Swords and Sorcery – Underworld is a Role-playing game experienced from the first person perspective. Players create parties of six members of various races and classes who embark on an adventure to save the world and engage in turn-based combat whilst exploring the world using a square grid 3D environment. Underworld is an indie-throwback to the 1980’s dungeon crawler genre, players who have experienced Legend of Grimrock, Dungeon Master or Dragon Slayer will recognize the resemblance and unique take this game has on the genre.
The definitive edition of Underworld was released on steam in December of 2015, both published and developed by OlderBytes.
The adventure begins with several nicely illustrated pieces of art that depict the world in peace. People lived in prosperity as the world was free from evil. One day, the unnatural creatures of evil united in hordes to take over the world. Leaving one last bastion of hope where the adventure would begin and where the player would begin the game.
Underworld is a RPG game which has only one game mode; in this adventure mode the player progresses through the game to fight monsters, gain gold and learn new abilities. The gameplay for Underworld is strategic and tactical. At any time during the game players can change party members and classes to their needs with the six classes: knight, paladin, sorcerer, priest, archer and rogue; each offering a distinct tactical advantage. For example, the priest can keep the party alive while the sorcerer and archer can fight from range with accuracy. Out of combat the rogue can pick locks that can expand the story and allow the player to explore areas which would not have been possible otherwise. The gameplay is not only enjoyable, but shows a level of game design and thought that was focused on the experience of challenging players through a risk and reward quota. The combat is managed through distance and time management. Characters can dodge, evade and enter melee range as well as the group leader ordering the advance to put the pressure against the monsters. With the classic ’80s RPG dependent on both skill and strategy, the difficulty of the game is fair but harsh. It is because of the difficulty players will feel rewarded from their achievements and notice the development of their party as the game progresses. From the difficulty, Underworld emphasizes strategic decision, party/time management and implements good game play by challenging players.
That said in mind, one of the issues with the gameplay was the lack of direction and support offered. While it offers an in-game tutorial, it is not user-friendly to newer players of the genre and the vast amounts of scrolling text does little to impact or illustrate the huge context of options it offers. Another issue was with the quests; the game does not have a definitive quest line or support for players to follow. However, it does emphasize exploration and although the tutorial was unhelpful, an hour or two into the game and players will be adjusted to the gameplay.
The graphics of the game offers over 100 illustrated enemies, 40 full screen story illustrations and many colourful spells and character portraits. In comparison to other games of the genre it falls short with the in-game grid exploration that looks sub-par in comparison to the colourful and creative illustrations the game uses for stories and enemies. The adjustment between combat and in-game exploration shows a difference of 1980’s level design and contemporary illustrations that rather than complement one another often conflict in terms of quality. However, if the developers were looking for nostalgic and classic level design from years ago, it was certainly effective and reminiscent of that. Underworld is a visually beautiful game with such dynamic fantasy illustrations and monster designs that look fierce and fit the aesthetic of an adventure game.
Lastly, the game uses basic ASDW controls and mouse navigation for players to progress. Underworld offers tens of hours of replayability from the huge amount of content, strategy and levels it offers to players. This RPG game shows a perfect example of how the genre can offer tens of hours of content to players by using effective game design and complex strategies to give players a variety of decisions and approaches to combat/exploration scenarios.
In conclusion, Underworld is an RPG that offers classic 1980’s grid-based RPG influences and modern comic illustrations to provide a colourful and adventurous experience. Players who enjoyed the older grid-based adventure game will enjoy it for the strategy, environments and replayability. However, those who are new to the genre will find the graphics confusing, the tactics/strategy too complicated, and lack of user friendliness unhelpful as the tutorial ineffectively explains all the game with a series of text boxes
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