ULTRA-INDIE DAILY: A Strange Embrace of That Night, Steeped by Blood River

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!

That Night, Steeped By Blood River by Taylor Swietanski is a surreal exploration game set inside what appears to be a lobby room for therapy. 

Warning: Flashing lights

The game is completely filled with unique shaders texturing the entirety of the visuals in glitch-art and glitch-art adjacent visuals. The textures are extremely stylized and have a unique pattern and color range. Rather than complete abstraction, there is a rhythm and intent behind the design of the environment.

Each room of the lobby transports the player to a world that I feel is representative of the creator’s inner emotional system. Some paths spiral up and down, others are solid fortress’s solitude on a far-reaching horizon. Interacting with items often results in small flares of action like the person’s personality is bubbling to the surface of the geometry. Long foreboding corridors and staircases seem to lead to small isolated corners of the mind meant only for special access like a spiral of mortality or a basement to a dark anti-life plateau opposite of the garden above. That Night, Steeped by Blood River is flowing with flavors of emotion, it’s hard not to be flooded with sensations.

This garden lies near the end of the game. Its appearance is more organized but it’s not without its own holes such as a floor that falls away at the borders. I was unable to climb the catwalks as the second staircase is illusionary or more specifically, non-solid. But I see at the top a gate bright and blue like a summer sky on the other side. I’ve felt this before, sunk into the chair spilling my soul and kneading out the knots. But I still haven’t found the stairs to my own summer. I don’t know if I missed something in the game but if it’s unreachable I feel the creator might be feeling unfulfilled as I do. Still, the gate stays as a light at the end of the tunnel. Surely the effort to reach it will be fruitful, right? I have still have faith.

Signing boards is a recurring mechanic

That Night, Steeped by Blood River ends beneath an altar built on a marsh of red fluid. We sign the plank board one last time and darkness swallows. Perhaps some might see it as a bad ending. I for whatever reason find it pleasant in hindsight. It can be read as being enshrouded by a dark area of emotions but I read it as acceptance in some form. I think both are valid interpretations based on individual experience. I did find myself tense in some areas as I struggle to assemble the pieces into something I can parse.

if you’d like to play, download That Night, Steeped By Blood River from the itch.io page. Also, check out my last ultra-indie looking at cosmic horror.