Terraria has you plowing through cave networks in search of treasure and danger. Deep Rock Galactic brings the glorious repartee of dwarven mining. Take the pair of those, stir in the wall-bashing exploration of Crypt of the Necrodancer and the slick, top-down combat of The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, and you get Below the Stone, a new roguelike game that’s just launched via Steam Early Access, and is already looking fantastic.
Below the Stone is the debut game from Strollart and is published by Apogee Entertainment, and pulls some of my favorite ideas from many of the best roguelike games to create an experience that’s already caught my eye. With a free Steam demo and a launch discount offer, this delightful pixel-art adventure is all about that classic dwarven trope from the Tolkien days – mining down as deep as you can, and the many dangers (and rewards) that await below.
Each adventure sends you down into dark caves and dungeons, with the depths you’ll encounter procedurally generated so no two runs are the same. With over 25 distinct biomes to explore including “fluorescent fungi fields, magma-marred mazes, and gorged caverns,” each with their own inhabitants and quirks, there’s a whole lot to discover down there.
Using a numbered inventory system that’ll be immediately familiar to Minecraft and Terraria players, you’ll collect all manner of gems, materials, tools, weapons, armor, and even more besides. With a pickaxe in hand, you’re able to break through softer walls à la Crypt of the Necrodancer or Spelunky, smashing your way through to reveal hidden chambers filled with treasure, or new paths altogether.
Of course, the tunnels and caverns are absolutely packed with dangers, meaning you’ll want to come well-equipped. While your initial ‘pickaxe and soup ladle’ combo will do the trick at first, you’ll want to tool up quickly to face the increasingly dangerous nasties in your path. Thankfully, there’s everything from crossbows and shotguns to throwable dynamite to make use of, providing you can get your hands on it.
Each time you want to set out on an expedition, you’ll need to enlist for at least one of the available quests – although you can grab up to three should you choose to do so for additional rewards. You’ll need to complete your objectives before returning, however, so pick them wisely. Once you’ve managed to fulfill your goals out in the field, you can call in your emergency extraction drill, DRG-style – but you’ll need to stay within the landing zone long enough for it to arrive, holding off a final wave of enemies in the meantime.
Between runs, you’ll return to town, where you can chat to and strike deals with a number of delightful folk offering you all the usual services you’d expect. That means weapon upgrades, new gear, helpful items, and even a banker who can store your most valuable resources to ensure you don’t lose them should things go wrong.
Below the Stone is out now on Steam. It’s on launch sale for 10% off until Friday November 24, so expect to pay just $17.99 / £14.39, or $19.99 / £15.99 thereafter. It’s currently in early access, with much more content planned to be added in future updates. If you want to get a feel for it first, you can try it yourself thanks to a free demo – I’d highly recommend doing so, as I was quickly sold upon getting to grips with my first couple of runs.
If you’re after even more fantastic experiences from smaller teams, have a look through the best indie games. Or get some great gaming on the go without spending a single penny, thanks to the best free Steam games you should be playing in 2023.
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