going under
27th October 2020

Recommended Game – Going Under

Going Under is, simply put, brilliant. It’s incredibly fun, funny, and depressingly relateable. A must play for anyone who’s ever had a job.

I don’t get excited for new games as much as I used to anymore. I’ve been disappointed or lied to too many times to summon the same level of hype I was able to just a few years ago. I’m not innocent in this issue. I’ve built up my expectations far too much for some games in the past. Only to have them dashed by what is often a perfectly good game. But still not something that could have ever lived up to my expectations.

This makes the rare occasion that a game I got excited for actually turns out not just to be good. But even BETTER than I expected, all the more special. This was the case with the recently released Going Under; a game that exceeded all my expectations for it, and then some.

Going Under is a 3D roguelike dungeon-crawler from indie developer Aggro Crab Games, which is now available for purchase on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4. It seeks to satirize and lampoon the ever-changing and consistently exhausting job market of the modern age through strong writing, clever game mechanics; and by depicting failed tech startups as literal rotting dungeons full of actual feral monsters. And it succeeds tremendously.

"A delicious alternative to home ownership." If this joke hits a little too close to home, then you've come to the right place.
“A delicious alternative to home ownership.” If this joke hits a little too close to home, then you’ve come to the right place.

Internships Are Heck

In Going Under you play as one Jacqueline Fiasco. A recent graduate who has just started what she was told is a marketing internship for a company called Fizzle Beverages. A startup company recently funded by the delivery drone-manufacturing, machine learning integrated corporate titan that is Cubicle. On her very first day, Jackie swiftly learns how much a racket her new position is; as she is tasked with entering the crumbling remnants of other failed startup companies in the building; which all take the shape of randomly generated dungeons full of monsters which she must defeat.

Going Under nakedly and brutally satirizes the modern corporate landscape. It lampoons as many elements of the millennial experience and late-stage capitalism. It does so as often as it can. Everything from the dungeons, to the monsters, to the power-ups and loading screens are part of the joke; and the team at Aggro Crab really took the premise and ran with it. 

This premise alone is what initially captured my interest in Going Under. But I stayed for everything else that it had to offer. While maybe not as lengthy and by extension not as deep as other roguelikes such as Hades or The Binding of Isaac. Going Under still offers an extremely fun; and unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.  

Gameplay

The gameplay of Going Under is pretty straightforward. You enter one of several dungeons. Each themed around different types of tech startups. Then you make your way through three lengthy floors loaded with rooms full of monsters; equipable skills, and merchants scattered randomly about. Like other roguelikes. You then manage your health and resources as best you can in order to make to the boss at the end and defeat them.

Fans of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may find the combat system familiar. Combat relies on the basics of attacking; dodge rolling out of harm’s way, and carefully picking weapons all which break after enough use. There are also many different skills that you can unlock and equip in the dungeons, and which can often synergize well together. Take for example one skill that creates allies to fight on your side alongside another skill that increases your strength when surrounded by allies.

Skills

These skills can be leveled up the more they’re used. You can then decide to start a run with a specific skill that you prefer. This works in conjunction with the mentor system. A really enjoyable mechanic that skillfully weaves the side characters directly into the gameplay. 

If you fulfill some specific goals for the individual characters while down in the dungeons. They will eventually provide special perks for having them equipped as your mentor. Such as additional item drops or access to new merchants. But even without their assistance, you’ll have plenty of weapons to work with.

Combat can get pretty hectic, but you just need to keep your distance and assess the situation.
Combat can get pretty hectic, but you just need to keep your distance and assess the situation.

One of the key features that differentiate the game from other roguelikes is the Deadrising-like quality that nearly everything at every level can be used as a weapon. Everything from swords and maces to pencils and t-shirt cannons are available for you to strike down the downsized masses. There’s a surprising amount of depth and strategy top which weapons you pick.  

Some weapons have elemental properties, others have longer physical range or do more damage when thrown; there’s tons of variables to experiment with in a 3D playground of combat strategy. Again somewhat like Breath of the Wild. 

There’s also spells in the form of apps to keep track of, as well as various different types of items. So there are plenty of variables to work with. The game can get tough at times too, especially during the intense boss fights. But the difficulty generally scales at a natural flowing pace, alleviating the issue somewhat. Just like the best roguelikes. Every failure in Going Under is truly an opportunity to grow and do better next time. I just found myself coming back for more.

Graphics

In terms of aesthetics, Going Under may be simple graphically, but it still sticks the landing stylistically. The game’s artstyle was inspired by the common noodle-like character design used in many corporate commercials. It is very easy on the eyes. Character and monster designs are all great as well as easy to make out from one another in the middle of pitched battle. The color palette is equal parts warm and cool, with lots of solid. It’s bright colors that make each dungeon pop and feel distinct from each other.

The main hub area is really vibrant and pleasant looking, which is good because you'll always end up back here.
The main hub area is really vibrant and pleasant looking, which is good because you’ll always end up back here.

