Below Review

Posted December 31, 2018 by Kyle Simcox in Nerdy Bits

Capybara Games

Publisher: Capybara Games

Release Date:
December 14th, 2018

PC, Xbox One

In Below after a lengthy(and quite frankly boring) opening cut scene, you assume the role of a lone adventurer who makes landfall on a strange island. As you climb to the top, you find a lone lantern. With said mysterious lantern in hand, you begin your descent into the hellish bowels of the island where your tiny, brave adventurer will probably meet their ultimate demise.

Below is a deceptively simple rogue-like Action Adventure game that doesn’t make any attempt to help you out. From the moment you step onto the beach of that island, it’s up to the player to figure out where to go and what to do. As you descend into the island’s confusing system of caves, you come across plenty of things that are trying to kill you like evil, red-eyed smoke monster and traps that get progressively more deadly the deeper you go. Aside from all of those dangers, your adventurer can succumb to starvation, dehydration, hypothermia and even bleed to death. Thankfully, you quickly unlock a “pocket dimension” that can be upgraded and used for storage and your traveler can even craft supplies or cook at campfires to make the long, arduous journey a smidgen easier.

When you hear the term Rogue-like, you almost expect to die and die many times at that. However, in Below’s case though, it’s the rogue-like elements that make Below so challenging and if I’m being completely honest, feel so uninviting. It was fun in “Dead Cells” to see just how far you were going to make it outside of the prison where you started. In Below however, the novelty wears off after the first few deaths. Upon death, your mini-traveler remains in the level of the island he/she died in and a newcomer runs aground to pick up where you left off and hopefully make it further. It’s up to you to retrace your steps, recover your gear and keep moving forward but retracing your steps can prove to be quite a hassle provided you slip up. Your current traveler can only use a camp fire once and if you didn’t manage to hoard enough orbs to make one into a fast traveling checkpoint, then getting back to where you last were can prove to be very frustrating since it leaves you without your lamp.

The team at Capybara has managed to create an absolutely marvelous atmosphere. Everything about Below is gorgeous down to the pint sized travelers and if you play Below wearing headphones, your experience is only enhanced by the wonderful sound design. However, with the how far out the camera is positioned and just how dark the game is, it’s almost impossible to make out all of those amazing graphical details. While I get that I am inside of a system of caves deep below the Earth’s crust and the dark is to be expected, it just makes all the work the team put into creating Below’s biome’s feel absolutely pointless, especially if you plan on playing on a smaller TV. Just don’t do it unless you’re prepared to spend hours squinting.

After 5 years of waiting and hearing barely any word during that time, Below just is simply a disappointing final product. The opening is slow and uneventful and the game as a whole just isn’t that exciting. From a game play standpoint, there’s a certain feeling of pride when you figure out the mechanics but it’s unwillingness to help you in anyway combined with the other Rogue-like elements only bog down the experience and make it more frustrating than it should be. It might be better if you could enjoy it’s beautifully crafted world while you play but unfortunately even that bit is too busy fumbling around in the dark

About the Author

Kyle Simcox