Very pretty/entirely menacing rand-o-dungeon-o game Below has been tantalising us from a distance for half a decade. “It’ll never happen!”, bellowed Derek Misery from a Twitter account with 12 followers, sometime in 2016.
Well, suck it up, Derek – all of a sudden, the closest thing there is to a follow-up to peerless adventure/musical odyssey/exploratory crisis Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is out in seven short days.
S&SEP feels, by now, like a game from another lifetime. Seven years old, released into a world (gaming and otherwise) so very different from today’s. It elevated the mobile gaming of the time to a higher state of consciousness, and the PC version retained much of its mesmerising, shattering magic despite a profound change in format. For that reason, I can understand why Below, from S&S co-dev Capybara Games, has taken so long. Tall shadows, and all that.
Here, remind yourself why so many things start tingling at any mention of Below and its tilt-shifty look with this new trailer, which also confirms the Dec 14 release date:
Capy, as they are also known, have made a couple of games since Sworcery, including Super Time Force, but Below is the first time they’ve returned to the dark, foreboding style and themes of their 2011 collaboration with Superbrothers. (The latter has yet to release their own, still untitled follow-up, about which all we know is “a follow-up of sorts to Sworcery only with no sword, no sworcery and no hard-edged pixels”).
However, where Sworcery was mostly-linear (if packed with optional surprises), Below’s subterranean labyrinths are procedurally generated. The focus is less on puzzles/musical cues (although excellent S&S composer Jim Guthrie has returned for this project too) and more on combat and survival, plus it’s one of them there permadeath jobbies to boot.
The prospect of an endless game, in the roguelike paradigm, with this kind of aesthetic is delectable indeed. But can they pull it off? Can Below still make itself known in a world full of endless monster-stabbing funtimes?
We’ll find out December 14. Here’s a Steam page for ganderin’ and wishlistin’, if you so please.