To describe Noctis would be to make it sound like the bleakest video game. Sitting alone, in an empty, single room starship, illuminated by only a single light and any ray of sunshine through your windows. You go onto your computer, you point to a far-off star system, then to a planet within it. You sit back while your autopilot takes you to said planet. When you get there, you climb into your drop pod, and explore an empty world devoid of any life, possibly also devoid of any sunlight. At most, you’ll find a tiny flock of birds amongst the rocks and hills and craters. You then get back onto your ship, and back to your computer, where you give the planet a name and a short description. There’s no crafting. There are no sidequests or NPCs. There’s no combat. You have one ship that cannot be upgraded and only requires you to keep fuel in its tank. And that’s the entirety of Noctis- moving from lifeless planet to lifeless planet, searching for something, and finding nothing.

And I guess, going off that description, it is bleak. Much like space itself, it’s cold and dark. It was the game that inspired me to use the term “Lonely Frontier” in the first place. Alone in the universe, exploring dead planets, with no goal in mind

I guess in order to really describe the appeal of a game like this would be to maybe talk about where I was in life when I first played it.

A little over ten years ago, I worked a shitty full-time job at a Large American Retail Store. My role as someone in middle management involved being at the store at five in the morning, working until mid-afternoon, then coming home to do it all again the next day. I was still in my early twenties, and I still had my high school social circle. I couldn’t spend time with them anymore. I couldn’t go to parties, I couldn’t go to their shows (some of them were musicians), I couldn’t do much of anything. I have to be at work at 5 a.m, I can’t be out at some bar until Last Call. So my life boiled down to going to work, then coming home and looking at the internet or playing video games until I crashed. Rinse and repeat for years.

I was going crazy. A routine like that isn’t healthy for anyone. This was when I started getting more and more into indie games and looking to express myself creatively. And during one of my depression-fueled nights of searching the internet for something, anything, I found Noctis. And Noctis became this sort of zen-like, therapeutic thing. I would come home, download some ambient music off a Livejournal community that shared obscure Japanese stuff you couldn’t easily find, and listen to those songs while exploring this empty universe. The in the morning, I would get in my car, and drive in the dark, with nobody else on the road, listening to those same songs. It wasn’t much, but it was at least something to alleviate the pain of the world at that time.

I would lose myself in this game for hours. This game that you would otherwise take maybe one hour at most to play before closing it for the day. I needed to explore. I was already alone physically, but I needed to be alone virtually, as well. If I was going to be forced to this solitary existence, it may as well have been on my own terms. At least here I was able to indulge in space exploration, something I’ve been in love with since I was a kid. Unfortunately, I’m more street smart than book smart, and could never make it as a real astronaut. With Noctis, I don’t have to know how to like, count, or anything complicated like that. Just me, my ship, the void, and the most calming music I could find.

Ten years have gone by. I don’t have that job anymore. But I still find myself exploring those empty worlds, because I’m still trying to find something. I want to escape. I’m stuck in another routine that I wish to break free of. Floating in an empty void, and landing on the Lonely Frontier.