Below – Rogue Like Survival

Games Reviews

Below is rogue-like, survival, dungeon crawler by Capybara Games, the creative team behind Super Time Force.  You play as a lone adventurer delving deep into the depths of The Isle’s procedurally generated maze of caverns.

Atmosphere

This game is dark, dreary, and absolutely beautiful at the same time.  From the opening credits, you are presented with a cold, windy, and wet island with no indication of where to go.  There is no tutorial of how things work.  After searching the island, you will figure out where to start, and only then will your journey truly begin.  Once you start descending into the depths, the game masterfully uses its sound, environmental design, and sense of scale to make feel like you are actually underground and in constant peril.

The Light Is Key

Your journey cannot begin until you have found the Lantern.  It is used to light your way, uncover secrets throughout the world, and even ward off some of the enemies in the shadows below.  Enemies killed will drop shards of light that can be used to power your Lantern.  It can however also be a curse.  Once you die, the lantern remains on your corpse waiting for the next adventurer to find it.  If you die in a difficult spot, it can be quite the chore to get it back and continue the quest.  The shards of light can also be used to turn campsites into single-use re-spawn points.  This allows you to “warp” to the campsite from the beach on your next life.  While this can be a huge time saver, you also miss out on the opportunity to collect supplies that may be necessary to retrieve your gear from your corpse.

Campfires are also useful for storing items for future runs.  When seated at the camp, you have the option to sleep and enter a sort of dream state which gives you the ability to store materials, weapons, food, and supplies.

Survival and Crafting

As you work your way into the depths, you will need to manage your food and water intake, and eventually your body heat to avoid freezing to death.  You can scrounge for spuds, turnips, and mushrooms of various kinds. Hunt fish, bats, and snakes for meat.  Collect materials like strings, sticks, moss, and embers. These scrounged materials can then be combined in various ways to create items to help you in your quest.  Craft torches, various types of arrows and bandages.  Combine water with foods to create soups and stews for managing your vital signs.  Use mushrooms along with water and foods to create elixirs that affect gameplay mechanics like damage, hunger, and night vision.

Combat and Death

You are not travelling without defenses, you are equipped with a sword and shield for melee combat as well as a bow for ranged attacks.  The labyrinth of caverns is sparsely populated with red and black crystalline enemies of varying sizes.  The smaller enemies will rush at you and attack, sometimes in packs, but they do not take much to kill.  As you descend, larger enemies with more health and increased offense/defense capabilities start appearing.  Creatures are not the only danger to worry about, watch out for traps strewn throughout the caverns.  Trip wires can make you tumble during combat and there are nasty spike traps which will mean instant death if you find yourself impaled.  Once discovered though these spike traps can be used to your advantage if you can manage to draw your enemies into their deadly embrace.

Thoughts

Below is a beautiful game, full of wonderful environments, puzzles to solve, and secrets to unlock.  I found it’s no tutorial approach and minimalist UI to be a challenge, but once you start to understand the mechanics behind crafting and survival, things do become a little easier.  I’m not going to lie, I have found this game to be difficult and at times incredibly frustrating.  Retrieving the lantern from a corpse can be trying and quite time consuming especially if you died in a difficult area.  That being said, I believe that fans of the genre will enjoy the challenge and I recommend giving it a try.

Below is available on PC via Steam and Xbox (included in Game Pass)

Mike (AKA SnekPlayz) has been playing games since the days of the Commodore Vic 20 and enjoys playing most genres from Action Adventure to FPS to Racing. He is a part-time streamer on Twitch at https://twitch.tv/SnekPlayz

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