Finally, on December 14th, 2018, Below landed on Xbox One and Steam. Players dove in, and many quickly realized that waiting for Below to launch wouldn't be the only test of their patience. Below, as a roguelike dungeon-crawler with strict rules of survival and danger hiding in every craggy edifice, would be the final, true test.
"It's definitely not everybody's cup of tea."
"From the very beginning, from years and years and years ago, we wanted to make a slow, foreboding, lonely -- the opposite perspective of quick-fix games that throw you into shit within five seconds," Capy co-founder Nathan Vella told Engadget. He explained that Below was specifically designed to build a story slowly. "The 'right' way to play the game is patiently, with purpose and intent and set up and all of that. It's definitely a different perspective and it's definitely not everybody's cup of tea."
Below is not a game for every player, even the ones who held their breath for it to come out over the past five years. Critically, it's been hailed for having a gorgeous art style, crisp mechanics and a rich world, but plenty of players are turned off by the game's built-in tedium. As a roguelike, players lose progress whenever they die, meaning they sometimes have to repeat certain scenarios, like collecting food, fighting enemies or even just walking between stages. Hunger and thirst meters constantly tick downward, forcing tension even while surrounded by huge, mysterious caverns begging to be explored.
Some players connect with this style of game, reveling in the secrets, wandering for hours to find a shining reward hidden high on a cliffside, collecting supplies, crafting tools and staying alive. Others, however, don't want a slow burn soaked in stress when they sit down to play a video game.
"They wanted something faster," Vella said. "They expected it to be twitchier. They expected it to not require as much, because it is a demanding game and we know it."
Despite all of its hype and five years of nearly constant anticipation for fans, Below is not going to be Capy's next smash hit, according to Vella. It's selling well, meeting internal expectations, but Below simply wasn't built for mass consumption. In fact, it represents the opposite of what many video games are doing at the moment. Connected, multiplayer games like Fortnite are all the rage, while the mobile market is massive and packed with quick-fix experiences. Even PC and console developers are currently building bite-sized titles, like Bithell Games' Subsurface Circular and Quarantine Circular, and Hello Games' The Last Campfire.
Below is big, slow, punishing and lonely. In other words, it's built to last.