Going Under Review
Sometimes it seems like video games are becoming a bit too serious for their own good. For as thought-provoking as games like The Last of Us and Alien: Isolation are, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that calls them ‘fun’. Although this wasn’t a huge problem when the world was somewhat normal, these days it’s become almost tiring to see how we’re all going to die every night on BBC, only to play through the end of humanity whenever you try and play a good video game. This trend has made it depressing to be a gamer, so when a game that doesn’t try to be too serious does release, to say it’s refreshing is an understatement.
Enter Going Under. Just like Devolver Digital's best releases, Going Under is a slightly over-the-top and stupidly enjoyable dungeon crawler. In the game, you take control of the newest unpaid marketing intern at a startup in the future dystopian city of Neo-Cascadia. Before you can do anything marketing-related, though, your boss tells you that your job will actually be to clear out the company’s basement of the ghouls that were once employees of previous failed startups. Without much more of an introduction than that, you’re sent down a slide to start your new career as a violent janitor in the hopes that one day your new boss will let you do whatever it is that a marketing intern is supposed to do.
Once you arrive in the basement, you get a text from your boss explaining your task in a bit more depth. He tells you that if you don’t want to get fired, you’ll have to kill every former employee of four failed tech companies that you can find, all of whom are spread across 100 floors. He also adds that you’ll need to defeat about ten literal bosses for some reason, and that you’re free to use whatever you can find in the basement to get your job done. After this though, you’re offered almost no guidance and you are set loose to try and complete this seemingly impossible task.
Over the next ten or so hours, then, you play through what amounts to an excellent but standard third-person dungeon crawler. You start each run with a single perk, you need to rely almost exclusively off of looted weapons and you can find money that can subsequently be spent on healing items in shops. You dodge around enemies while smacking them in decidedly fun combat, you can accept quests from people in your company to gain benefits in the your office, and at the end of each run you can spend experience to gain new skills. Although none of this exactly treads new ground, there’s little else to say about it besides that it’s all just a lot of fun. Combat is satisfying, the gameplay loop isn’t overly punishing and there aren’t many bugs to speak of. It’s nice to play a game that doesn’t try too hard to reinvent the wheel, but manages to not feel too samey to other games in the process.
However, the main reason that there’s not much to say about the gameplay is because it’s totally one-upped by just how bloody amazing Going Under’s sense of style is. Everything in the game, from the level design to your skills, are steeped in just the right mix of parody but also reality to make it comedic gold that’s impossible not to love. The aforementioned shop, for example, is actually a bistro where you buy items like avocado toast and overpriced lattes in order to get healed. Other great examples include the perfectly-satirised working stiffs that make up the bulk of your enemies, your comically oversized but still useful weapons or even the random items that you can find around each floor. Everything in the game is just over-the-top enough to make it funny, but when you stop and think about anything that you see, it’s not actually that far from what could happen in the real world.
This is genius to say the least, and that sentiment extends to the writing, too. Item descriptions, interactions with other characters and even skills fit the very definition of wit. Many lines will likely literally have you on the ground laughing if you’re a working millennial because of just how relatable they are, but even if you’re too old or young to be in that demographic, you’ll still find the writing to be hilarious. It’s something that honestly needs to be experienced by everyone remotely interested in gaming.
The artstyle, too, is definitely worth calling attention to. Like with the game’s writing, everything is silly enough to be entertaining without it ever being stupid or annoying. The game looks colourful, weirdly pretty and enjoyable for the entire length of your playthrough. The art never makes anything in the game’s often crowded combat arenas hard to see, it allows the game to run at a consistently high frame rate and it only adds to what is already a stupidly enjoyable game.
Going Under, then, is an immensely enjoyable experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone looking for a break from the overly thought-provoking games that dominate today’s gaming market. Although the gameplay itself doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from other dungeon crawlers, it’s still fun, and this lack of real innovation is more than made up for by the game’s writing and overall sense of style. If you’ve ever held a job in your life, you’ll find that the game is almost too relatable and may find yourself rolling on the floor laughing during the dialogue sequences. But even if you don’t work, the game is so stylish that it’s impossible not to love.
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