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Below Pits Your Survival Against the Unknown Darkness

Take this. It's dangerous to go alone!

Preview by Mike Williams, .

People may point to Dark Souls as the inspiration for Capy Games' Below, but I thiunk Below is going farther back, presenting itself in the style of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda. In contrast to Hob, which focuses on the movement and puzzle aspects of the classic Zelda games, Below is all about the exploration aspect. That focus allows two games that start from the same core to go in two very different directions.

Below is an oppressive game about surviving alone. As I said before, Capy has pulled the camera far away from your player character to increase the feeling of loneliness. One thing that has improved since the last time I played is the game's visual fidelity. Below is still quite minimalist, but the lighting has improved and Capy has spent time on subtle details like foliage and other particles. While the game previously looked like a flat painting, the new lighting and detail gives it a more realistic look.

The developer has also made some adjustments to the game to encourage further exploration of the depths. Every level is randomly-generated, but the floors themselves are static in the new map system. Each floor is represented by a square on the map, with spokes pointing outward in the general direction of an exit. You'll know a floor has an exit to the northwest and southeast, but you won't know quite where those exits are on the floor itself.

The map also helps you know where you left your corpse. After my previous shots at the game, I had the defend/dodge/stab of the combat down. I was flying through fights. Unfortunately, my blindside is traps. I walked into a spike trap, resulting in immediate death by impaling. On the map, I saw which floor I left my body on, including all of the items I had on my person. I had to trudge back down there to find it and then I had to hunt for it on the floor itself, which underwent a new configuration since my death. Your lantern still glows on your body, helping it stand out in the oppressive darkness.

That's the lantern I should've been using the entire time. The lantern not only lights your way, but also highlights traps for you. There's a bit of push-and-pull, because the lantern is now powered by crystals you'll get off of defeated enemies. That means if you want the benefits of the lantern, you have to seek out enemies so you have a good supply of gems to power it. You can build torches from materials you find, but they only provide light and heat, they don't highlight traps.

The crafting system was a little confusing when I played the PAX East demo, but once I figured it out, it works. Crafting has you putting together materials you find, like reeds, charcoal, and water, into various items to help your quest, including torches, food, and bandages. Crafting is about a series of choices. you only have so many slots in your inventory. Do you craft some items to consolidate space or return to the hub space to stash your inventory? Be sure to take a notes as well, because the game doesn't keep track of crafting recipes for you.

You'll need these items regardless, because Below has bleeding, hunger, and heat meters you need to keep track of and different crafted items help fill those up. If you're attacked, you'll need a bandage to stop the bleeding, or you can cauterize the wound at a campfire. If you're hungry, you can eat basic food, but a stew will not only stave off hunger, it'll also raise your body's heat. It's all about the choices you make with the limited resources available.

At any active campfire, you have the choice to return to the new hub in dream space. Select the sleep icon and you'll be transported to this home away from home. Here you can store key items like your lantern or basic crafting materials. If you're about to head into harsh, unknown territory, you may want to take replaceable torch instead of your lantern.

That feeling of fear and trepidation is what Below wants to capitalize on. It wants you to look at your health and hunger, to weigh the resources you have against the items you need, and to really think about going down another floor. No one knows what's really below but Capy Games, but I have a feeling gamers will like finding out.

Below is planned for a Summer 2016 release on Xbox One and PC.

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