Sublime Screenshots: Staring Into This Wylde Abyss

Mountains, ice, sun.

For almost two weeks, this screenshot and several others popped up in my RSS reader every morning without me having the slightest clue what it was. I couldn’t remember which game it was from, and I didn’t particularly care. The sun glowing over those hard-edged, untextured mountains made me happy. Every morning I’d open the blog post, admire and reflect on the screenshots a little, then mark it unread to enjoy again tomorrow. After a fortnight of blathering about those mountains in the RPS staffroom, today I was nudged into posting them (only partially to shut me up).

I was anxious about looking into them more because games often work better as ideas, things to turn over and dream about in our heads. I didn’t want to ruin the illusion. Luckily, the game they’re from, Into this Wylde Abyss, sounds splendid. It’s a short first-person game described as being “about struggling to survive on a freezing island and what happens in your final hours.”

I super-dig games sparking imagination with a careful style rather than crushing it against the limits of current technology.

Frozen Endzone artist Richard Whitelock is behind Into this Wylde Abyss, taking cues from both survival games and “walking simulators.” Listing John Milton’s epic poem (epic, not #epic) Paradise Lost as an inspiration, it’s playing with the sublime–that conflicting feeling of awe, pleasure, and terror the natural world can fill us with.

“If there is no struggle or journey involved in encountering a singularly unique moment then how sublime can it be?” Whitelock said in a splendid interview with Video Game Tourism. After making Don’t Freeze in four hours for Ludum Dare game jam last year, he wanted to experiment with capturing the sublime in a video game. (You can play Don’t Freeze in your browser, though obviously it’s a very prototype.)

A prototype of a vision experienced by a bonfire.

Into this Wylde Abyss will drop players into an icy abstract wasteland to die, seeking bonfires for warmth to draw out their life. You’ll have a clunky camera which’ll take photos revealing the world in a new light, so you can lug that around if you fancy. “You may with great difficulty take the camera to a cliff edge and hold an exposure for so long you perish,” Whitelock told the site. You have no idea how much I want to die trying to take a cool photograph.

So it’s a pretty appropriate game to know as sublime visions in my RSS feeds every morning. I will never play most games that are made, given how many there are and how much there is to do in the world, so I was content gazing at Into this Wylde for 30 seconds each day. I had worried that (re)learning what the game was might ruin my dreams by bogging them down with specifics, but they’re only expanded. No release date yet, so we’ll all need to gaze for now.

This Paradise Lost malarkey would also explain the fallen angels littering the landscape.


  1. SickBrick says:

    Zakk Wylde is making the soundtrack.

  2. beatdarwin says:

    Jim tweeted about this a number of weeks ago, and it’s been at the very top of my ‘most anticipated’ list ever since. Er, other than whatever Big Robot is doing next. Let’s call it a tie.

  3. minstrelofmoria says:

    I get the feeling that if I bought this, I would wander around from bonfire to bonfire trying to survive as long as possible, and never actually take any photos. (I’m way too predictable about not killing video game characters, even if they’re my character.)

  4. PopeRatzo says:

    Is the “Wild Abyss” already occupied?

  5. Darth Gangrel says:

    The word “sublime” is mentioned 4 times in the article, plus in the headline and in one of the Promoted Stories about the latest Live Free Play Hard. That almost makes it sound like a buzzword, without meaning, because you’ve used it too many times.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      RPS is just obsessed with lemons and (sub)limes.