Have you been craving crazy Roguelike adventures through super dangerous dungeon terrain? How about never being the same person? Don’t even want the pressure of resurrection? Then do we ever have a deal for you! Welcome to Undermine where you are nothing more than a series of peasants being sent to their deaths against crazy monsters and even crazier bosses while the heroes don’t seem to be in the picture. Figures, good help is so hard to find…
Seriously though, good help is hard to find and short of your amazing little canary as you delve into the depths, any help that you want you’re going to have to rescue or do favours for first. Undermine is a top down, interconnected room based Roguelike that has you, a mere peasant with a pickaxe, delving at the whim of a wizard in order to solve all of the problems that are currently plaguing the place. The bigger problem to start off with is that everything is shaking so you already know you’re in for it but first, you have to make it there.
Straight up, this is one of those times where you either “have it” or have to “git gud”. Undermine is tough but as long as you play your cards right it’s not unfair. A lot like Rogue Legacy in some regards, as you are never the same person, you’ll be leveling up the gear that can be taken with you on your spelunking. Upgrading your pickaxe lets you do more damage, upgrading your clothes gives you more health, adding a counter-balance lets you boomerang throw your pickaxe further and sporting a nice pair of leather gloves lets you increase the damage output. For all of these shiny upgrades though, you’ll need gold and in the beginning, and as there’s no way back, you’ll basically be losing half of it and crying about it.
So what’s a peasant to do? Upgrade your gold bag! By doing so you’ll lose less and less on every return which is going to allow you to buy more upgrades. I was a little disappointed that there was no “bank” so Undermine really runs on a use it or lose it philosophy. This can at times be rather unfortunate as you are for example carrying 678 gold pieces yet what you want to buy is 700. Whelp, tough luck, you aren’t getting that upgrade this time. So what’s a peasant to do? Take it with them or try to spend it on little things if you’ve rescued the help for it such as a bomb or a key to start off a run through the mines.
Undermine is brilliant in what it does. Truly. Sure you can’t bank your gold but the progress, or lack thereof that you seem to make, is truly calculated and you only tend to start to notice this several runs in. In your first attempts while making your way to the first mid-boss, things seem, balanced? Slightly easy on the first floor, slightly tougher on the next, but nothing that you cannot handle. Then the midboss. Tough in the beginning until you learn the attack patterns, it’ll be a bit tough, but that’s basically the name of the game. Then you unlock a few things, you go a bit further, maybe make it to the first boss, and then probably die. Well you do if you’re me at any rate.
So what’s the point of the rambling? Each time you start off from the beginning and work your way down, you’ll be collecting gold. Each time you die, you’ll be spending that gold. As you spend that gold and get tougher, so does the dungeon. New mobs start to show up to make even the beginning floors interesting as time moves forward which I really appreciated. More than this though, Undermine doesn’t use your traditional shortcuts as you defeat bosses and make it further and further. Instead, you’ll have to plan some of your upgrades carefully in order to unlock new ways forward which in turn, allow you to skip over the starting zones and get right to where you need to be.
HOWEVER, the beginning floors, the Gold Mines, are where you’ll want to spend several runs there alone just to increase the power of your gear as each new dungeon seriously raises the difficulty and while learning attack patterns is one thing, surviving them is another. You’ll be wanting the health boosts. You’ll be wanting more attack power. And finally, you’ll be wanting new and shiny items from both the blacksmith and the alchemist in order to help you out. These items, unlike everything else, use crystals that need to be handed in and the first times that you do, they are unlocked and from there, available to pick up in the dungeon. Sadly, you can’t just buy one of these to dive back in like “resurrection” or a “damage reduction cream” but you’ll be seeing them again soon enough after a few runs.
From here it’s a lot of rinse, repeat, have fun, die, die again, die again again, try a new boss, die again, beat the boss, get into a new dungeon and then die again. Spend some gold, get tougher, spend some more gold, increase the tools at your disposal, and keep on rinsing and repeating BUT never does it feel unwelcome. Undermine is designed in such a manner that it’s just fun even if you died again and again. Part of that is the Roguelike charm, the other part is that it looks a bit like A Link to the Past and it’s just fun to keep playing. Only helping this is that most runs will net you about 10-25 minutes so you’ll get a few in within an hour and then you notice that you’ve been playing for six hours and should have gone to bed a while ago because you have to be up for work in six hours. Whoops.