Before I went home for Christmas last year, I had two firm ideas about Below based on, admittedly, only about ten hours of playing it. The first idea was that the game was a bit of a well-intentioned botch. The second was that, combat and exploration aside, what Below was really concerned with was fostering the slow realisation in its players that game design itself is probably one big roguelike.
"Making a game is obscenely challenging," Nathan Vella, boss of Toronto, Canada developer Capybara tells me over the phone.
Below has finally re-emerged after an indefinite delay - and developer Capybara Games says it'll be out at some point in 2018.
Indies are scorching hot. Maybe it was Minecraft. Maybe it was Super Meat Boy. Maybe it was Journey. Either way, just weeks before the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One it is indie developers who find themselves - whether they like it or not - on the front line of the next generation battle.
Yesterday Microsoft announced its Xbox One self-publishing program and with it opened up its marketplace to a raft of independent developers who previously were unable to get their games onto the Xbox platform.
Microsoft's been the industry's punching bag over the last week, but beneath the used game debate, exhorbitant price tag and archaic attitude towards self-publishing, boutique studio Capybara (of Sword & Sworcery and Clash of Heroes fame) is working on one of more intriguing indie games on the horizon. Below was one of E3's most brilliant surprises, and to find out more I caught up with Capybara president Nathan Vella to outline this mysterious upcoming project.
Simply put, Below is an action roguelike. It's portrayed from a top-down perspective and features real-time combat, permadeath, and randomly generated locales. In keeping true to the best of the genre's entries like The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky, Below will be hard. Very hard. But it'll also be fair.
"Below is our love-letter to roguelikes of yore, and to games that were about very difficult almost harsh combat that's very fair," explained Vella as we chatted about his game sitting in a carpeted hallway at E3's Los Angeles convention center. "Once you become familiar with the combat and the way that it works, anytime you die it will be be your fault, not the game's fault."