Internships are a popular job for many recent college graduates living in big cities. It’s an unpaid position, but there is a possibility of becoming a paid employee within the company once the internship ends. Before that happens though, interns must endure months of mind-numbingly menial tasks that have little to do with what the individual dreams of doing for a living. In Going Under, the protagonist finds herself in this position, though her situation is particularly strenuous even for an intern.
Jackie has dreams of being in marketing for a big company, so when an intern position in marketing opens up at a company called Fizzle, she jumps at the chance. Fizzle is a beverage start-up that touts its drinks as being nourishing enough to replace all meals throughout the day. It has recently been bought-out by the tech giant Cubicle, who owns many other start-up companies. Upon reporting for work at Fizzle HQ in the Cubicle high-rise building downtown, her boss informs her that monsters from the floors below them have been encroaching onto their floor as of late and it’s her job to eradicate them. This is certainly not what Jackie signed up for.
Going Under is not afraid to poke fun at the large tech companies that currently dominate our society. Its depiction of Cubicle as an entity that doesn’t really care much about its customers or its employees may be all too real for you if you have experience as an intern. Jackie has to deal with a lot of apathy and awful bosses over the course of the game’s plot, but watching her become more self-confident as things start to turn south is entertaining to watch. It’s interesting to see how the monsters in the game are employees of failed start-ups, perhaps implying that the industry changes people for the worse, either because of ambition or the cruel whims of the corporate structure that oversees them. Overall, the story takes a while to kick in, but it really comes together in the later parts of the game. There is a message to be taken from the plot, and it becomes quite clear by the game’s conclusion.
The gameplay of Going Under is best categorized as roguelite. You battle through multi-floor dungeons that feature several types of randomized rooms and enemies. Items along the way bestow different benefits, and there is a wide array of weapons you can use to fight the enemies you find. Altogether there are three dungeons you can explore in the game, but each one is themed differently in every way. What makes this game different than other games of this genre is that you can use almost everything in the environment as a weapon. Unarmed in the face of violent goblin? Grab a monitor from a nearby desk or chuck a potted plant at it. Gameplay stays fun because of this feature, as you are never without options in battle.
The frenetic nature of the combat unfortunately gives way to some technical issues. Weapons have a habit of disappearing through walls when thrown near them. Audio and graphics stutter when a lot of enemies and attacks collide. Sometimes even enemies get stuck in walls. This lack of polish detracts from what is otherwise a really fun dungeon-crawling experience. Hopefully, these are easy fixes and will be addressed in the future.
The dungeons you’ll run through all contain an assortment of weapons. Many are common household objects like chairs or pillows, but you can also find actual weapons like spears. In Going Under, objects you use for combat have a certain amount of durability, which varies depending on the weapon. Luckily, there are many to pick up and throw or swing around to never make it an issue. Every weapon also has a certain attack power and speed, affecting the amount of damage you can do with it over time. You can carry three weapons at a time, giving you options to cycle between them while fighting. Random attributes may also be included in objects you find, allowing them to be more damaging or to home in on enemies once thrown. The sheer variety of weapons in the game is fantastic, mixing strong weapons and furniture with humorous objects like body pillows.
Many enemies appear in the dungeons of Going Under. Every dungeon has a unique set of enemies. For example, the first dungeon features goblins. Enemy types also vary, with some coming in close to bash you with melee weapons, and others keeping their distance while throwing projectiles. There are even some that attempt to run you over with vehicles, a few of which you can then commandeer yourself. Upon defeat, enemies drop money you can use to buy items in shop rooms. Every enemy has unique attacks and behaviors, keeping combat fresh and exciting. Having completely different foes to battle in each dungeon is also a nice bit of theming.
Once you’ve cleared all of the floors in a dungeon, you’ll have to engage the boss in a battle. These are expectedly tougher to win than normal enemy encounters. Bosses have much more health than regular enemies, displaying a large health bar during the fight to display how far away you are from victory. Memorizing their attack patterns is important if you want to be victorious. Defeating the boss clears that dungeon, awarding you cubits to spend in the company store on skills (extremely useful if you want to unlock some of the game’s better skills). After your first victory against a boss, you also receive a powerful relic item that gives permanent stat boosts.
The early bosses in Going Under are not particularly dangerous if you find good skills in that particular dungeon run, but their difficulty ramps up later in the game. Even so, you may find that certain normal enemy encounters pose more of a threat because of the sheer amount of enemies to contend with. Rooms are procedurally-generated every time, so you may have a much more difficult time reaching a boss rather than fighting it if you come across a troublesome combination of enemies.
Cubicle has a long, rocky history of hopeful start-ups crashing and burning for one reason or another. You see this firsthand in Going Under‘s dungeons, which are each located on the basement levels of the Cubicle office building. These lower floors house the offices of start-ups that went bankrupt. There are three dungeons in the game, featuring their own music, enemies, weapons, and decor. The dungeons are loaded with personality and tones unique to those areas. An example of this is a dungeon modeled after a dating app that has suggestive scenery, devil enemies, and a saucy music track. Every aspect of each dungeon combines to make a great experience venturing through it, which is helpful in a game where repeated dungeon runs are required.
