BELOW (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 23.04.2020 2

Review for BELOW on PlayStation 4

When it comes to talking about the indie boom of the late noughties, Capybara Games is practically a founding father of the movement. Superbrothers Sword and Sorcery EP is practically a staple of the early days of "anyone can make a game," and the company hasn't stopped since. Below, a top-down dungeon crawler originally released for the Xbox One, is their latest achievement, and it's found its way to the PlayStation 4. For those curious if they have what it takes to dive into the depths and find out what's in store, the answer will highly depend on you.

shore (after an opening that's so long and kind of boring, it seems like the game may be stuck for a moment), you are left to figure out everything on your own. Turns out that long, meandering opening was a forewarning. Below is a big world, and things take time. Unfortunately, the time it takes will drive away all but the most enticed. The first thing one is likely to notice is a nearby campfire. When you run to it and light it, you will have the option to craft. These things aren't explained. This merely shows you the crafting table and expects you to learn it. If you return to this campfire later on, though, it will be gone….

Single use campfires are just one of the ways Below seeks to oppress you. As if the gorgeous, but somewhat vacant visualsm and the booming soundtrack (which is rarely a presence) weren't enough, now the game will only let you use a campfire once. For shame! Then you will climb a large rock face and find your lantern. Of all the tools, the lantern is the most mysterious, and yet the most important. You will use it (while it has light, that is) to have some idea where you're going in the depths below, or to even open special doors. It's an important tool, and probably the easiest to get a firm grasp on.

Screenshot for BELOW on PlayStation 4

You'll also need to figure out how to use your sword, though this is pretty easy once the player stumbles across the button they need to use. The controls are never explained particularly well, so expect to needlessly throw away arrows while you stumble through figuring them out. But this adds to the charm! Right? Additionally, you will be faced with enemies and traps - yet, truth be told, this reviewer died more to traps than anything else...

Spike traps start appearing as early as the second floor, and if you don't know what to look for, they will quickly destroy you. Enemies are a bit more forgiving, but when one stumbles upon large mobs, the erratic nature of the AI can make it hard to pin down exactly what they are going to do, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Later enemies also get larger and meaner, and this makes it difficult to survive. This isn't to the experience's detriment though. It's supposed to be hard, and it nails being hard very, very well.

Screenshot for BELOW on PlayStation 4

The addition of a hunger and thirst meter is, to be honest, a bit much. There's also one indicating you're too cold, but it seems a bit more manageable as it's not a constant threat. Hunger and thirst, however, are a threat from the get go. The hunger meter, in particular, can make quick work of a good run. Once your stomachs tapped, your health starts to deplete. Because you can only stock up on food at campfires, this makes it something of a tight wire act, making sure you stay full and your thirst quenched.

Fortunately, these drain fairly slowly. Unfortunately, because they do, it's easy in early runs to forget they are there, and run into dire situations without realizing it is coming. Again though, with time, comes practice, and with practice, comes knowledge. You can also bask in the knowledge that Explore mode removes the hunger and thirst meter - though enemies and traps can still kill you.

Screenshot for BELOW on PlayStation 4

Unfortunately, despite its absolute adherence to learning it's methods, Below punishes failure rather harshly. Now, it's possible to open up shortcuts after you die, so you can bypass some of the earlier segments. Even still, the environments, outside at least, are massive, and even when running, take a smidge too long to run through. The real problem though is retracing rooms in the depths.

Rooms aren't very big, and often don't need to be explored. As such, players are likely to run through them at a brisk pace, clearing a room in a short period of time. This would be fine, except the game loads, more or less, after every room. This even applies to rooms you've already visited. This, again, would be ok, if the loading times weren't as long as they are. They aren't terribly long, but adding them all up, you're likely going to find running back to your last failure takes a long time, or longer than you'd like. This means that the price of death is running through a lot of the same rooms, seeing nothing new, for what feels like, in the context of it all, too long.

Screenshot for BELOW on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Below is a niche title if there ever was one. Beautiful, haunting, and downright demanding of the player, it's a game of little victories. Explore mode is only moderately easier, but it does make this a bit easier to grasp for those who aren't particularly adept at dungeon crawlers. However, the price of death feels too steep, and it's hard to recommend Below to anyone who isn't a diehard fan of the genre. It's very good, but definitely not a good first dungeon crawler.

Developer

Capybara

Publisher

Capybara

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

these screens make it look like the most pretentious game i ever saw 

Insanoflex said:
these screens make it look like the most pretentious game i ever saw 

Yeah...unfortunately it does have that air about it sometimes.

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