Review: It Lurks Below

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Review copy provided by developer

The 2D survival genre is in kind of a weird place, because its originator is such a tough act to follow. Terraria launched as a very solid experience and then only grew more robust with each update, adding more loot to find and blocks to build with. Honestly none of the games that have come after it have quite matched its overall quality, but some have drilled down harder on parts of its design. That’s where you’ll find It Lurks Below, a more action- and goal-oriented experience than Terraria with some details one would expect from the architect of the classic Diablo games.

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As the name so unsubtly implies, a great evil lurks below your placid land and threatens its very existence. Horrific fields of teeth and eyes sprout from the ground, spawning ravenous beasts that destroy all they encounter. Luckily you’re just the kind of hero to stop them, the kind with a weapon in one hand and a pickaxe in the other. Your goal is to wipe out the evil and its minions but you’ll need to dig to get to them, and you’ll need to build all sorts of accommodations and utilities to support that endeavor. You’ll need to gather wood, plant crops, forge gear, brew potions, and much more just to have a fighting chance as you descend into increasingly nightmarish realms.

For anyone familiar with Terraria this is going to look extremely familiar, between the mouse and keyboard movement and combat, mining away blocks for resources and building materials, and delving into dungeons. But everything is more purposeful here, and you’ll see that right from the start. Your progress is mainly quest-based, with the early tasks educating you on the rules of the world before giving you a progression of bosses to beat as you delve deeper. You’re certainly welcome to spelunk freely in search of gold and treasure but defeating bosses is key to progressing both the story and your own development with the crafting plans they drop.

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Your non-combat capabilities are just as important, as this game takes the survival moniker seriously. In addition to your health and magic, you have hunger and fatigue to keep track of. You need to eat and sleep regularly, and while there are potions and scrolls that can abate those needs for a time you won’t get very far without a farm and a bed. Farming in particular is key to success, with seeds found on foes and then grown across the game’s seasons. Each seed will only grow in a certain season and none grow in winter, requiring some foresight on your part. They’ll need to be protected from invasions too, along with the crafting stations and full residences for shopkeepers and bankers you’ll erect to keep current on your adventuring gear.

What really sets apart It Lurks Below though are the ARPG elements brought to the table. Your character levels up in two separate ways, a standard RPG progression with attribute points to invest and a survival skill tree where you can unlock new tools, recipes, and conveniences like larger item stacks. You’ll also find randomized weapons and crystals in the dungeons of varying rarities and traits, hearkening back to Diablo loot. This provides a much-needed impetus to keep exploring and crushing common monsters, since there’s not a whole lot of variety to your foes or combat.

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The end result is an adventure that’ll last you at least a dozen hours, descending further and further and finding cooler and cooler gear to battle the monsters you find. Your starting shelter expands into a full-blown village for adventurers, and while building is definitely not a priority here you do have the tools to get creative and build a tower or castle or what have you. It looks and sounds solid too, with the chunky pixel graphics never getting in the way of understanding your surroundings. This one is still early on in development but what’s here already can keep you busy for a long time, between the different classes and the random events the developer likes to toss in. It’s a very solid start for a more directed survival game, and if development proceeds as it has then this could be a new cornerstone of the genre.

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