ULTRA-INDIE Daily Dose: Essence//Structure Will Never Sing of Death

Hello, you glorious gluttons for all things indie horror! Are you just starving for the newest of the new, the most unknownest of the unknown? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the Ultra-Indie Daily Dose! In this series, we’re going to pick a new game every day from an indie horror creator you’ve probably never heard of. No million-dollar budgets or factory productions. This is the space for the little guy with not but a developer toolkit and a dream. So if you’re down to roll the dice on something different, then stick around and check it out!

Essence//Structure is a 3D platformer by French developer Xena_SN. This game was developed for the HauntedPS1 Summer of Shivers GameJam 2021. This game is a dreamlike experience with a cryptic impending structure. The structure is made of exposed stone, concrete in appearance, and does not adhere to physical limits. As it ascends the segments shift in style. it starts with apartment-sized blocks to round forms and then clusters of pillars and archways. The player controls a bright green orb that slides along the ground with the ability to sprint, jump, and later glide. This movement makes up the gameplay with the places the player can reach expanding as the player collects “Essence” which increases their glide duration. The movement which is optimized for the gamepad is fluid and snappy but still allows one to feel the momentum of jumps. The player orb sticks to surfaces and rarely slips off making precise platforming satisfying.

Essence//Structure works in a solitary atmosphere with the player collecting the memories of the structure forming the timeline to the structure’s creation and the implication of its creators’ departure. The tower is a combination of different styles as the memories recount it expanded over lengths of time until the existence of the tower itself succeeded the architects. The graphical appearance uses the retro PSX style with straight low poly shapes and low-resolution textures. The render distance is also heavily shortened with the only source of illumination being the player. Far parts of the Structure are shadowed silhouetted against the strange sky. The sky is a strange mesh that passes over and through the structure in faint pulses. Checkpoints and Essence orbs are the only reliable color contrast to read the Structure’s geometry with.

The sound design for Essence//Structure is reserved yet everpresent. Xena_SN also composes their own music which blossoms in this game. The ambiance of synths and soft melodic drones are sometimes barely noticeable yet they permeate the experience. As the green orb soars between platforms the soundtrack lifts the experience like a warm updraft but doesn’t betray the apathetic purpose of the Structure. While extremely faint the gliding of the orb gives off a low hum that becomes ever more calming in its soft presence. The spiked orbs in the round towers didn’t do anything I noticed until I used one at the top of the structure which ends the game. It does change the ending but I’m not entirely confident in how they are meant to connect thematically. They do however adhere to the thematic feel of the game which culminates into a story of memory and the will to exist for existence itself. The name Essence//Structure might even allude to the programming term with Essence being the function or body while double slashed //Structure marks it as a comment which is only for contextualizing the prior code to the viewer. Essence is the true purpose of this project Structure is the form given to us so that we may understand it. At least that’s one possible interpretation.

If you would like to try Essence//Structure check it out at Itch.io.

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