David is a proudly queer performing artist and software developer. He spends most of his downtime with a controller in his hands and a lazy beagle on his lap.
Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch,
September 24, 2020
Congratulations! You’ve landed a coveted internship with Fizzle, where our products are not just a product – they’re a lifestyle. We’re so amped to welcome you into our Fizzle family and we can’t wait for you to get stuck into your… *reads scribbled note on hand* …marketing internship. But first, we’ll just get you going under the office to clear the basement of monsters. You can handle that, right? What a go-getter!
Going Under is a satirical rogue-lite dungeon crawler from new development team Aggro Crab. It’s colourful, it’s sarcastic, and it’s full of action-packed combat that encourages improvisation and experimentation. With minute-to-minute gameplay that could have you whacking a blob of hypersexualised goo with a potted cactus one minute and running a minecart through a bunch of skeletons the next, Going Under is one wild ride.
You begin Going Under at the very bottom of the business ladder. As new intern Jackie, you arrive at Fizzle and are immediately tasked with the most entry-level of tasks: scouring the decayed offices of failed tech startups and defeating their monstrous inhabitants. Without any sort of budget for your task, you must make use of whatever you can find around the office. This translates into an incredibly satisfying Breath of the Wild-style combat system, where you’ll be constantly replacing your weapons as they break. Playing around with different combat styles depending on what appears during a given run is great fun.
You can weaponize anything – computer monitors, tablet styluses, or even the anime body pillows you find in the ruins of a disastrous dating app startup. The combat itself is fast and fluid. It’s supported by a robust physics system and supplemented by numerous on-brand unlockable abilities. You find skills that you can eventually “endorse” in order to equip them at will, and you can complete quests for your coworkers to gain their “mentor” bonuses. I particularly enjoyed finding “apps”, which are limited use abilities with diverse effects: a coupon app will give you a temporary discount in dungeon shops, while a camera app will flash to stun enemies.
I should disclose that I’m currently researching digital business transformation as part of my studies, so the liberal use of nonsensical ‘agile’ jargon in Going Under’s corporate hellscape stabbed me in my core and twisted the knife. Scenes in between dungeon-crawling sessions have the entire floor of workers gathering for mandatory standup meetings where the relentlessly positive Project Manager adds to their workload, crushes their dreams, and makes them chant corporate slogans. The story unfolds gradually between runs and lets you get to know Jackie’s long-suffering coworkers.
Dungeons themselves are all based on failed startups, such as a temp service (where the workers are now monsters called “Joblins”) and a literal cryptocurrency (a crypt where skeletal workers mine for “Styxcoin”). It’s delightful, painful satire, and the way poor Jackie just puts up with it all while hoping for her marketing internship to finally begin is all too real. Going Under comes from a universe of innovative lunacy. Aggro Crab’s founders state that the title is “inspired by their college years living in a madhouse of startup bros” and this influence is skin-crawlingly omnipresent. I love hating it. It’s all presented in a colourful and simplistic artstyle that mimics the slick minimalism of modern tech design, with lashings of cartoonish charm.
Difficulty-wise, Going Under is challenging but accessible. There’s enough randomness in dungeon layouts to keep each run fresh, while weapon and item availability is scattered enough to ensure you won’t need to resort to your fists. As someone who is Bad At Games, I would have appreciated a few more opportunities to restore lost health – however, there are a few accessibility options available that make things a bit easier, such as reducing enemy health. As it stands, it pays to master dodge-rolling, make heavy use of your consumable abilities, and ingrain enemy attack patterns into your muscle memory.
The run-driven gameplay loop of delving through procedurally-generated dungeons has obviously been done before, but Going Under brings enough twists on the formula to keep you coming back for more. It’s just so damn satisfying to hurl office chairs and club things to death with keyboards. It did, however, get repetitive when playing for longer stretches – these runs are best suited to short bursts to keep the weapons and locales fresh. The amount of permanent unlockables to work towards is also tuned nicely enough for dedicated collectors. It would have been nice to see more than three types of “dungeon”, though what is on offer is detailed and memorable.
Going Under takes some of the most frustrating trappings of late capitalism and turns them into literal dungeons. It’s a funny, acid-spirited take on the organisational failures of tech startup culture that doesn’t pull its punches. Between whacking baddies with a giant stapler and trading useless cryptocoins for powerups, there’s rarely a dull moment on the floors of these office hellscapes. While playing for long periods exposes some of Going Under’s repetitive elements, there’s more than enough fun here to recommend this action-packed rogue-lite to any dungeon-crawler fan with a LinkedIn profile.