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The Land Beneath Us Review

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If there’s one thing I hate in gaming, it’s dying and having to either replay a portion or start again from scratch. Yet for some reason I’m regularly drawn to the roguelites and roguelikes of this world, with that small morsel of hope that new unlocks will see me through on the next attempt, only to die about two steps further ahead than the previous effort. Still, it can be bloody good fun when done right.

So upon hearing there’s a new turn-based, roguelite, action-packed dungeon crawler on the market, my interest was piqued. It’s The Land Beneath Us from developers FairPlay Studios, whose last title on the Xbox came in the form of the rather mediocre Fallen Knight. Could The Land Beneath Us behold something great to dive into, or will it be a grim and uninspiring affair?

The Land Beneath Us review 1
An interesting take on the genre

Get your ass up! Those are the words of a talking PC on the fritz and in need of help from the Ultimate Soul Harvester (U.S.H.) 001. Its Creator has gone missing and the U.S.H. (soon renamed as Sven) must travel through Annwn, the Underworld, in search of answers. A mystery awaits in the depths of Annwn, where you can expect to meet numerous foes hellbent on prematurely ending Sven’s journey. He has to try and overcome them using the power of Soul-Technology. 

Often, games of this ilk suffer on the narrative front, but surprisingly, The Land Beneath Us fairs well. It’s interesting as it explores various aspects of Welsh mythology in both the location and character departments. While I’m not well-versed in the mythological lore, I can appreciate the idea and it’s cool that there appears to be inspiration taken from Irish myths too. That alone doesn’t make an enjoyable tale, but a dash of humour sprinkled into conversations helps take it all in. 

Gameplay-wise, it’s a case of delving into a world and clearing each floor until you reach the boss residing there. Once the enemies are defeated, gates open for the next floor with symbols denoting what kind of reward it offers, such as weapons, relics, and gold. As a rule of thumb, every tenth floor is a mini-boss, with the thirtieth being the real deal. Some floors have enemies, while others may feature rewards to collect and merchants to spend gold at. Upon completion, or failure, you’ll return to the main hub with any Souls garnered. But before getting into the purpose of Souls, let’s switch focus to the combat.

Every floor in The Land Beneath Us is split into tiles, and every move you make will instantaneously see the enemies around you take a turn. You’ll be able to equip up to four weapons, with each assigned to a direction – up, down, left, and right. To attack an enemy, you press towards it and the corresponding weapon is used. It sounds simple, but I found it quite clever as it forces you to think ahead and plan moves to position Sven effectively. Everything is thoroughly explained through tutorials as well, with demonstrations ensuring it all sinks in.

The weapons consist of pistols, swords, hammers, spears, and more, with some bringing special bonuses to the table. Killing an enemy might provide healing benefits, deal extra damage or inflict pain upon anyone within a certain distance. There are also relics to take into account that definitely aid your chances of survival; relics which could increase the dodging ability, accrue more Souls for your efforts, get critical damage boosts, and lower the price of chests. Despite a limited availability at the beginning, the number of weapons and relics soon grows as you achieve objectives as this usually adds new ones into the potential pool of loot. Experimenting with different combinations is great and, if luck goes your way, certain setups turn Sven into an absolute tank.

The Land Beneath Us review 2
Which weapons will you be using?

To keep the fun going, progression will unearth fresh and increasingly difficult enemies. The Land Beneath Us eases you in with pitiful slugs, slimes, and skeletons, before drafting in mages, poisonous spiders, and fiery hounds. The minor bosses are no pushovers, however it’s the big bad bosses that require extra attention as you take note of their arsenal of attacks and hope to avoid a slaughtering. It’s tough, but there are things to help improve your odds of success.

The ability to teleport to another tile is one such skill, while the introduction of chips is another extremely useful addition. These chips activate whenever you repeat the directional pattern during your movement, which provides healing, fireballs and other neat skills. That’s not all either, because the Souls you earn can be spent on increasing the starting health, the number of equipable relics, gold earnings, and even the teleport range. The upgrades purchased via Souls are the only permanent aspects that carry over from run to run, which is fine. There’s just enough on offer to give you that belief that next time you’ll do it. 

Unfortunately, the urge to just jump into The Land Beneath Us for a go here and there is slightly curtailed by the omission of a fairly important feature – the ability to save during a run. There’s nothing worse than starting a run, only to be lacking the time to finish it and having to forfeit the progress in that area. The opportunity to save at will on any floor would be such a simple, yet hugely beneficial, addition. 

Another slight annoyance is in regards to the instant exit to the next floor upon standing on a gate, especially when done accidentally. It could be from a knockback or the over sensitive movement stick, but either way a little confirmation screen would help so you don’t end up leaving any loot behind. Furthermore, the sensitivity when moving and attacking can quite often lead to the actions being performed twice, which has played a part in a fair few failed ventures.

The Land Beneath Us review 3
You’ll keep crawling back to The Land Beneath Us

The biggest compliment to give The Land Beneath Us is that even after suffering multiple deaths, you’ll instantly come crawling back for more. It’s not just the mildly amusing narrative or the raft of enemies and bosses that are alluring, but also the variety of upgrades, weapons and relics to get your hands on. The clever, directional-based, combat system plays a major role in increasing the fun factor too. Sadly, a handful irritations do affect the enjoyment somewhat.

There’s certainly a very good dungeon crawling experience to be had in The Land Beneath Us, so pick it up and delve into the Underworld the next chance you get!

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Clever turn-based combat system
  • Interesting and mildly amusing story
  • Variety of weapons and relics
  • Cool bosses
Cons:
  • Can’t save during a run
  • Oversensitive movement
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Dear Villagers
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 13 May 2024 | £12.49
James Birks
James Birks
Been gaming casually since the SNES as a youngster but found my true passion for games on the Playstation 1 (the forbidden word ooo). My addiction grew to its pinnacle with the purchase of an Xbox 360 & Xbox Live Service. A recovering GS hunter that will still play literally any game.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Clever turn-based combat system</li> <li>Interesting and mildly amusing story</li> <li>Variety of weapons and relics</li> <li>Cool bosses</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Can’t save during a run</li> <li>Oversensitive movement</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Dear Villagers</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 13 May 2024 | £12.49</li> </ul>The Land Beneath Us Review
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