E3 2013 introduced us to a multitude of exciting games for the next generation consoles. In all of the hubbub and noise of the event it would have been easy to miss the indie title, Below, from Capybara Games, and yet this adventure game is an intriguing and delightful surprise for the Xbox One. Featuring an excellent soundtrack from singer-songwriter Jim Guthrie, unique and unusual gameplay and charming visual graphics, this is a title that looks likely to be an excellent experience on its launch at some point in 2014.
Below is a game that’s been in development for several years, and details have been kept relatively quiet by Microsoft Studios and Capybara Games. With this being a game that’s taking an unusual look at gameplay, and storytelling in particular, it’s good that there will still be some mystery on the title’s release. We do have some information however, and if the previous game from Capybara, Sword and Sworcery, is anything to go on, Below is certainly one to watch.
The adventure game Below is all about exploration. You’ll find yourself, a tiny warrior in a big environment, thrust into a roguelike gameplay environment. Death in the game is permanent and it’s not designed to be an easy ride, with the real-time combat described as “brutal but fair”. It’s almost a step back in time to roguelike games of the past, with randomly generated locales and combat that is truly difficult.
Don’t expect any handholding as you jump into Below for the first time; there’s no tutorial and no text hints to help you along the way. There’s not even dialogue or any real narrative, but you’ll find hints and threads of storyline weaving their way through every tiny element of the game. It’s interesting seeing such a different method for conveying meaning, and it really pushes the exploration goal. The atmosphere of Below will keep you coming back for more, and with survival being the name of the game you may just find a few edge of your seat moments as you struggle to get to grips with the simplistic, and yet highly skill-based combat.
The unusual graphics of Below are nonetheless beautiful, and with the single screens through which you play randomly generated there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more. Despite the random generation, the levels within Below feel genuinely hand-crafted, with everything seemingly placed together perfectly; quite a feat from Capybara. The top down view of your tiny character gives the world an incredible sense of scale, along with a certain sense of vulnerability and loneliness that perfectly matches the fragile nature of the character that you play.
Part of your exploration will involve getting to grips with the different weapons available for attack and defense. There are a range of different weapons available during the game, but you can only carry two at a time so you’ll need to choose if you want to take on the world with sword and shield or with bow or with a two-handed weapon. You may find that different combinations suit different moments within the game, but there’ll be nothing to let you know if that’ll be the case. You’re on your own.
This sense of aloneness is perhaps the greatest strength of Below. Knowing that permadeath is just around every corner makes exploration a necessity, and the more you explore the more discoveries you’ll make to help with your survival and to allow the story to flourish. We’ve played open world games before, but this is a particularly novel experience.
If you’re a fan of unusual titles that are certainly outside of the box in how they communicate then Below could be the game for you. As of yet we’ve only heard of this game coming straight to the Xbox One, so if you haven’t upgraded from your 360 you may need to do so in order to enjoy this title.
Are you looking forward to Below? Is this a game you’ll be picking up for your Xbox One? Have your say in the comments below.
Article by - Rebecca Waterman
Insert Date: 02/14/2014