Going Under Review

Disclaimer: If you’re the kind of person that gets worked up when someone says “doggo”, this is not the game for you. Featuring perks such as “YEET” with a description of “that’s all she yote,” this game is filled to the brim with internet culture. Luckily, Going Under breaks up this bombardment of memes with a light but relatable story and crisp, polished gameplay.

Swords and cardboard!

I get it. You’ve been here before. An indie developer releases yet another rogue-lite with a new gimmick but nothing to set it apart from a sea of similar games. Wait. No, actually, that’s not here. Going Under manages to separate itself from the competition in a big way by making minor changes while many other games try to get by on novelty alone. For example, in Going Under, you start off using office furniture and supplies to fight your way through the dungeons. Not a lot of games let you fight using office supplies AND let you use almost every object in the room as a weapon. BOOM! Done! There’s the game. or at least that’s where other developers may have stopped.

Swords, chairs, extra-large pencils. All of these work as weapons how you’d expect. You just smack them into things or maybe throw them. But, eventually you’ll notice certain weapons have secondary effects. Stab an enemy with your tablet pen and they’ll be temporarily electrocuted, paralyzing them. A torch will set enemies, and objects, on fire. A guitar will damage enemies in all directions around you. What effect will you see next? You’ll start going out of your way to knock down weapons off shelves by haphazardly throwing furniture at it. You start noticing the hilt of a sword poking out of a pot. One of the many cardboard boxes looks a bit different and gives you items. And that’s what makes Going Under special.

No, no, NO. Not the weapons; the variety. Nothing in the game sticks around long enough to be stale. Most perks in the game are good enough on their own. While synergies exist, it’s rare for a synergy to have a significantly better effect than seemingly random good perks. Not long after, a new dungeon opens up completely changing the themes, enemies, and weapons in the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Perks exist largely to push you to try new things. Typically only available two at a time, the game presents you with options such as increased damage from thrown items, holding two handed weapons in a single hand, and even shooting a laser from charged attacks of sharp weapons. Of course, other less specific options exist such as converting a heart into four armor (Over-Protective), doing more damage but gain less money (Beggar Queen), and occasionally setting enemies you lock on to on fire (Fiery Glare). Really, just seeing everything Going Under has to offer is what makes it a great experience.

I sold my soul to the company store

As with most of its features, much like any other entry in the genre, the game includes a shop. Still not feeling innovative enough, Aggro Crab Games includes an alternative shop (actually a vampire holding a garage sale) with a twist. (And no, the twist isn’t that they’re a vampire.) Take on a debuff, and gain access to three items for free. Even then, you don’t always get to see what the items are before until after you accept the curse. Often, the price is worth the reward. I can’t lock on to enemies for five encounters but I get a top tier weapon, a skill, and a healing item? That’s a trade I’m very willing to make. Still further, a later area in the game includes a shop with two different currencies, but a way to exchange one for another. Want an item for a currency you don’t have? You’ll likely have to trade nearly all of one currency to afford purchasing in the other. Even further, you can assign mentors after completing a quest such as electrifying enemies. Or maybe just setting things on fire. Just ’cause.

Mentors give you some sort of bonus like being able to hold an extra app (a special item with limited uses to stun enemies, heal you, summon a minion to help you, etc.) or gaining access to unique items, but I’d like to focus on two. Swomp allows you to get an item for free from the store. (Isn’t that called stealing?) Ray allows you to get items for free* from the store. *Any cost of items you purchase and can’t afford is subtracted from your wallet until it is in the negatives. The consequence: you are chained to debt. Literally. A ball and chain is locked around your ankle until you earn enough money to no longer be in debt. BUT, you can use the ball and chain as an acceptable weapon that is never more than a few steps away.

Constantly presenting you with new options and new choices, Going Under avoids the staleness that easily manifests in lesser games. Combine that with solid gameplay and you’ve got the game!… Okay, maybe you saw it coming this time, but Aggro Crab Games didn’t stop there either. Every so often a new blip of the story appears of being an intern at a company that is making… questionable decisions and deciding it’s probably best to not ruffle any feathers and just accept what you’re being told. The best part of the story: it doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay. Just enough to keep you invested in the characters and the world, as well as being fairly amusing at the ridiculousness (and yet similarity to real life) the story manages to convey.

Some minor flaws

There is a place or two where Going Under falls short though. Ambiguity is a little too common without an explanation. One of your weapons may have a little shiny icon while another identical item doesn’t. The perk “YEET” with a description of “That’s all she yote”, while amusing, is not very clear what it will do. Some items have upgrades like faster attacks and more damage but what exactly does “smart” do? Through experimentation, I learned this means the weapon is in new or used condition, YEETing an object allows you to throw it far further than you normally could, and make enemies drop apps more often. While I’m confident about most things I was at first unsure about, I’d much prefer a sort of encyclopedia of what things actually do. The other thing Going Under doesn’t excel at is graphics. The characters in dialogue scenes? Fantastic. The characters in a dungeon? They’re uh… is simple enough? Despite that, you’re rarely focusing on a single model long enough for it to be a bother. These are overall small complaints in an overall well polished game, with the former option of experimentation possibly sounding more appealing than having complete knowledge.

I could go on and on about what Going Under gets right from the story, to the soundtrack, to finding a “sus cube” and thinking “AHA! THAT MUST MEAN SUSPICIOUS! I SHOULD HIT IT!” and the joy of immediately blowing up after doing so, but by now I’m hoping you’ve read enough to form an opinion, and will find out the rest by experiencing it for yourself. If by now you’ve forgotten what you’ve just read, Going Under is a creative game that never lets anything stick around long enough to get stale.

Going Under is available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.

Leave a Reply