it doesn’t automatically happen even if you both survive, you have to make all the right choices to get close to them. But don’t worry if this all sounds a little too complicated—the devs have tips and walkthrough guides available for anyone who wants the help.
– I love these characters. I grew attached to them so quickly. And that is what truly makes this visual novel amazing. That’s what makes it so gripping and full of tension. You grow attached to these flawed-but-doing-their-best characters, and you know you can’t save them all. It’s literally in the premise. And when one (or more) of them does die, it really impacts you. Or at least, it impacted me. Although I have to admit, every time I ended up on a route in which Bemelle died (whether accidentally or because I was aiming for a different outcome), it made me the saddest. Honestly, I would read a whole book about these characters. I want a whole book now.
I recognize that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea because of its heavy themes about life and death, but I absolutely recommend this amazing, emotional gem of a game! This story and these characters are going to stick with me for a very long time.