A Long Way Down by Seenapsis Studio
RPGs and deck-building are like peanut butter and chocolate: two great tastes that taste great together. We’ve already seen this combination work to great effect with games like Hand of Fate 2, Slay the Spire, and Guild of Dungeoneering, to name just a few.
Now, a new challenger has entered the ring, and while it’s a little rough around the edges, A Long Way Down might just have what it takes to take on the big boys.
Look Out Below!
A Long Way Down casts you as a dead soul named Sam exploring the afterlife. Guided by a shaman performing funerary rites to assist you, you make your way through multiple layers of a sprawling, randomly-generated dungeon. The game ultimately culminates in a battle against the mysterious Mastermind, who opposes you at every turn like a malicious dungeon master.
Along the way, you’ll even meet the souls of dead warriors who will help you against your mutual enemy, all while constructing a deck of abilities to help you stave off danger.
The premise of the game is immediately interesting (and very meta) compared to the competition. Rogue-likes rarely feature a defined protagonist, and Sam is immediately a likable one. His conversations with everybody encountered in the game do a great job of making him feel like a real character.
The presence of a constant antagonist is fun too, with the Mastermind being just as maniacal and treacherous as you’d hope from something like this.
It’s Time to Duel
Of course, the meat of the game comes in the form of the aforementioned deck-building. As you explore the dungeon, Sam amasses a collection of powers to assist him in battle, which takes place via turn-based RPG combat.
On your turn, you’ll have a limited number of points to use cards of varying degrees of power, followed by an attack by the enemy you’re up against. It’s a fun combat system that will be immediately familiar to fans of Slay the Spire, which the game directly cites as an influence.
The combat ultimately currently stumbles, though, in some of the mechanics and difficulty balancing. For starters, all cards aside from Sam’s standard attack appear to be one-use only during a battle. While theoretically not a problem, it often resulted in bouts against tough enemies where I burned through all my cards and could only slowly chip away at their health until I inevitably died.
Combined with the fact that several enemies currently have ways to buff their defense to the point that all of your attacks do minimal damage, there were quite a few times where combat began to feel like a slog.
You’re Locked in Here with Me
The other side to the gameplay is in exploring the dungeons themselves. These are presented as a floating maze of disconnected islands, with Sam having several points per turn to move around and use decks of tiles to build connecting pathways between the islands. This is the aspect of the game that really sets it aside from its influences and the one that – in theory – I was the most excited about.
In practice, however, it’s currently something of a mixed bag. The core concept is enjoyable, and having to decide the best route to get to your objectives (of which each map has several) requires some real thought. This is also where you interact most with the Mastermind, who also gets to build and destroy tiles while moving monsters around.
At its best, it feels like resource management meets Dungeons and Dragons. However, as of the build I played, more often than not the Mastermind would just destroy whatever tile I had just placed most recently, ultimately acting as a nuisance and a drain on my resources rather than doing anything engaging.
A Long Way to Go
A Long Way Down plays with the conventions of its genre in some pretty interesting ways. It manages to be a more story-driven deck-builder while still retaining a lot of what makes other Rogue-likes so addictive. While some of its aspects definitely need some work, I’m confident that by the time it leaves Early Access (which the developers have set for within four to eight months), it should scratch the itch of anyone looking for a fun combination of cards and dungeon-diving.
This is one to keep an eye on.
A Long Way Down is available via Steam Early Access.
Watch the official trailer for A Long Way Down below: