If you’ve nothing going on this weekend, I recommend you take a look at Below, released today for Windows PC and Xbox One.
I should add some caveats to that statement. I’m reviewing the game for Polygon, but I only got code last night, and so far, I’ve managed to play about five hours. That’s not enough to give an unequivocal thumbs up. But I just wanted to pop in here and have a word, just in case you’re thinking of buying it during an atypically busy (for new video games, that is) December.
Below is a (mostly) top-down view Legend of Zelda-ish role-playing game. I play as a tiny little figure, roaming single-screen caverns which are surprisingly large. I seek out stuff to eat, drink and craft into useful items. I solve puzzles. I fight monsters, using sword, spear and bow.
Capybara’s game has a nice aesthetic and a lovely soundtrack, as you’d expect from the team behind Super TIME Force and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. It’s been in development for a long time, but that time has clearly not been wasted. Movement, combat and controls all feel lovely. Below does me the service of giving away hardly any clues as to how to plays. It’s up to me to figure it all out. So far, I’ve enjoyed doing so, by trial and error mostly.
I’ve died plenty, which is generally the point in so-called roguelikes, in which the player starts from scratch each time they perish. But I’ve found shortcuts that alleviate the pain. Even so, I try very hard not to die. Each time I start afresh, I’m a new little person, a narrative device I’ve found easily believable.
So look. It’s a busy time of the year. Parties, end-of-year deadlines, finals, shopping, all that malarkey. You probably don’t have time to spend the entire weekend exploring dungeons. I definitely don’t. But I just know I’m going to be playing a lot of Below over the next 72 hours, and not just because it’s my job. I want to, because (so far) it’s a lot of fun. Whether the game can sustain itself through endless dungeons, without secondary characters or much of a story (again, so far) remains to be seen.
Anyway, I’ve said my piece. If you want to read more about Below, here’s a preview I wrote after playing some early levels two years ago. It still seems relevant now. I’ll be back in a few days with a more detailed review. Wish me luck down there.