At PAX East 2014, I had the opportunity to take a deep dive into Capybara Games' Below. Think Dark Souls meets The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker. Below is an epic dungeon-delve based around exploration, discovery, secrets, and death.
The game is visually striking, as the player character is a mere dot on the screen. The presentation focuses on the huge, overwhelming environment rather than the player itself, and this does a great job of conveying that you’re alone in a strange world that’s indifferent to your presence at best, hostile and unwelcoming at worst.
The core gameplay is rooted around basic combat with a sword and shield and exploration of a vast procedurally-generated dungeon. Players can block and stab in a variety of ways depending on what the situation calls for, use a resource-limited lantern to cast light in dark and dangerous areas, and pick up a vast array of consumables and crafting materials as they journey below. Players can also find and equip special two-handed weapons such as a spear or bow that they can use in addition to the sword and shield, these are generally slower and more powerful options that have “charge-up” mechanics to dish out heavy damage at range.
Players have only a single “hit-point” or “heart” to go through before death, and even the most mild grazing from a trap or enemy will begin a bleeding process that will kill a player if they do not take action to stop the blood loss. Death is permanent, but players have the opportunity to recover lost items from their corpses if they are able to make it back to the body.
While much of the dungeon and its elements are procedurally generated, there are special areas that will always generate under certain rules. For instance, if a player knows the secret method to “find” the North Beach, they should be able to replicate that on any playthrough. The game is essentially built on secrets and learning, as players discover new ways to deal with the punishing environment and unlock the mysteries of the depths. Everything from sound effects to the way markings appear on the ground play into the game’s massive trove of secrets. You’ll die, and you’ll die a lot - but the dungeon will remain the same ready for you to use that knowledge on your next foray into the deep. Below rewards careful, precise, prepared play - and punishes reckless or careless adventurers.
The game looks, feels, and sounds like a real treat for an extended play session in a dark room, and there is sure to be plenty of chatter as players discover and share the game’s myriad of mysteries.While there’s still no official release date, this a title to keep a close eye on.