Below doesn’t need words to tell its story. Like the dangers that wait in the depths of the dungeons you’re exploring, the story is hidden in dark caverns and narrow tunnels. Death and rebirth, and death again – this is what makes Below one of the most intriguing games at E3 2015.
Developed by Capybara Games, the team behind the incredible little game Swords & Sworcery, Below puts you on an island in the middle of a storm. The only place to take shelter is a cave, and within you find stairs leading down to a dungeon.
Not only does Below not tell you its story, it doesn’t tell you anything. Items you pick up have no description, so you need to use them to find out their effects. On top of that, the dungeons are randomized, drawing from roguelike RPGs. There’s no rote memorization at work here, just careful planning, and ever-increasing knowledge of the dangers around you.
Below draws comparisons to Dark Souls in the sense that it is unforgiving, and you will die over and over. With every death you restart, as a new person, at the campfire where you started your descent. You can find the corpse of your previous life, and even loot it for whatever you left behind. Then it’s on to deeper depths, knowing that this character is doomed as well. Because death is a certainty in Below. A couple hits from en enemy can kill you, and things like arrow traps will cause you to bleed out. (Or maybe… can you find a fire to cauterize your wound? Will one of these items you picked up help?)
A beautiful score from Jim Guthrie, at times haunting, at times empowering, accents the entire process. The music changes as you explore, and is one of the cues to warn you about danger or lead you on the right path.
Below is a game that stuck with us long after our demo. We have no idea where that dungeon goes, or how many deaths we’ll endure exploring it, but we have to find out. Thanks to our friends at ID@Xbox, we’ll be able to when Below releases on Xbox One.