Here’s the gist of Going Under. This is a single-player rouge-lite dungeon crawler released for PC and your standard trio of consoles in September 2020. The game Developed and designed by Aggro Crab Games and the games published and marketed by Team17.
You play as Jacqueline, an unpaid intern fresh out of college who’s been hired to do marketing for Fizzle soft drinks, a Cubicle subsidiary. But, like so many modern startups, your actual job title is irrelevant to the tasks you’re assigned. Instead, you’re sent into the ruins of failed tech startups in the neighboring office complexes, to defeat the monsters within, as well as employees. The setup, while ridiculous, actually a fairly decent representation of late-stage capitalism in the era of Kickstarter and social media.
Going Under Game about
The writing of this game is clearly parodying the lingo and archetypes of bosses, tech bros, and underpaid staff of gentrified modern businesses. With offices having slides in lieu of stairs, and spending money wildly on parties and unnecessary tech instead of paying its employees a fair wage.
The creative minds behind Going Under have absolutely had the first-hand experience with all this crap. Not to say new companies and the modernization of production is inherently a bad thing, but large swathes of rich white dudes creating-waste products like bitcoin wallets or whatever, opening storefronts in small towns, pricing residents out of their neighborhoods, before being sold off to a large conglomerate and sacking all their employees while the boss makes off like a bandit and starts the process- *AHEM* I uh, went on like this for a while, so let’s skip ahead… -seize the means of production. Now, let’s discuss gameplay.
Like I said, Going Under is a rogue-lite, but that description can be a little nebulous. In this case, you start the game in a hub world full of your coworkers to talk to, who give you quests and charming dialogue.
Then, once you’re ready, you pick a dungeon with puzzle-piece style randomly generated rooms to explore. There are three main dungeons, each harder than the last and themed after failed tech startups.
Controls are straightforward, with buttons for attack, dodge roll, picking up weapons, and using items. I’d highly recommend a controller for this one, by the way. Early on in the game, you’ll start with no items, and have to find weapons and supplies inside. Most any prop can be picked up and used as a weapon, some things like keyboards are plentiful but break before long, whereas more suitable weapons like swords and hammers can be found, and saved into one of your three weapon slots.
Enemies will arm themselves with odds and ends as well, and attempt to bring your health down to zero. If you die, you’ll be booted out of the dungeon.
But all this work isn’t unpaid, as you’ll earn experience as you go! Skills can be found throughout the dungeon to give yourself powers, such as dropping bombs when you roll, and the more you use this skill, the more experience towards it you earn.
Eventually, you’ll be able to choose to start with that skill from the beginning of a dungeon. And completing those quests I mentioned earlier, such as lighting 30 objects on fire or killing enough enemies without getting hit, will unlock your coworkers as mentors.
Equipping someone as a mentor will give you extra abilities in the dungeon, and the more quests you complete, the more abilities your mentors will give. One of my biggest issues with the rogue-like genre is the lack of upward mobility to tackle dungeons which are giving you a rough time.
Since in that genre, there’s usually no way to better prepare yourself for a run. You simply, have to get better and get luckier. But in rouge-lites, ala Going Under, you can synergize your mentor and pinned skill to increase productivity, giving you better odds when you start a run. Within dungeons, you’ll earn money which is not saved upon exiting but is instead spent at randomly generated stores, to restore health, buy weapons or skills, or temporarily increase your maximum HP.
There’s also a separate currency that is maintained outside of runs, allowing you to purchase more skills that will be able to spawn within dungeons. And at the end of every dungeon is a boss, a powerful enemy who upon defeat, will successfully complete your run of the dungeon, earning you permanent bonuses for future runs.
One of my favorite mechanics is consumable“apps” dropping within the world, which activate various abilities like healing, discounts at in-dungeon shops, so on and so forth.
Mentors can augment the powers these provide or boost their effectiveness. Equipping Fern as your mentor, for instance, will change out app drops for cans of Fizzle from your company, offering a completely unique set of effects. All of this may sound like somewhat bog-standard rogue-lite gameplay.
However, in addition to the typical fantastical components like magic or skeletons, both of which are obviously not real, the game is filled with tongue-in-cheek aesthetic and function based on its setting.
Dungeons are themed off of the products they failed to market, like cryptocurrency or an emoji-only dating app. Even the shopkeepers within the dungeons will have a dialogue with you about their job and bosses.
The art-style is very clear in the 3D world, which uses very flat, basic geometric shapes and textures in the same style as a lot of “cool corporate art”. The entire game looks like a business keynote from a modern tech conglomerate but in a shockingly cute way.
The 2D sprites were seen during dialogue, however, bring more emotion and humanistic touches to the characters, pairing perfectly with the hilarious, and sometimes heart wrenching dialogue. I’d describe the writing style as “aggressively anti-capitalist Undertale”, which in my eyes is nothing but a good thing.
Not to say the writing is unoriginal, its absolutely fantastic, simply that it’s a similar kind of vibe. If you like that kind of writing and character, it has plenty to offer you in that regard.
I fell in love with the cast straight away, even love-hating the most obnoxious managerial characters. Now getting back to the gameplay, specifically the difficulty, I can vouge for its tough-but-fairness. Sure, there are plenty of times I feel likeI’m cheated out of a good run, with plenty of good skills and weapons lost.
But that’s the case in any randomly generated rogue-lite, some floors are just gonna be tougher than others. Getting a good run comes down to taking your time, avoiding taking unnecessary risks, having good mentors and skills going in, and a little bit of luck. Analogous to a startup succeeding, wonderfully enough.
At $20, with at least 10 hours of gameplay to complete, in my experience, It offers up plenty of content and inherent replay value by random generation, and the constant desire for one more run.
Honestly, it’s one of my favorite games to releases this year. As someone who has been playing Risk of Rain 2 non-stop as of late, but has been looking for something a little different to scratch that itch, I’ve finally found a new game to invest in.
Even some twists and turns you may not expect, both in lore and gameplay, as time goes on.
The game isn’t lacking in content, its just so good that I’m left wanting more regardless. Of course, the future is full of possibilities, so maybe down the line, we’ll see more to come.
And even if the genre isn’t normally your thing, the easy-to-pick-up, challenging-to-master style of gameplay in Going Under may offer an excellent launchpad into the genre.
A very welcome feature I hope to see in more and more games going forward. Thank you very much for AggroCrab and Team17for sending along with an early review key. I’m looking forward to what you’ll be working on next!
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