Indie games are fast becoming a powerful market that offers differences to AAA titles. This year has seen releases such as Stray and Cult of the Lamb, which are heavily featured in Game of the Year lists already. Undungeon, by creators tinyBuild, is a 2D action/RPG with real-time combat and a very (very) deep science fiction story. Playing as a Herald, the player travels through a range of worlds to reconstruct the shattered Multiverse. Without writing an essay, it is difficult to delve further into the story as I can’t remember doing this much reading in a game – especially an indie title. The narrative and world-building are a passion of the developers, and if you’re interested, there is plenty to absorb. But outside of this, how does the game stack up?
I entered this game with little background outside of a release trailer and some smaller write-ups. The art style is unique and does give off Super Nintendo RPG vibes, such as a Chrono Trigger or Mana game. It’s pleasing to the eye, and each location across the world provides a desolate and pixelated outlook. But the gameplay is where the focus remains, with an extensive range of options in how you combat foes (which include bugs, drifters and any manner of oversized bosses). Claws and throwing stars are the crux (think Wolverine crossed with a Ninja), and the number of items that can be picked up rivals a game such as Elden Ring. The interesting part about all this is that changes to your arsenal are not restricted to weapons and healing – you can replace your inner organs with better ones. Gross? Probably, but again – unique.
The soundtrack is something to behold, giving off ‘gunslinger in the Wild West’ vibes despite the setting. The strum of a guitar as you walk up to a boss is satisfying, especially when you cut it to pieces.
The missions in the game – both side and main – generally see you helping out a stranded local or activating orbs to fix the world and move on to a new location needing your services. Levels are small, but there are so many on a map that it feels so much bigger. This is thanks to the interface and the travel systems that are implemented. It is challenging, no doubt about it. 2D action can be difficult when it comes to aiming your projectiles or slashing in the right direction when the speed of the enemy increases. But once the game has been played for a couple of hours, you’ll feel right at home in your ‘chop and toss’ assault on the beasts of the Multiverse.
If you need a break from one of the many open-world titles of 2022, I recommend grabbing Undungeon and basking in the nostalgia. There is so much to see, do and read (!) and the exploration rewards gamers. Best to bring your reading glasses.
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