PAX East First Impressions – Below

Below(1)Capy Games stormed the PAX East 2014 show floor by unveiling their action game Below. The game was teased last year during Microsoft’s E3 press conference and at PAX we finally got the chance to play. Below drops the player into a world that is both unforgiving and fair at the same time.

In Below, you play as an adventurer at the start of their journey through what seems to be a cave with no end. The adventurer is small compared to the rest of the environment, which gives a sense of vulnerability that makes every step in the world feel dangerous. One of the most striking elements in Below is the wide-ranging art style, similar to the design behind Kentucky Route Zero where the mix of both 2D and 3D graphics create a great artistic tone of mystery.

People are quick to slap the title “rouge-like” across Below but that does not give enough justice to Capy Games’ unique approach. Below relies on the player to explore and discover the world as opposed to mastering the controls. By discovering different rooms, the player can gain new weapons – such as the hammer or the spear – to navigate the darkness more efficiently. These weapons, along with the original sword and shield the adventurer begins with, make up one of the most enjoyable combat systems in the genre.

Even if the combat is fun, that does not mean the adventurer will survive for long if you don’t pay attention to the environment. Below leaves the player alone to learn about the world littered with floor spikes, spinning blades, and dart towers that will assuredly kill you upon a first encounter, at which point the adventurer will wake back up at camp and go back into the cave system. While the cave system may be procedurally generated, your body will remain at the previous location where you died in order to recover lost items.

BelowInsideJim Guthrie, who previously collaborated with Capy Games on Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, returns to work on the music for Below. Even in this short demo, his music adds an extra layer of immersion that makes you feel small and alone in the environment.

There is still not a lot known about Below – for instance, details about the crafting system, story and the multiplayer mode teased in the E3 reveal trailer. In the demo, there are giant shipwrecks and entire villages that are empty, which only serve as teases for what the full game has in store for our little adventurer. One thing is for certain, Below is a game everyone should be excited to play.