Below the Stone is a roguelike dungeon crawler developed by Stollart and published by Apogee Entertainment. The game will release on Steam early access on November 17 and is super addictive with a one-more-run feel. The pixel art style and fun yet challenging gameplay loop surprised me with its depth where you need to dig and explore caves to collect ore and food, completing quests and making an escape before being overrun by monsters.
You play as a dwarf who is tasked with mining for resources in procedurally generated deep, dark caves. You will need to use your pickaxe, a melee weapon, and other tools like dynamite to break through rocks, fight off enemies, and find your way through dungeons looking for treasures and ores. Each run is very different from the last with over 25 unique biomes to explore, and each run gets more difficult as you slowly craft better weapons and armour at the blacksmith. There are a heap of mushrooms and green gloweed which we can consume and it will illuminate the cave better than a standard torch for two minutes. Later you can kill purple mushroom-type monsters to loot luminous fungus which gives 10 minutes of light.
We start each dungeon run in Below the Stone with a basic pickaxe and a soup ladle as a weapon. During my first dungeon run I was able to mine coal, copper and tin ores. As you dig through the darkness, you will see sparkles of light ahead. By digging towards them you will come across more ores to collect. You also need to be careful because if you dig too much in one area, you could cause a collapse and chunks of rock and ore will rain down. You can try dodge them but they hit hard and could kill you if you’re low on health. As you get to clearings, be cautious because monsters will be waiting for you.
Quests from the home base are the primary means of earning gold. You can select up to three quests for each run and you cannot return from a run until you have completed at least one of the quests. For my first two I chose to slay 5 small green slimes and 8 medium slimes. It took me a while as they were so spread out but I finally killed 5 small green slimes. I hadn’t seen any medium slimes so decided to call the escape pod.
Activating this shows you a location where the pod will arrive, however it creates so much noise that it attracts all types of monsters you may or may not yet have encountered in your dungeon. I had spent almost 45 minutes in this particular dungeon and had only seen about four monster types. Well, I finally found some medium green slimes, and a heap of other monsters I hadn’t seen before. Strafing and swinging your weapon and running away to heal as I watched the percentage meter slowly rise can get intense, especially if you’ve got a truckload of loot. Just as I was feeling overwhelmed, the escape pod arrived and off I went to save all of my glorious loot.
Back in the safety of town, I was able to craft a copper pickaxe and some tin armour, and you can store all of your items in the bank vault because if you die on a run, you lose everything you were carrying. You start with a simple vault that has 9 slots and you can use gold coins to add more space to the vault. There is also a vendor to craft potions as well as a goblin who sells items for gold, and the items he offers will differ after each time you return from a run. Often it’s more economical to just craft items, but sometimes the goblin may have better food or items that could give you an edge for your next run.
With each descent in Below the Stone, you can decide whether or not you are prepared to go deeper in your journey. Each layer’s entrance will be held within a dungeon as a final challenge to see if you are capable and prepared enough to descend further. Once you go down, you will face new biomes, creatures, resources, and environments to explore. There is a constant flow of new shiny things to discover, more ores to loot which can be crafted into ingots and better weapons/armour. The allure of just one-more-run is heavy here as the gameplay is simple yet challenging, and a lot of fun.
Below the Stone has been a great early access experience so far with no bugs and its exciting finding new things on each successive run. There is risk versus reward as you push deeper in search of better treasures and resources, but if you die you could lose it all. This is a fun and challenging roguelike dungeon crawler with fantastic pixel art graphics and a deep gameplay loop. I highly recommend having a look at this game if you’re a fan of roguelikes and dungeon crawlers.
This early access review utilised a key provided by Stride PR and Below the Stone will launch on November 17 on Steam early access.