A few years ago, I found myself in possession of an iPad I won in a contest from my then-job, and had a six hour flight back from San Francisco to get familiar with it.
Instead of doing anything constructive, I downloaded and played through Sword and Sworcery by Capy Games. The subtle humor, great puzzles, and mythic/creepy art style all combined into a gem of a indie, and the soundtrack is still on my playlist years later.
After I got home and finished the game I set up a google alert for Capy and waited for more. When Super Time Force released, I snapped it up and once again found myself having a blast at the humor and gameplay of a Capy game, but there was still something missing.
When the Xbox One was announced, disastrously, I was still optimistic. I wanted to maintain my gamer-score, so the PS4 vs Xbox war was already over for me. Graphics aren’t my most important qualifier, and in the exclusives war Halo always wins against God of War. There was however, a little indie game announced that I thought was a huge win for Xbox – Below.
Below, a rogue-like dungeon crawler, was announced at E3 in 2013 a month after the announcement of the Xbox One and immediately built up a lot of buzz. Similar in tone it seemed to Sword and Sworcery and with a less retro pixel style, the art, the music, and setting were the things that really got people talking.
The world that Below is set in, feels bleak. Your player character is tiny, and the dungeons are cavernous. You wash up on the shore of an island, and have to descend into the dark caverns beneath it, to try to find a way home. Your light source only illuminates small pieces of the dark rooms, making the gloom and blackness look like it’s pressing in on you. Also, when your player character died in the course of your exploration, there is no continue – the next washed ashore adventurer that happens upon your body years later will raid your equipment, to continue your quest.
This. sounded. amazing.
I had a chance to play the game at PAX East 2014, and to me it felt like exactly what I was looking for to fill the indie game/Dark Souls hole in my game schedule. It controlled well, it felt spooky and dangerous, and more like what I’d expect a true dungeon crawler to be – a big damn dark cave, with fickle illumination. That tiny player character, and a tilt shift display style means a giant 1080p screen can display an entire dungeon area, with your character feeling all the more small and fragile.
Also, seeing it in playable form at one of the big conferences? I figured it was a few months from release, and that Xbox would have a killer exclusive, something that they were (and still are) in desperate need of in the current battle against the install base of PS4 and the hot portability of Switch and Zelda.
Then, we heard a few updates, some rumblings about more footage, a christmas card with the most high-res image of the player character released, and then not much, until we started to hear about delays.
Capy’s last announcement had me worried. I wasn’t sure if the game was delayed until it was done, or just delayed forever, ie – cancelled.
Let me be clear – Capy? I’m not rushing you. I respect the decision to delay the game to finish and polish it. Everyone’s favorite Miyamoto quote says a delayed game is eventually good, so I’m happy that it’s delayed to meet your own internal qualifications.
What I am doing with this short article is trying to keep the word and buzz alive for this game and to hope upon hope that this isn’t a situation that a delay turns into a cancel.
If you’re reading this, you’re an Xbox player like me, and you’re also still onboard and waiting for this game, let’s hear it in the comments. My backlog is huge, so I’m more than willing to wait as long as it takes to play and review it, but if this goes the way of Starcraft Ghost, a lot of xboxers will have missed out on a seemingly excellent exclusive.