Going Under - unpaid intern vs. Big Tech. A satirical dungeon crawler

I’ve been meaning to start a thread about this for ages and it’s currently 66% off on Steam so now seems as good a time as any!

I might be inclined to say I enjoyed Going Under more than Hades. Hmm. Here’s what I love about it.

The theme isn’t just a wrapper; it spills into pretty much every aspect of the game, from its structure and concepts, to its enemies, weapons and skills (even the ‘Working From Home’ update is a genius marriage of our recent real-life predicament in lockdown and the new in-game scenario and mode). The writing is very sharp and witty, Aggro Crab-stabbing at capitalism, Big Tech, consumerism, corporate culture, automation, exploitative labour and various other related topics, all with some serious flare, creativity, humour and heart. How it balances all that tonally is very impressive. I also thought Atomicrops’ puns and wordplay were good but Going Under’s is delicious at times. I mean, Joblin?!

The gameplay loop isn’t as immediate or addictive as Hades, but that’s fine because, damn, Hades was dangerous. The combat is loose and has more in common with Zelda’s L/Z-targeting and Power Stone’s room-wrecking chaos. Weapons break frequently so you’re constantly having to improvise and grab what you can, thrashing and throwing stuff as you go. It can be absolute carnage, but in the best way.

The big thing for me is the structure and length of Going Under. Each failed tech startup is its own distinctively themed dungeon, with unique enemies, weapons and bosses, and they each take around 30 minutes to complete (unfortunately with no mid-dungeon save feature). As you hit different milestones, the story develops and escalates, new skills get added to the pool, the dungeons and bosses change, all while you’ve got the different mentor objectives to juggle and complete. All these layers keep things interesting and the big finale/showdown is the cherry on top–it’s so good!

It took me about 25 hours to do my first run on Hades and another 25 or so extra to roll the credits. I’d be lying if I said it maintained its momentum throughout that time and your last run isn’t wildly different to your first. Hades was one of my games of the year but I was honestly glad to finally wrap it up.

It took me 25 hours to roll the credits on Going Under (your mileage may vary) and I had such a great time from start to finish. There’s variety and plenty of surprises here so I didn’t burn out. I actually finished wanting more, which is the best feeling to end a game with. There’s an ‘Imposter Mode’ which is a gauntlet of sorts so I’m keen to try that out now. ‘Imposter’ as in ‘imposter syndrome’ and you access it via the mirror in your tiny company flat. There you’ve got to defeat your high-flying alter-ego. It’s a very clever game.

The presentation is impeccable too, skewering the popular ‘Corporate Memphis’ aesthetic perfectly. It’s chunky, bright and bold and the graphic design pops and transitions beautifully. The soundtrack is also fantastic. Check these out:

There’s also a generous demo that’s well worth checking out if you’re unsure! Oh, and one of the failed tech startups in-game ended up becoming a real business:

Appears to be on Game Pass, too!

Oh I forgot about that! I’m even on Game Pass, d’oh!

I really wanted to like this one, but after maybe five frustrating hours on the Switch I didn’t pick it back up again. I’m curious if it was just a bad port, because I have heard great things in general about the game. My primary issue was that the controls felt floaty, which made combat in tight spaces and picking up weapons on-the-fly problematic. If it was just a poor port, then I would give this a shot on another platform in the future, because the first couple of dungeons were charming.

I played it on PC so can’t comment on the Switch version but I suspect that’s just the game. The combat is loose and messy which I know plenty of folk aren’t going to jibe with! It was a big part of the game’s personality and charm for me; it made each room feel like a kind of bar brawl where you’d grab, lob, shoot and swing whatever you could get your hands on.

It’s loose by design as far as I can tell. After sinking a bunch of time into it on Xbox, I would advise:

  • you can use lock-on if you want more precision, but I never had much use for it
  • dodge-rolling is essential. If you don’t have a weapon equipped and roll over one, you will equip it.
  • use weapons with aoe effects (maces, swords, foam fingers, hockey sticks) rather than ones with narrow effects (spears, guns, pickaxes) when dealing with crowds. Also consider keeping your distance and throwing stuff, especially if you have a power-up that enhances their damage, charming enemies and letting them fight for you, or stealing their cars and running over enemies. Just be sure to bail before the car blows up (it starts flashing).
  • spamming works ok, but if you want to win more consistently, you will need to learn attack patterns. That’s the case for the lowest- to highest-level enemies, all of them will be vulnerable at some point.
  • make good use of your mentors, level them up and you can bank apps and use them more often, get one free item from each level’s store, or get wild power-ups not otherwise available.
  • don’t be ashamed to use the assists, you can turn on extra hearts, lower enemy health, longer weapon durability, and a few others I can’t remember. I held out until the mid-point of the game when it gets really hard. Doesn’t affect achievements as far as I can see.

I’ve actually been playing this on and off for the last couple weeks, and just finished it up last night.

I’d say it’s well worth playing, although I can’t be quite as effusive as @geggis. The loose and improvisational bar brawl combat is definitely doing its own thing successfully, but I don’t find it quite as satisfying to play as the kinetic precision of something like Hades or Curse of the Dead Gods. And also compared to those games, I find myself missing the build diversity where one run will feel completely different from the last because of a different weapon and transformative powers and upgrades. Here, weapons and apps (special attacks) are both gone after a short time, and skills (passive abilities) seem less impactful than their equivalents.

All that said, this is probably the funniest game I’ve played in years, and the story went to some really enjoyable places (especially as someone with plenty of time working in the sorts of companies being satirized here). And at 14 hours, it didn’t overstay its welcome, though I could see this being an issue depending on how many times you have to attempt each dungeon.

I love that you basically end up fighting Bezos (with his massive box cutter knife) and eventually Alexa, uniting with the other company’s former employees and storming the automated warehouse. That felt like such a cool finale, very much in the spirit of the game, and taking the bar brawl combat to its logical conclusion. ‘the dark pattern’ tune is so good but I kind of don’t want to link to it in the open because it’s perfect for the final showdown reveal. Really got me fired up.

Oh and I also loved the ‘two’ shopkeepers in Styxcoin.

So I just turned on all the assists and beelined through the first half of the game, and the first dungeon of the second half. I still don’t care much for the combat, which feels laggy and stuttery to me on the Switch. But the writing, the music, the visual design, and overall game structure are really compelling. I might muddle through the remaining dungeons with full assists in the future, but I’m more interested in what this team does next.

Edit: And everything about the Styxcoin shops was pitch perfect.