Each dungeon contains several floors, with a connected network of rooms making up each floor. Each floor consists of different room types. Item rooms allow you to use the cash dropped from enemies for health items, weapons, and skill items. Curse rooms give you the option of taking on a detrimental effect (e.g. dropping your weapon whenever you roll for the next five fights) in exchange for a few items. Skill rooms give you the choice of picking one skill item out of two offered, making or breaking your run depending on what you choose. Event rooms have different purposes depending on the dungeon, but all entail completing some kind of task and awarding you with items depending on your performance. At the end of the dungeon, you will find a boss room as well. The amount of room types isn’t as crazy as other roguelite games, but there are still enough to give you the variety needed to keep wanting to tackle dungeons.
Skills & Apps
Various skill items exist in Going Under that give you advantages in your dungeon runs, such as faster movement speed. Some even change your appearance, a common feature you can find in many other titles of this genre. Obtaining these skills in a run will increase its endorsement percentage. After reaching 100%, that skill can be chosen as your pinned skill, an ability you’re able to start every run with. More skills can be unlocked in the company store located in the Fizzle HQ hub area. Skills here can be purchased with the cubits you receive from successful dungeon runs, which adds them to the item pool of skills you can find in shop and skill rooms. These particular skills tend to be the best in the game, so doing many dungeon runs to obtain cubits is recommended.
Apps can sometimes be found after completing a room. These are one-time use abilities that help in combat. They are all based on popular real world apps. As an example, there is one based on Tendr that drops flirty emoji text box projectiles onto enemies. Apps add another element of strategy and depth to combat, and are a great addition to the game.
Mentors & Tasks
Jackie’s coworkers all want to help her in different ways, so each offers to act as her mentor. What this means for her dungeon adventuring is that setting each of them as her mentor gives you different benefits on your run. Most of these positive effects are unlocked as you complete tasks they give you. These tasks are challenges to be completed while on runs, like beating a floor without taking damage. Each mentor has a different set of perks for being set as Jackie’s mentor, often focusing on one particular aspect of gameplay. You are encouraged to experiment with each mentor, as their perks suit different playstyles.
Any time you start your game in Going Under, you’re given the opportunity to turn on Assist Mode. This menu gives a few options aimed at making the game experience more comfortable. This includes choices such as giving you more health or making your weapons slightly more durable. These settings are optional, and you may not even need or want them, but their inclusion is always a welcomed sight. There are many types of gamers, and not everyone will enjoy the game’s level of difficulty, even if it’s similar to that of other roguelite titles.
Going Under has a quirky, colorful art style. The characters all have interesting round shapes in their design, with long appendages and distinguishing features. There is also character art used while having conversations with them, which utilizes a different art style. Dialogue boxes are modeled after text message bubbles, which is a nice way of tying in to the tech theme of the game. The environments found in dungeons are also themed beautifully, using vastly different color palettes and lighting between dungeons. The art really makes the game stand out and allows you to easily be drawn into game world.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING
You will hear the songs of Going Under quite often over the course of your adventures into dungeons. Luckily, the music played in every part of the game is exceptional. The item shop music has a chill vibe, the central Fizzle HQ hub has a simple optimistic beat, and the dungeons all feature great tunes to beat up enemies to. All of the songs fit their locales extremely well. There are even variations of the songs that play a bit later in the game that take the already-complex tracks and mix them into versions that some will find even better, depending on musical taste.
While there is no voice acting in the game, vocal effect do play during dialogue. This might remind you of similar features in Animal Crossing or Banjo-Kazooie. Every person you talk to has their own style of vocal sounds that play while talking to them, with each fitting the personality of the character.
Once you’ve beaten the game, you will be able to load your game prior to the events of the finale. You may choose to keep completing mentor tasks you weren’t able to complete during your initial playthrough. You can also pick up different skills in your dungeon runs in order to endorse them. Amassing more cubits will also allow you to buy any skills you weren’t able to purchase the first time around. None of these activities yield any special effects once fully achieved, but the random nature of dungeons means that continuing to play the game solely for the sake having some fun isn’t an outlandish thought.
There is no shortage of roguelite games lately, but Going Under does a great job of standing out in a crowded field. The visual style is appealing and unique, and the soundtrack is fantastic. The roguelite elements are enjoyable and not too punishing, making it one of the more accessible games in the genre. The plot is very timely, addressing concerns regarding society’s relationship with technology. Some may not like that there are only three dungeons, even if they are each vastly different from one another. You might also be used to more complex and punishing experiences with games of this type than Going Under can offer. The minor glitches mentioned can also put a damper on your time with the game. However, none of these issues take away from the fact that the game does so many things right. In a genre where it seems like everything has already been done, Going Under blazes its own path by tackling the dungeons of modern society.
Final Rating: 8/10.