Sometimes a game’s story isn’t explicitly spelled out for you. You have to piece together ambiguous bits and scraps until you can interpret your own meaning. Being obscure can add mystery and enrichment to an otherwise mediocre experience. Sadly, it can easily shift in the opposite direction and make your story feel like an unintelligible mess. Deep Within shoots for profound, but doesn’t manage to hit its mark.

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking $24,481 to complete this self dubbed, Story, Puzzle, Adventure, Exploration, or “Stopuzurtion”. The game’s developer, Jimmy Vegas said Deep Within is around 40% through it’s development cycle as of August 2016. They’re hoping to secure funding and release Deep Within for Steam and GOG sometime in Q4 2017.

Nearly 10 years after this reference was relevant.
Nearly 10 years after this reference was relevant.

The premise of the game has the player taking on the role of an unnamed protagonist, who after losing someone close to them, falls into a deep state of mental oblivion. Upon awaking he finds himself trapped in a cell. The gameplay follows his attempts to escape the cell and surrounding areas. The protagonist’s world is randomly generated around him as he explores and solves environmental puzzels to progress.

Plodding Gameplay

The procedural generation adds a nice touch. In theory each playthrough could be different depending on the player’s choices, but the in-game environments quickly blend together into an unimpressive mess. The gameplay videos on the Kickstarter page do nothing to counter this opinion as they demonstrate a meandering first-person perspective, slowly wandering the darkened hallways occasionally picking up murky looking relics and orbs.

deepwithin2

I could forgive the graphics and textures, but the voice acting and sound design make Deep Within’s every misstep glaringly obvious. The sound effects feel tacked on and the voice acting is extremely uncomfortable. In addition to the protagonist himself, we are also treated to two additional voices in his head who accompany him on the journey. Every word they utter is jarring and sharply contrasts any sort of tension the environment had managed to build.

I feel like the developers put some assets into a procedurally generated world and just sort of ran with it. The storyline seems to skirt around ideas of mental health, without fully committing to anything. This is a shame because a stronger (text-based) narrative could have held Deep Within together.

Joanna Mueller
Joanna Mueller is a lifelong gamer who used to insist on having the Super Mario Bros manual read to her as a bedtime story. Now she's reading Minecraft books to her own kiddo while finally making use of her degree to write about games.
Joanna Mueller

@ZodiacEclipse

Writer, wannabe author, creator of things, and more than a bit nerdy. Let's be socially awkward together! Games Writer at; Cliqist, New Normative
@ConradZimmerman That was actually a group gift. I just forgot to sign the card. - 4 hours ago
Joanna Mueller
joanna.mueller@newnormative.com

https://joannamueller.contently.com/
  • It’s a shame, the game is technically very good and a great concept. Variable game play was in early, the idea of the game could have made it extremely unique. However, there were two main issues that I felt were not addressed by Jimmy during the development of the game.

    Firstly, despite a quite reasonable following on YouTube for his well-made tutorial videos, he never sought to get that community engaged with Deep Within. Indeed the two were kept very much separated. Instead of allowing early previews, fan videos, blogging about the development, canvasing ideas for the game from the community, etc. he actively requested this was not done. I think this was a mistake as it’s key to bring the community along with you. When he went to launch the crowdfunding, there was no crowd who were keen to see the project finished off.

    Secondly, as far as I know he was doing concept, design and build on his own. This can work, but it’s more likely not to do so. If just for the flow of ideas, the refinement and improvement that comes by thrashing ideas out with others it’s invaluable. A great example of this was, as you point out, the voice acting. Right from the first uttered sentences they were jarring, misplaced, forced. All his eggs were in one basket as they say, getting so invested in a game design in one way, in assets in one way, etc. gave no room for moving in a different direction.