Capybara’s new dungeon-delving adventure, Below, places a lot of confidence in its players. Aside from a few basic control prompts up front, the beloved indie studio offers almost zero explicit instructions. There’s a fundamental faith that players will be inquisitive enough to glean all the details they need from visual cues woven into lavish world design and a super clean, super minimalist user interface.
Early on, I found this approach totally engrossing. I love it when a game trusts me to figure things out on my own and, crucially, provides me with reasonable clues to help make those connections possible. Below is brimming with a-ha moments as you teach yourself how not to starve, how dungeon floors can (and can’t) change from one permadeath run to the next, and what to do when everything goes to hell and you need to extract your gear from an inhospitable area that won’t ever seem to end.
In retrospect, it’s a fairly simple game — you only need to keep descending, one floor at a time, until you reach the mysterious bottom — but the real trick is endurance. Below doesn’t demand fast reflexes or a particularly quick wit, but it does require grit. One small slip-up can have devastating repercussions.