The Rogue-lite genre isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The constant feeling of grinding, and the inevitable pain of repetitive death is enough to stop the fun. Yet for its fan base, this brutal gameplay drives them to succeed, and they won’t hear a bad word said about their beloved games. I sit on the fence; I used to hate everything that it stood for, but as I’ve reviewed several games my hatred has dissipated, and I find myself open to trying them out. UnderMine is a tongue in cheek Rogue-lite title that has you controlling a conveyor belt of peasants on a journey beneath the surface.
Developed by Thorium and published by Fandom, this delightfully pixelated adventure game will have you exploring the mines beneath the city. The wizard in charge sends you on a quest to find the city’s blacksmith and discover the source of the earthquakes. It’s a dangerous trip that will guarantee death, yet the wizard cares not. He dismisses your concerns and sends you on your way with only a journal to protect you.
Rogue-lites core concepts make them repetitive.
It’s true that no matter how much you love these games, you know that the core concept is repetitive. Luckily, UnderMine has tried to alleviate this by adding some key temporary and permanent mechanics. Character and weapon upgrades can be found during any trip to the underworld. Unfortunately, these time restricted items will disappear once you reach the surface. These boosts will give you a taste of how powerful you can be, and they adjust how you approach each playthrough. To add to this, you will also visit demons for curses/blessings and encounter stores hidden in the depths. These little twists add enough to the gameplay to keep it feeling fresh, and to make it stand out from its peers.
The permanent additions are the real winners, and not only do they make you; stronger, faster, healthier and more, they give you a focus for each run. The upgrades can only be implemented by the blacksmith in the city. So oddly, death is an aim when you want to improve your character. These improvements make exploring the catacombs much easier, yet because of the random nature of each playthrough, you can never guarantee that you’ll progress any further. Each of these enhancements cost gold, and this is one of the few items that return to the surface with you. A percentage is lost upon awakening, so you will exhale a mighty sigh when you lose all your items.
Familiar weapons and bosses.
I only faced a handful of bosses in my time with this, yet they were all weirdly familiar. This makes me confident enough to state that none of them will surprise you with their style or approach. Boulders will be chucked at you, foes will roll in your direction, and projectiles will bounce off their armour. You may feel that this is unoriginal and dull, but there can only be a few enemy types in this style of game. You must make the most out of the tools at your disposal; throwing your pick, shooting arrows and slicing at the air, all to mine gold and destroy monsters. It was straightforward and helped to keep the gameplay fast-paced and hectic.
As well as killing anything that crosses your path, you are expected to; gather relics, obtain blueprints for crafting, release prisoners, mine for gold, and collect food and potions. Each visit to the underworld is unique, and though death was irritating, its part and parcel of this genre. The well balanced gameplay combined; dungeon crawling, fighting, and treasure hunting. I was amused by the use of a new peasant, each time you died, and this matched the wizard’s attitude that every adventurer is expendable. It was a great bit of dark humour that occasionally popped up in other conversations with NPCs.
It looks like it was made for Nintendo.
The vivid colours and detailed character models look like they belong to a classic Nintendo franchise. The dungeon layouts match the aspirations of many of the early Zelda games, and each monster wouldn’t be amiss in any retro RPG. The bird’s-eye perspective allowed for a great view of the action, and the mini map lets you see where you have been, and what is ahead. The clean cut UI ensures you can concentrate on all the dungeon crawling gameplay. Using earthy tones worked well with the theme, and its nice pixelated style gave it a retro ambience.
The audio did well to support the concept without being overbearing. Minor tones and simple tunes flutter in the background, and they do little to set the pace, but help to create a troubled atmosphere. The sound effects were more obvious, though. The clink of your pick on stone, the thud of foes being felled by your weapon, and the scream of your peasant as you fall to the next level were all great. Fantastic graphics and audio make this stand out from its many peers.
Easy to play with lots of replay value.
The fast-paced nature of the gameplay may put some gamers off, but it really shouldn’t. No matter how far you get on your journey, or how many items you collect, it’s really easy to play. A straightforward controller setup allows you to learn the mechanics in a matter of minutes. My only complaint was a sense of lag between button presses and a response in the game. It doesn’t ruin it, but I was conscious of it at all times.
With its randomly generated maps, upgradable items, and a wide range of monsters, you’ll find plenty to do. The enjoyment of making it further each time you enter the mine outweighed the sense of loss when you died. A large achievement list, and long main story will keep you going for some time. You will need to set aside between 15 and 20 hours to complete the main quests. A further 100 hours will be required to complete it. For a game that is available as part of the Gamepass subscription, this proves great value for money.
Slowly being converted to rogue-likes.
If all rogue-like titles were like UnderMine, I would be an avid fan. Yes, it still has all the annoyances associated with the genre, but these are forgotten because of the light-hearted gameplay. The RPG elements with the upgradable equipment, the variety of enemies, and the curses and blessings make each playthrough different. Lovers of this genre, will either already have this, or have considered trying it. If you normally give these a miss, I recommend giving this a go. If you don’t have Gamepass, you can buy a copy here! Can you solve the mystery behind the earthquakes beneath the city? Grab your pick and venture into the deep. If you die, don’t worry as there are peasants lining up to take your place.