After 3+ years of development, Indie dev group L³ has released Without A Voice with the help of publisher Bellhouse (the publishing wing of Studio Élan). And honestly, the love and care that went into this dark fantasy yuri visual novel is clearly evident and the wait was totally worth it.
To keep things short and without spoilers, Cassidy is an exiled princess who had been content enough to spend her days alone deep within a forest. One day, however, she encounters Elowen, a beautiful and mysterious woman. Cassidy’s choices, which will of course be made by the reader, will determine how their fated encounter will play out during the following week…
I think I’m okay to reiterate that Without A Voice is a dark fantasy yuri visual novel given that this is mentioned in the summary pages on both itch.io and Steam. Originally inspired by a popular fairy tale, the visual novel includes 5 bad endings and 2 good endings. Even though there’s only 15 possible choices at most, it’s actually pretty hard to experience all of the endings without a reference or a guide. As such, I highly recommend showing your support by purchasing the art book, which includes a spoiler free guide for each ending. Furthermore, it contains some lovely concept art as well as insightful commentary from the team, which includes a great explanation of the potential variables which directly influence the 7 possible routes. You can purchase the art book on both itch.io and Steam.
It’s such a pleasure that Without A Voice revolves around Cassidy and Elowen since they’re both so charming. Cassidy’s a lovely yet naive princess, which makes her an excellent heroine since the choices the reader makes, according to L³, influences “the way she thinks about the world and the people in her life…your feelings of trust and your knowledge really affect the decisions you make [in real life].” Hard to argue with that. She really is a nice girl and it’s quite easy to see how Elowen fell for her.
Meanwhile, Elowen is graceful and quick to anger and oh-so-mysterious. It’s not difficult to see why Cassidy is drawn to Elowen when they meet, either. The art book also brings up a very interesting point about their parallel development – whereas Cassidy grows up (for better or for worse) during the story, Elowen breaks down due to Reasons That Will Not Be Named. I really like both Cassidy and Elowen so it was really difficult for me to experience the bad endings, haha. They just felt too real to me…
Lorelei, who was behind the writing and programming, honestly did an amazing job with both. The writing in particular was nuanced yet substantial in how some aspects were left for interpretation (i.e. who had pushed the plot into motion by offering a particular deal, the specifics of Alexander’s twisted motivations, etc) while giving readers a considerable amount of foreshadowing through the inclusion of key details as well as ample closure in the endings. I was a big fan of the couplets and poems sprinkled through the story, too.
The art was done by Laniessa and I have to admit I really love the CG, the character sprites, the key visuals, the backgrounds, everything! The colours are so vibrant and you already know how I feel about Cassidy and Elowen. Laniessa claims in the art book that she didn’t know how to draw characters actually interacting with each other when they first started on Without A Voice but I wouldn’t have known that at all if she hadn’t told us. Lastly, the fading duo text boxes was also very unique and its beauty was worth the pain it had caused during coding if I, as an outsider who didn’t have to go through the actual struggle, do say so myself.
Laiska was on testing/editing duty and frankly she did a great job. I’m pretty sure that’s a job that’s often not credited enough but I just wanted to show my appreciation for your hard work.
The music was composed by ExPsyle and it suits Without A Voice well. I’ve been listening to the OST while composing this post and it’s just so evocative and striking…
All in all, Without A Voice is a great indie dark fantasy yuri visual novel that sets the bar high for Bellhouse. Don’t worry, there’s still quite a bit of fluff to be found despite the visual novel’s overarching genre. Without A Voice is even free-to-play (but again, I highly recommend showing your support for L³ and purchasing the art book). So go ahead pick this short visual novel when you have a few hours to burn and end up thinking about Cassidy and Elowen long after you’ve completed Without A Voice like I did. It’s worthwhile.