Scratching the surface of Deep Down

The irony of our first playtime with Deep Down is that I didn't get to go all that deep. The RPG's Tokyo Game Show demo ran through a very short dungeon that took me about 10 minutes to negotiate. The dungeon was randomly generated, as evidenced not only by seeing others take on rooms and enemies that weren't there when I played, but also by its odd layout, which was confusingly interconnected and almost overflowing with ladders.

After picking one of two characters, a load-out of limited-use buffs and abilities, and a difficulty - I went with the easier one - the demo sent me into its medieval-looking world. What struck me first was the dramatic lighting, glimmering finely onto the nooks and crannies of the stony walls. Even at this early stage, Capcom's PS4 game has more of the next-gen air about it than most.

The demo was brief, and the starter screens in Japanese, so I didn't get that strong a sense of Deep Down beyond its basics. What was soon apparent was the slow pace of my hero, who took cautious steps forward when walking, and ran like he had too big of a breakfast. Deep Down, like a growing number of games, seems to want me to take my time and stay on my armor-laden toes constantly.

The basic combat was similarly heavy. As I took on pig-faced trolls that were looming over me, my attacks felt ponderous and difficult to pull off from safe-feeling distances. R1 led to a quick stab forward with the pike, while R2 provided a more horizontal swing of the weapon. A lock-on via L2 offered more accuracy, and also prevented my hero taking a step back after performing the stab attack.

A hint of the game being a simulation rather than medieval reality - the true setting is 2094 - came from the Dead Space-like in-game HUD, from which I could select abilities, buffs, and projectiles. I negotiated the menu via the d-pad, pressing a face button to effect big attacks like a quick dash through an enemy, or temporary attribute-boosting buffs. While these abilities were limited-use, enemies randomly dropped items that replenished them. Meanwhile, touching the DualShock touchpad displayed the dungeon map, again presented in-game within the hero's field of vision.

With its seemingly uncomplicated combat, narrow hallways, and glowing treasure scattered about, Deep Down felt a little like a dungeon crawler, albeit over the shoulder with a close camera. By the end, I felt like I'd barely scratched the surface of a game based around online co-op, a mysterious story, and enemies that will offer far bigger challenges than lumbering snout-faces. Like the demo, Deep Down's journey from its reveal to now has been slow and mysterious, but there's surely much, much more to come.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.