It’s a shame the port of Hades to the Switch (and a sale on PC) occurred around the same time as Going Under was released. Both games are dungeon crawlers with roguelike elements, an overarching story and a need to change your style of fighting depending on random drops. It feels like a lot of people missed Going Under because of circumstance and that sucks. There are plenty of stories about a heroic white dude (I do like Hades) but it’s very rare you hear a tale of a female intern saving a company from the worst traits of capitalism. There are plenty of things to love about Going Under. Now the dust has settled it’s time to grab a broom, crack open some cans of Fizzle and get smashing!
Playing as the unpaid intern Jackie you will drop down into different procedurally generated dungeons, grab anything in sight as a weapon and use it to reach the boss. Going Under has a great gameplay loop. Once a dungeon is cleared (or failed) you’ll be back at the hub with the permeant Cubicle currency to be buy more potential dungeon skills to find and more quests to finish from your colleagues. As with most roguelikes you’ll start off diving into dungeons with a cavalier attitude and they’ll chew you up and spit you back out. Where Going Under sets itself apart is how it rewards persistence. Each time you find a passive skill in a dungeon your experience with it builds until it’s endorsed and once that’s the case you can enter the dungeon with 1 of the endorsed skills equipped. This can range from faster movement to having a chance of setting monsters you target on fire. You can also equip a mentor and as you complete quests for staff you will level up their mentorship and each comes with their own perks.
Going Under has in dungeon currency that can be used to buy things during each run and even plays with the idea of cryptocurrencies. You’ll find yourself smashing through the areas, choosing what to spend your cash on at random stores to survive that little bit longer. Going Under also has a lot of variety in the systems and ways to tackle each run. If you find yourself always wanting an item at the store you can equip Ray as a mentor and he will give you the company credit card which allows an additional purchase that puts your cash in the negative until you pay it back. A great example of the charm and design at work in Going Under as when you do this you get a little ball with DEBT written on the side and a chain attached to your leg that physically slows you down until paid off. Each mentor shakes up how you approach the run and everything in the game has multiple reasons for being there. You can unlock the ability to find fizzle cans which act as explosions to clear around you but each flavour has a different ability and you’ll be making sure to save the ginseng can for that extra half heart when it matters. The quest system gives a sense of levelling up to get additional benefits and a sense of progression. Even on your 10th failed attempt you’ll jump right back in to try again.
The art direction for Going Under is bright and colourful with every dungeon having a theme around a failed tech startup. The Joblin dungeons are purple, filled with goblins trying to deliver coffee, t-shirts and basic office supplies. The Winkydink dungeons are red, filled with demons and succubus, trying to seduce and manipulate their customers with emoji. The Styxcoin dungeons are gold and brown, a mining area for the failed bitcoin currency. Everything lends itself to a brilliant pop art style that makes the explosions powerful, the fires blazing hot and the attacks pack a punch. The 3D models appear simplistic at first glance and can be basic but the animation is fantastically fluid and you’ll be thankful to easily identify what’s going on when the action heats up. It heats up quickly to, in no time you’ll be quickly dodging attacks, switching between the 3 items picked up and firing back to clear just that little bit more of a fantastic story.
Everything in Going Under pops in the best way. The characters having a simlish style of talking and the sounds of slicing with a keyboard and smashing with a hammer carry a decent weight. There are moments during boss fights where it feels as though you are playing the fantastic action game Furi, nail bitingly close moments that can make or break a run. There is one certain boss in particular that feels very much like an anime finale. There isn’t particularly any music that stands out or is that memorable but it is enjoyable enough, fitting the bright and bubbly but frantic and bold presentation. Going Under successfully manages to both be incredibly cheerful and incredibly dark at the same time. You can find an entrepreneur vampire who will give you random skills or buffs but in return you’ll be cursed for combat after (for example you could be set on fire if you stop running for the next 3 combat encounters) A pinch of darkness and spoonful of action, mixed with office supplies and all wrapped up in a charming package.
At the core of Going Under is a great story that understands how a tech startup can easily fail in a heavily pressured capitalistic society and how any company can make horrifically bad decisions that lead it to ruin. There are incredibly dark and brutal lines of dialogue told by these characters as if it’s the norm and Jackie responds understandably shocked at the normality. You get the feeling the developers wanted a game that didn’t shy away from these topics. Going Under does have a have a slight problem with difficulty balance. Once you finish the 3 dungeons and a final run area, you’ll have to replay the same 3 dungeons with a much harder setup but still with your same mentors and skills. There are times where you’ll find yourself picking up apps for special attacks that don’t work very well for the style you’re playing or find your charmed enemy companion causing you damage by accident but these moments are few and far between.
I mentioned Hades at the start of this review and although a lot of people are comparing the two games I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Going Under is a fantastically satirical experience with a simple core combat system that allows you to experiment more with weapons and skills as you progress. Weapons degrading from use can get frustrating but the abundance of items to use around you does help alleviate the usual annoyances. Blasting a handgun until it runs out and then beating a troll until it breaks sounds brutal, but the pop style and stylish nature of Going Under makes this an almost cartoon-like experience. There are twists in the story that have fantastic results and it’s impressively gripping. Going Under has a great amount of heart and it’s defiantly worth investing in. Just make sure not to trust any marketing robots!
8/10 – Fizzy lifting despite going under
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