The Great Below by Dobra Studios
The Great Below is a creative combination of top-down map-based exploration and first-person investigation.
A dark, cosmic horror narrative is established as the backdrop for an assortment of puzzles and eerie world-building; a dark mansion lies in wait, and a mysterious organization called The Society is connected to it. The protagonist seeks an item known as “The Object” hidden somewhere within the unnerving halls of the mansion. A short demo version is available at present, offering a glimpse of what is to come.
Stumbling through the Darkness
The Great Below provides a minimal introduction, giving mere hints of the mysteries that might be unveiled later. Exposition is surreal and poetic when it is delivered – usually through a variety of notes found throughout the corridors of the mansion.
These twisting passages are navigated by map; an overhead view is provided, suggesting that the protagonist is blindly following the map in the darkness. A match can be struck to inspect areas more closely, switching to a first-person view in order to solve the many puzzles scattered throughout the abandoned rooms of the structure.
The mix of overhead and first-person perspectives is an interesting one that helps to build a sense of tension; you never know exactly what you’ll see when you light that match and switch from the map to looking at what’s in front of you. You can’t move once you light the match – you can only interact with nearby objects or return to the starting area – so choosing the right place to stop is somewhat important.
Even though the whole game technically takes place in this first-person space (with the map held in the protagonist’s hands), this has the effect of making the places you stop at feel like bespoke, crafted scenes.
Hard to Navigate
The need to return to the start whenever you stop to investigate can make exploration a tad clunky. It can be slow going especially when you’re trying to find clues to a puzzle.
I found most of the puzzles themselves to range from simple to moderate in challenge, with a couple that continue to be mysteries; either I haven’t unpicked their secrets, or they relate to parts of the game planned for release in the full version.
The Great Below harkens back to PS1-style graphics – a good era for atmospheric horror vibes.
A foreboding sense that “something is out there” is conjured to great effect by a backing track of ambient noises and strange, distant sounds. On the more comforting side of the spectrum, the sound of striking a match becomes a kind of audio touchstone, hissing into life and signaling the change of perspective.
Whilst there is still much to learn about The Great Below what we have seen is promising. The unusual perspective-swapping approach makes for an intriguing take on the horror exploration genre, and while it can feel a little awkward, it does make for great tension. I can imagine all sorts of fun uses for the map and the little footprints indicating the protagonist’s position (the inevitable moment when a second set of footsteps appear will certainly be a spine-tingler).
The Great Below has tremendous potential and I look forward to seeing more of its haunted hallways in the future.
A demo for The Great Below is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for The Great Below: