I’m not really one for patience in games. I’m definitely the hack and slash ‘em to bits kind of player rather than a slick stealthy player. My approach to games is pretty unruly is what I’m trying to say, but there has been one game that tamed my rampaging ways and that was Cappybara Games’ Below.
Below is a game that’s best played slowly. You’re tasked with reaching the bottom of an island’s subterranean caverns, trying to survive against monsters, traps, starvation, and dehydration. Each layer is shrouded in darkness meaning that you only have the small ring of light from your torch to watch carefully where you step. Charging through these levels is the quickest way of getting sliced and diced, and when you die, you begin back on the beach right next to the boat you arrived on.
Each time you journey down into the depths you need to prepare food rations, plenty of water, and some potions for when you get scratched up, all of which you need to scavenge and craft which takes time. When exploring you need to step carefully for traps, only spotted when their metal parts reflect your torch light. Enemies will attack anything that makes a sound, so getting a one-up on them means treading as quietly and slowly as you can. Exploring these caverns brings you to an almost crawl-like speed, but your patience is rewarded with progress.
If it were just those features, I still would have dropped the game within the first hour, but it’s the atmosphere that made me stay. IT’S SO GOOD. The haunting synth music – not too intrusive but just enough to set a vibe. The strategic lighting placement – like how the tiniest ray of daylight that squeezes through a crack cuts sharply through the darkest of depths. The fact that your character is the size of a thumb tac on your screen meaning the surrounding space just swallows you. It really is amazing.
Still, the fact that it’s such a slow burn is also the reason why so many get turned off by Below pretty quickly. But if you’re prepared to let yourself sink slowly into Below’s atmosphere – giving in completely to its vibe – then you’ve got a fantastic game on your hands.