Music

The music is very enjoyable as well; providing a nice variety of tracks with varied tones and instruments that all suit their respective scenario; and end up being pretty catchy as well. There’s guitar riffs, drum beats, the sound of squeaking mattresses, and even a few lo-fi tracks to keep you vibing.  It’s the kind of music that’s perfect for a roguelike. Because you’re meant to hear many of the tracks many times on repeated runs of dungeons; and they’re just so catchy and well-made that you won’t get tired of them. I’m listening to the soundtrack now as I write this; it really is that good.

Writing 

Going Under does some truly exceptional things with its writing. I expected the game to be funny. After all, it is a satirical game. Though I cannot say I expected to become as emotionally invested as I did. All the characters have their own desires and arcs, and the narrative takes twists you might not expect.

The game skillfully weaves the theming of the story and setting into the mechanics. It creates a consistent world that lives and breathes with its own logic; not too far from our own. If you’ve ever worked a day in your life – especially if you’re a millennial. You will find something to relate to in Going Under. 

Dang.
Dang.

A Comedy Game With Serious Themes

Going Under may be a comedy game, and it is very funny. But it also managed to wring genuine emotion out of me several times. This game touches on very real topics, albeit lightly in some cases. But still with more conviction than most other games would dare to do. There’s discussion of debt. The ethics of data collection; and even workplace harassment, and all of it is handled with either genuine tact and respect; or comedic irreverence where appropriate.

There are very real themes affecting very relatable people in Going Under, and it doesn’t pull any punches. I found myself with my mouth hanging open more than once when reading through dialogue. Just completely taken aback at how real the subject matter suddenly got; or uncomfortably laughing with a familiar pang of existential dread at how familiar a lot of it felt.

I won’t lie to you. This game almost got me to cry at one point, and it came from a mundane dialogue exchange. There was just something truly touching to me about one of my co-workers who I’ve come to know and respect offering to send Jackie into the dangerous dungeon with a lovingly hand-crafted box lunch. Because she’s been so busy she’s barely been eating.

Honestly, this was so sweet I actually almost teared up.
Honestly, this was so sweet I actually almost teared up. I had become invested in the lives and stories of the Fizzle employees, and the game was using that to strong effect.

If a piece of media is going to make me cry, it really has to work hard to earn it, and I feel that Going Under absolutely earned it. By combining a gameplay mechanic and a narrative element seamlessly together, Aggro Crab managed to illicit real empathy and sadness from me over what is basically a bunch of colorful shapes arranged in a specific order. That takes serious skill.

There are moments like the one I just described sprinkled throughout the experience; on top of the continuous plot, the game has – a rarity for roguelikes at least that I’ve seen – and it elevates the setting and characters to a higher level than mere set- dressing or background elements that you might expect from a similar game.

This turned the Fizzle main area into more than just a hub-world for me. Every time I came back from a dungeon run. Even if I had died before the boss and failed. I was still excited to return and see what new developments were happening in the office among my favorite (and least favorite) co-workers. Whether I was listening to the office financial advisor explain cryptocurrency; feeling a pang in my chest as someone got yelled at by the higher-ups even though they were right; or petting the office wiener dog I always had something interesting come back to.

Small But Polished

Going Under is not a perfect game. I did encounter some minor but noticeable bugs throughout my time with the game. But Aggro Crab has been working diligently to improve any issues brought to their attention since launch. I can mostly excuse minor issues like these for an independent studio’s first title. 

I managed to get 15 plus hours out of my first playthrough of the game; and still with some additional content I’ve yet to complete. Priced at only $20, I would say that Going Under is priced quite reasonably. I’d even say it has a great deal of replay value inherent in it’s roguelike structure. Even if there is less overall content than, say, The Binding of Isaac or Hades.

Not to mention, the game is planned to have to have content updates in the future. Including any entirely new dungeon, new skills, and new items. So any concerns I may have about the length at present won’t be applicable for very long. I suppose I’d like more dialogue in general, because I enjoyed every bit of it that I got. But really, I have no other serious complaints. Going Under is a game that does practically everything well.

It's hard not to love a game that solves the camera clipping into the main character like this. Peekaboo!
It’s hard not to love a game that solves the camera clipping into the main character like this. Peekaboo!

Conclusion

However, you choose to describe it at the end of the day. Going Under is a seriously quality video game with loads of love and personality injected into it. The jokes and hyper-millennial attitude might not be for everyone. But I feel that the quality gameplay. Sincere dialogue and great characters will provide something that may appeal to just about anybody.

It’s a game with great gameplay, great comedy, and great writing, among everything else. I loved my time with it, and with additional content planned for it in the near future. I’ll absolutely be coming back to it. I personally think it’s one of the best games of 2020. I can only hope that it ends up getting the attention it deserves for being as good as it is. And for what it has to say.

Going Under is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch


Greyson is an aspiring author and YouTuber with dozens of consoles and hundreds of gaming hours under his belt. He’s always looking for something new to play, and is always happy to share it with other people. He also likes the Shantae games, like, a lot.

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