To some the subgenre “roguelike” is a bad word. It means difficult gameplay, and to some, frustration. What if I told you that roguelikes aren’t all for hardcore gamers, and that roguelikes are starting to become more normalized in the mainstream? Hades just released out of Early Access and is making some rethink their hatred for ‘roguelike’ while games like Going Under are adding a layer of humor that makes its roguelike elements feel less hardcore, and frames it in a way we can all understand.
Going Under is a roguelike action game played from a third person perspective. In Going Under you play as an intern who is trying to get a job in her field, marketing. Once you get to your new employer’s office, however, you quickly learn that your boss has other plans for you. And those plans include dungeon crawling and combat. It turns out Fizzle, soft drink maker and your current employer, has a problem: inside the basement there are multiple tech start-ups that have failed, and you have to fight through their ruins to dismiss each of their bosses before you can fight the final boss—and gain the employment you so desperately seek. Just like in real life.
Going Under is not like any roguelike I’ve played, for many reasons. First of all, it’s funny—like, genuinely funny. I loved the satirical humor that is present throughout, and every time one of my coworkers had a chat bubble, I knew it was going to be a hilarious conversation. Humor that lands consistently is something I’ve never experienced in a roguelike—and is rare for any game to accomplish. Perhaps the humor is so effortless because we can see ourselves in the main protagonist as she struggles to validate herself to her employer, and is willing to work outside of her job parameters to land that job. In this case, it’s armed combat.
When you enter into one of the three main dungeons in Going Under, you’ll notice that you don’t start with a weapon. That’s no problem, as almost anything can be picked up and used to fight—from office furniture, to decorations. There are actual weapons, and those are usually better for dispatching foes—but everything you can pick up and swing ends up breaking after a while, forcing you to look for more weapons as you fight through each of the randomized floors. The physics engine is great: as you battle, office supplies go flying, and you can push your enemies away and into objects.
Going Under, despite its scary roguelike labelling, is not as difficult as other roguelikes. I would argue that’s not only okay, but for some people, that’s a good thing. That’s not to say that it’s entirely easy—just like any roguelike, failing a run means starting over from the beginning. You do receive currency during your run that you can use to purchase better power-ups that can then show up in each of your runs, but you don’t get your most powerful power-ups until you play for a while—putting you at the mercy of the minions of the failed tech startups you are forced to infiltrate. And if you’re still struggling with the difficulty, Going Under comes with a few options to make it even easier—again, something that I love to see.
There are three main themed dungeons to fight through in Going Under, each with their own enemy types, weapons you can find, and boss at the end. The dungeon “Joblin” is full of gig workers, or “joblins”—that’s a mash-up of “job” and “goblin”—is your first destination, but eventually you’ll open up the dating app themed “Winkydinks” dungeon and the cryptomining “Styxcoin” dungeon. Each of these is appropriately themed (well, not so work appropriate in the case of Winkydinks) with skeleton bitcoin miners with literal mining equipment, and succubi and other toxic relationships waiting in the Winkydinks dungeon.
Each run of Going Under is different, as you would expect. Dungeons are a combination of challenge rooms, enemy rooms, and merchants. If I had one complaint about Going Under, is that there isn’t as much variety in its room make up as other roguelikes—but what is there is tight, fun, and I would argue that adding more might detract from the experience.
Despite the solo nature of your work excursions into these dungeons, your coworkers do lend a hand. You can choose a coworker as a “mentor,” and depending on how much you’ve cultivated your relationship with them, you can get some serious bonuses that can completely change your playthrough. And since you’re getting paid in experience (har har) you’ll have lots of new power-ups to unlock and find in the dungeons to use against your enemies.
Going Under has a great soundtrack, and even better art. Its heavy lined character style makes everything look like it was drawn with a thick crayon. It’s not at all an art style that would scream “roguelike” to me, but I’d argue it helps with its accessibility.
I really enjoyed my time with Going Under. It may be a little easier than other roguelikes, but it’s just plain fun. It has a phenomenal sense of humor that isn’t just tacked on, but cleverly touches every part of the game. The ability to pick up almost any object and use it as a weapon adds to the ridiculousness of the whole endeavor.
Going Under releases September 24th on PC, XboxOneX, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
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