Developer Capybara Games / release date 2018
It’s hard to believe, but Below was announced before Xbox One had even hit shelves. This game from Super Time Force developer Capybara has been a long-time coming; five years in the making, subject to intense scrutiny from the community, and carrying the baggage of being one of the very first ID@Xbox games to be revealed, could it ever possibly live up to the hype that it has cultivated over the years?
No, it can’t – but it can surpass it entirely. Below is an astounding achievement, a tantalising cocktail of sumptuous visual design, spine-tingling audio and incredibly refined core game mechanics and systems. At its heart, Below is an adventure game cast from a top-down perspective in which you, as a lone wanderer, must seek to discover what lies below.
The game is effectively a roguelike, which is to say that it’s incredibly punishing – think Spelunky, only 100 per cent more intriguing and mesmerising. The further you explore below the surface of this mysterious island, the more fraught with danger the game becomes; death arrives quickly and easily, and falling in combat will see your character wiped from existence, a footnote in history. It’s at this point that a new wanderer appears on the island by boat, looking to pick up from where the previous adventurer left off – utilising any opened shortcuts or tricks discovered in a previous play session.
Below works because it always feels as if you are making some sense of progression, even as you are failing. Every death is a new opportunity to live; to eek a little closer to uncovering the secrets of the island is to truly succeed in Below, a game that we are certain will be a standout experience for Xbox One players in 2018.