Right now roguelike games are at an all-time high, due to how versatile they are. Streamers enjoy the dynamic elements and viewers like that every run feels different. They also create a lot of interesting situations, some created by enemy arrangement and others weapon load-outs, that make for a fascinating experience. Sometimes things are hard, other times easy, though the importance of luck hinges on the ability to actually play. UnderMine hopes to join Enter the Gungeon and Dead Cells by doing similar things, though is it enough to be a staple or is it lackluster title that can’t stand on its own.
UnderMine doesn’t have much of a story, though it makes the most of a select handful of situations. The core story is Arkanos has tasked countless peasants to enter the mines to defeat bosses and obtain tokens to open a gate. Through progression, other NPCs and characters will add their own elements to the world or portion to the story, like Lillyth suggests there is more to Arkanos, but their contributions are limited. Arguably the most amusing part of the journey isn’t the story, as much as NPC regarding the player character as interchangeable and disposable. This togue-in-cheek interaction will likely cause a snicker and some slight amusement beyond an otherwise straightforward adventure, a trait that also appears during gameplay sections.
A brief tutorial really explains all there is to know about UnderMine. There is a swinging attack, throwing attack, jump, and bomb. Sadly, the lack of dodge stands out initially, though jump functions in a similar way. As players progress, relics, blessings, and curses will change how things progress, with various, unlocks changing things on later runs. These include, but are not limited to, new weapons, potions, bigger shops, benefits at the start, more options, fast travel, and more.
Where UnderMine differs from similar games is the most relics impact stats or modify abilities, over vastly changing the game. For example, Dead Cells has bombs, turrets, bows, heavy weapons, and light weapons, all of which come into play at different points or impact specific situations. UnderMine has countless modifiers, except the four or five basic elements hardly change.
Most relics either boost stats, give a distinct perk like the ability to walk on spikes, slightly change existing mechanics like adding lightning to throwing the pickaxe, or influence play style like fork shoots three pickaxes instead of one. More often than not, relics offer questionable value and in some cases, even good perks can kill you.
Unlike most games in this genre, UnderMine seems absolutely petrified of giving someone too much power, though has no issue destroying what little power you have through curses. Something like Key Blade might award players two points of damage per key, a rather modest offering given swing damage upgrades go to 75 and 55 for a throw, with the added disadvantage of anything that uses a key takes away from what little power you gain. Oftentimes stores and relics require a key, making the opportunity cost rather high unless this is a run that gives a large number of keys. On the flip side, there are curses like Bloodied Lock, which changes the cost of unlocking from keys to 50 or more health, with the max default health being 500. So, one relic increases damage by 2.67 percent and the curse takes away at least 10 percent of base health.
This isn’t to say there aren’t good relics or lackluster curses, it just stands out that there are items that heal a single point whenever you heal and other curses make it so jumping does multiple points of damage to the player. The most useful relics were often things that made dying harder, such as wayland’s boots, they break spikes when stepping on them, simply because they make certain enemies’ attacks useless and allow players more movement options.
Where UnderMine makes the most questionable choices in room arrangements. Sometimes, especially after finishing the adventure once, rooms are set up in a way that is rather cheap. This ranges from extremely small space, enemies with attacks that take up a large portion of it, multiple teleporting foes, and more, each with attacks that do fairly substantial damage and lackluster options in terms of healing.
Despite all of this, UnderMine is a fun game because the fundamental elements are present. No matter how negative things get, smart tactics and resourcefulness will determine whether you’re successful or not. Sometimes the chaos can make things far more fun, as the amount of skill needed to dodge five to 10 different mechanics makes a big difference. There are also untold amounts of enhancements to make things more difficult. These include constant negative modifiers, beating the adventure will increase the overall difficulty, and even a separate mode that has all kinds of dynamic elements.
UnderMine Review – Verdict
Enjoying UnderMine hinges on what you find important in a roguelike. There are tons of items to unlock, deeper mechanics like some items fuse for different or better perks, there are a lot of secrets and it’s all set up so skill means more than luck. It just doesn’t have that sensation that this is going to be a good or bad run that makes similar titles exciting. Instead, UnderMine has a distinct set of rules, and players are expected to see just how far their skill can take them. It’s fun, especially as a fan of the genre, though it absolutely isn’t for everyone.
[Editor’s Note: UnderMine was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]