Years in the making by the makers of Superbrothers and Super Time Force Ultra, Below was finally released on December 14th. With no reviews from official outlets, however, I've been wondering where the general consensus of the game is heading.
Here's what I've been thinking so far:
Jesus, this game has quite a taxing systems requirement on PC, and it's understandable to a degree? I use Ryzen 7 2700X and Vega 64 and yet this game occasionally struggles with 4K max setting. Yet, the game's rich with lots of objects and crazy amount of post-processing, and its overall visual is very distinct from most other top-down adventure games out there.
The sound design of the game is just amazing. While very few things pop out, the game's always pushing sound layers upon layers to convey information. The sound effects also go hand in hand with Jim Guthrie's soundtrack, which BTW deserves some recognition on its own.
Capy makes two daring gameplay choices: It's textless and employs rogue-lite death system. Both provide inconveniences, and their novelty factors have run its course. Capy had to make sure these two choices make perfect sense for the game to work… and I think they succeeded.
- It's a rogue-lite in that the maps are randomly generated and deaths are permadeath. Once you die, the next character will arrive at the island with the option to warp from the initial fireplace to the most recently saved one (You can only save by spending some of the resources you have). This has a chance to annoy some of the players, but for me it added just enough immersion and weight to the gameplay.
- The lack of texts throughout the journey doesn't feel arbitrary, as it only makes sense that a cryptic, lonely journey into the deep requires no words. It could have caused some confusion if the lore was complex as was the case with Hyper Light Drifter, but simply put, whatever lore exists in the game does not require any text to be understood. Everything just works through the visual and the sound.
All the crafting mechanics and menu management may be a worrying factor if you were following the game and, like I am, dislike getting bogged down by that. Fortunately it's not, because system-wise the game's not that complex. This can be a put-off factor for those who like deeper systems, but anyways the game's systems are kept to a bare minimum. The combat's simple, crafting UI just guides you through what you can assemble, and you cook stuffs just enough to keep your character from starving. You dabble with it just enough to get you further down the line and see what lies below.
In a way, many of the gameplay inconveniences argument that stemmed out of RDR2 will apply to Below, but I have a feeling that Below's approach will be more universally praised. I haven't reached the bottom yet, but I'd like to hear what others think about this game.
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