Full disclosure: I own Terraria on multiple platforms. Why am I telling you this? Because it is my go to game if I want to relax and listen to Podcasts. There is something soothing about the mindless mining, gather, crafting, and building that I just really dig (pun intended).
So, when I had the opportunity to get in on Early Access for It Lurks Beneath, I was elated! Not only do I love 2D side-scrollers, but it comes from a game developer who worked on some very formative titles in my gaming experience. David Brevik brought to life Blizzard North classics Diablo and Diablo II along with Marvel Heroes and Hellgate: London. But this time, he is branching out on his own indie development company, Graybeard Games.
It Lurks Belong is a a 2.5D side-scrolling, RPG-meets-survival-meets-exploration game. While it plays very similar to games like Starbound and the aforementioned Terraria – randomized maps with multiple layers below the surface included. But it doesn’t stop there: It Lurks Belong has true RPG elements with earned experience points along with stat weighted gear and it forces you into a rhythm to survive. There are six character classes to chose from, all with different abilities and stats.
(In case you are wondering, I chose to go with the bard for my first impressions. Why? Who doesn’t like the notion of literally melting faces with a string instrument?)
Outside of your heath, you will also juggle hunger, mana, and stamina meters. Mana impacts the usage of your main weapons and recovers with a global cool down after you drain your mana pool. Stamina and health can be recovered by sleeping or consuming potions, but hunger is a different story.
Your hunger meter recovers as you eating food, but that is scarce throughout the world; you will need to plant your own! While this may not sound like a whole lot of fun, it adds layers of pacing to the game which is missing from others like it. Those layer? Time and the Survival Skills Tree. Let’s start with time.
Every food source has a decay timer on it (much like other survival titles), but what sets It Lurks Belong apart is that when you sleep, time speeds up. You can literally sleep while your crops grow, but your food will decay at an accelerated rate as well. Like all other elements within the game, time also needs to be balanced. You can’t sleep if you are too hungry!
It Lurks Belong isn’t all about punishing the player. It eases you into what you need to do and how to learn the rhythms of the game. As you begin, there is a tutorial (of sorts) that leads you through a series of tasks. It even warns you about harvesting seeds and planting food right away. I failed to listen and suffered the consequences. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t far into the game, so the penalties for my hunger induced deaths were not that severe. After a while, deaths cause you to lose equipped gear and items on your action bar.
As you plant and harvest crops, you earn Survival XP, which builds your Survival Level – a separate progression from your character’s level. As you level up, instead of gaining a stat point to allocate, you get a point to place within the Survival Skills Tree. There are a handful of categories to choose from, such as harvesting, cooking, mining, and alchemy. Points within each skill tree will enhance your abilities within that field of survival. For example, one stat within the mining tree grants you a percentage chance to collect a second piece of ore while mining. A handy skill to have as you are trying to improve your equipment fast.
There are still elements of the game that are missing, but they are clearly labels as such. Take alchemy, for example. You can place points within the tree, but the beta build does have it marked that these features are not yet implemented.
So, with an overview of the nuts and bolts out of the way, what do I think of It Lurks Belong?
I have learned over time to temper my expectations with Early Access Games. That being said, I have been pleasantly surprised with It Lurks Belong.
There are three critiques that I have right now. They are a bit on the picky side, but I’ll share them.
Critique Number 1: There are only a handful of musical tracks in the game that loop every so often. They can get a little old after a bit. I don’t need sweeping scores, but something that doesn’t jar me out of the experience when it loops.
Critique Number 2: Crafting feels very limited at the moment. This diminishes the urgency to collect ore when you see it once you have build that tier’s armor set. It’s a shame, really, because one of the things that I love about games like this is the progression through crafting.
Critique Number 3: No multiplayer… yet. I hope that this comes later because I would LOVE this game with a party!
All in all, the combat is clean, the core mechanics of the game make sense, guiding you through the beginning while still being a challenge. Every point of progression feels rewarding with a good measure of pacing. Oh, and a side note: this isn’t the relax and little to Podcasts sort of game! Full attention required.
There you have it, folks! These are my initial thoughts on It Lurks Belong. We will have a full review once the game is fully live. If I were to have to rate it right now, I’d give it an 7. The game has a lot of promise and it is very fun in its current state, but it has some room to grow.