[email protected]'s Below isn't meant to be explained

2 min read

GC below

[email protected] isn’t just an awful name – it’s Microsoft’s attempt at helping indies get the support and exposure they need to be successful. In fact, unlike the other indies that Geoff and I had to go visit at the megabooth, I actually ended up with an appointment to see more about Below – already proof that [email protected] is worthwhile for this indie.

Below is played without any text, dialogue or explanation. While it has certain rogue-like elements, the developers were careful to point out that there is a beginning and an end with multiple paths in the middle. Players work through a chronology of lives – paths that you unlock, shortcuts and even quick travel stay with you as you die and try again. Each level is procedurally generated with some set moments or areas within the randomness. This enables players to work towards specific goals, find the corpses of dead travelers (previous attempts) for items and progress through the story.

The game is slower-paced and more about exploration than most rogue-like games. The intro is designed to be rather slow to ensure that players know this isn’t a hack and slash game; if you go in swinging you will probably die. When hit, players begin to bleed. Just like in real life, if characters bleed for long enough they will eventually die. However, if you find a fire while bleeding, you can actually stick your sword in the flames and cauterize your wounds – this doesn’t heal you, but it does stop the bleeding. Players can also craft items or consume meat; without explanations, it’s up to trial and error to find out what each craft potion or type of meat actually does.

There are environmental clues throughout that guide players towards understanding the story, but nothing is clearly stated or laid out. The developers are interested in hearing how people interpret the story and if it aligns with their intentions. They are also excited for the game to be released to watch the YouTube guides and speed runs.

Below certainly looks like a unique and pretty indie. While I prefer some more explicit story lines, it’s nice to see this approach to the rogue-like/rogue-lite genre. Here is their new trailer:

While I’m glad to see games like this getting support from Xbox, I’m curious how well it will do on the platform. Will Xbox owners be picking up indie games, or will it fare far better when it releases on Steam? [email protected] has helped with exposure at least – now we’ll just need to see if that exposure translates into success.

Last Updated: August 18, 2014

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