The second episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2018.

Capybara Games has been working on Below for a long time. Highly anticipated because Below, wrongly or rightly, resembles what we might imagine as a spiritual follow-up to the much-loved Sword & Sworcery to be. At the start of Saturday, I made a beeline for the one machine running Below at Rezzed and discovered someone had already nabbed it. So I simply stayed there, hovering over this someone’s shoulder, and waited.

Perhaps it was this watching that was more instructive than playing.

The first player of the day got nowhere. That’s not exactly true, but sorta is. He clambered up a crag, found a few caves, none of which allowed him proceed to anywhere interesting. Going below anywhere was out of question. He followed paths and the paths led him to quitsville. I observed that the moving from place to place was a very languid process and could see this was a game that did not want to be rushed. Take in the moment, the drops of rain, the rustle of the grass… the call of the dark.

I sat down and went through exactly the same motions. And after seemingly exhausting the available options, I wandered a little off-piste, and found something new. With this something new I was able to gain access to the Great Below (a name I made up, but sounds terribly apt) and the game proper began. I descended into a deep cave and was attacked by things which made me bleed. And I bled to death.

I didn’t play any further. I didn’t hear much of Jim Guthrie’s sweet music, but… I got a vibe. I’d decided I wanted to play for real one day. I couldn’t see any new ingredients it had brought to the kitchen table of game design. But that’s all beside the point, amirite? Sometimes a vibe is all you need.

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8 thoughts on “Dabbling with… Below

  1. This is exactly what I was hoping ‘Below’ would be. Sad to not have been at Rezzed (I think this is the second one I missed) – glad I got to read some thoughts from people who did. Specifically people I trust on these sorts of things.

  2. Thanks BC. I think Below is right up my street with oodles of wonderful atmosphere. I didn’t really get any music aside from something more ambient as I descended into the cave which was cool.

    I did experience some sword slashing combat and a hint of crafting (I didn’t end up doing any). There were also campfires to light.

    I have no idea how close Below is to completion.

  3. Surprised to hear you liked this experience so much, as I (mis?) remember you not thinking much of Sword & Sworcery EP?

  4. I *think* that’s a misremembering or at least focusing too much on the few words I’ve written on it. The only piece I wrote explicitly about S&S is The Pink Room. I did allude to my brief disappointment at realising the core mechanics were just pattern matching etc. in Gaze of the Abyss (and I know some interpreted that as a rejection of the game). But overall it worked for me – it’s a mood piece. It exists just to make you happy. There are some things I wasn’t happy with but my overriding memories are positive.

    Although if you can pick at something where I was pretty down about it I’ll be gracefully contrite 😉

  5. No, no, I expect I was misremembering. I vaguely recall comments concerning the interactions not working well on PC (vs touchscreen) and thought I also recalled damning “style over substance” remarks. But this could all have been leading towards a broadly positive “mood piece” conclusion. 🙂

  6. I do recall having meh issues at the beginning but then falling in love by the time the credits roll. It’s still possible I wrote something disparaging and never quite negated it strongly enough 😉

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