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.
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.
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.
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.