Connect with us
Advertisement

Features

Traversing the Anxious, Dreamlike Architecture of Within

My dreams often consist of unpopulated, vaguely familiar spaces half-remembered and fading quickly from memory.

Published

on

Within

My dreams often consist of unpopulated, vaguely familiar spaces half-remembered and fading quickly from memory. 

More often than not, they dwell in indoor spaces and void-like hallways with endless nooks and crannies left wanting of detail and movement.

Curiosity motivates exploration; I plunge deeper into the expanses of the subconscious. The harsh pale glare of unsourced light uncovers the winding architectural terrors that breed the unshakable feeling of disorientation and paranoia, yet I progress further into these labyrinthine avenues.

Advertisement

RageKit’s avant-garde title Within closely resembles the kind of oneiric flights of nightmarish fantasy that lulls me closer towards deeper, enigmatic unknowns. Not straightforwardly a horror title but definitely not boasting the pleasant autumnal outings of a game like Proteus, Within is a first person walker described on RageKit’s website (where it can also be downloaded) as “an experimental video game questioning the notion of space in a virtual world… centered around the feeling of anxiety.” Like a wandering somnambulist, the player traverses endless hallways without direction, encountering figures without purpose. Within’s sparse, amorphous setting suggests an existential nightmare of philosophical peril, toying with the player’s sense of purpose in an otherwise indifferent locale.

Within’s barren environment silently shifts and reforms, revealing fresh apertures or subtle dips in topography with which to lose oneself in again. The introduction of the game locates the player in a small chamber without exit, awaiting change and a chance to escape. No objective marker directs the player. Rather, as in a dream, one simply scours the area for answers in nonsensical spaces that do not physically make sense. Circling back to familiar rooms is to be expected, and substantial progression feels non-existent. Even the art style offers no encouragement, claiming only oppressive, staunchly undecorated colorless blocks that tower above or crisscross in horizontal beams.

Advertisement

Within somehow extracts true anguish and apprehension despite the lack of considerable stimuli, forcing the player to experience the isolating trepidation and unsettling ambiance inherent within the game. The lack of stimuli and activity steadily produces a mounting potential energy that renders even the smallest movement or sudden presence of an uninvited other absolutely terrifying. I imagine the false comfort generated in a single player game like Minecraft is analogous to the experience here. There are no others to interact with, which only renders the feeling of being watched or followed all the more tangible. Similar in artistic composition yet divergent in its structure, Antichamber exists as the easiest point of comparison. Both games feature confined, austere atmospheres full of hidden paradox, but Within ultimately feels more directionless, more alarming, and less playful. Instead, Within echoes the haunting simplicity of Feign or the maddening anomaly of NaissancE, games that reveal branching paths but withdraw the comforts of forthright truths.

Within

Maybe the minimalist soundscape proposes the solution to greater comprehension, keying players into Within’s unsettling climate and impenetrable menace. RageKit orchestrates the game with an unholy, uniform drone portending latent anxieties on the cusp of resurfacing, only to interject blotches of spectral, digitalized corruptions of sound atop this monochromatic ambiance. This horrific cacophony prefigures the company of a dangerous geometrical mass that serves as the sole Minotaur that stalks the player throughout the game. A successful playthrough can be achieved without encountering it whatsoever, but its terrifying manifestation through that digitalized wall of noise proves nightmarishly unable to shake off.

Advertisement

The disconcerting magnetism of Within lies in its deft ability to isolate players, and this lonesome exile coupled with the game’s listless pacing renders the player small, powerless, and despairingly lost. Witness the player hugging the walls of a narrow precipice or maneuvering through the game’s tight, twisting hallways: these passages anticipate the end game, where things unravel and the dream slowly disintegrates.

When I dream of uninhabited worlds, answers never fully arrive nor does the promise of leaving ever truly present itself. Oftentimes, I wake before seeing through the final motions of a dream, vanishing from the pallid vestibules of a hazy subconscious. Within approximates the indistinctness of these dazed states and the frustrations of achieving a semblance of order. Rather than unfold as plainly and openly as day, Within reaches for the ephemeral and surreal.

Special delivery for you

If you want to keep on top of the latest news, features, reviews, guides, and sales, we can send all our latest articles and great content straight to your inbox. You know, collated together, once or twice a week, in a newsletter. We wouldn't send them one at a time – that would be weird and annoying!

Recommended for you

Miguel Penabella is a freelancer and comparative literature academic who worships at the temple of cinema but occasionally bears libations to videogames.

Advertisement

Latest from Thumbsticks

Battlefield 2042 key art Battlefield 2042 key art
News4 hours ago

Battlefield 2042 release date bumped to November

Electronic Arts has confirmed that the upcoming military shooter Battlefield 2042 will be released one month later than planned. EA says...

Age of Empires IV key art Age of Empires IV key art
News16 hours ago

The developers want you to break Age of Empires IV this weekend

After a number of balloted tests, the floodgates will open for a limited-time, unrestricted stress test for Age of Empires...

Playstation Store Double Discounts Sale Playstation Store Double Discounts Sale
News23 hours ago

The PlayStation Store Double Discounts sale returns

PS Plus members get double discounts on PS4 and PS5 games in the latest PlayStation Store video game sale.

Nintendo Switch Bluetooth Nintendo Switch Bluetooth
News1 day ago

Latest Nintendo Switch update adds support for Bluetooth headphones

It's taken a long time, but you can now use your Bluetooth headphones with your Nintendo Switch.

SkateBIRD keyart - Xbox Game Pass SkateBIRD keyart - Xbox Game Pass
News1 day ago

More super games join Xbox Game Pass from today

SkateBird, Sable, and Subnautica: Below Zero are among the games coming to Xbox Game Pass before the end of September 2021.

Xbox - Halo: The Master Chief Collection Xbox - Halo: The Master Chief Collection
News2 days ago

Save on next-gen optimised games in this week’s new Xbox sales

This week's digital sales include discounts on Xbox Game Studios titles and Xbox Series X|S optimised releases.

Nintendo Switch price reduction Nintendo Switch price reduction
News2 days ago

Original Nintendo Switch price reduced to make room for OLED model

The original Nintendo Switch price will be reduced, but the Nintendo Switch Lite will stay at its original lower price.

WarioWare: Get It Together! WarioWare: Get It Together!
News2 days ago

WarioWare stars in next Tetris 99 Maximus Cup

Nintendo has confirmed that the latest Maximus Cup and Grand Prix event for Tetris 99 will be based on WarioWare:...

Advertisement