Played this for 2 hours yesterday and I could barely tear myself away from it, it is superb.
The atmosphere - largely conjured up by the phenomenal soundtrack - in this is one of the best I’ve ever experienced, it is just so mysterious, evocative, melancholic, moody and intruiging. Everything about it just stokes your natural curiosity and you just can’t help but wonder what’s around the corner.
This is helped by the minimalist art style and a distinct lack of hand holding. You’re dropped right into the game after a short strange cutscene and then are pretty much left to your own devices to decide what to do, where to go and how to play the game - the only assistance you get is a control map in the pause menu.
It is just so incredibly evocative. I was almost immediately completely immersed in the world and just gradually eking my way out from the starting beach area and gradually tumbling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole to try to find out the Island’s secrets.
There are floors and each floor has a number of rooms in it. Each room is enveloped in fog and you have to slowly navigate your way around being mindful of enemies -black mist creatures with red eyes - and traps whilst picking up crafting supplies, ember, opening chests and finding your way to the next room. Once you’ve reached the end of a floor you have to find a key which will then open the way to the next floor, taking you deeper into the cave.
It is a rogue-like so when you die you lose absolutely everything. You can light bonfires along the way and if you have enough ember (essentially Below’s Souls -collected from killing enemies) you can turn them blue which will enable you to fast travel back to that floor from the opening beach bonfire. If you die twice though you can no longer travel back via the bonfires but must make your way back down through the floors - the rough location of your gear is indicated by a red square in the sparse map menu located on the controllers’ back button.
The combat is quite Soulsy, you have a sword and shield as your standard weapon but there’s also a bow and arrow and spear in there. The sword feels great to use and it is satisfying to cleave through enemies - they haven’t put up much of a fight so far - and get in a well timed block with the shield but the bow has felt difficult to aim, I’ve not figured out how to use the spear yet. I haven’t played it but I would imagine the combat is quite similar to something like Hyped Light Drifter.
There are some light survival elements in here too. You pick up food items and can get water quite readily from puddles and streams dotted about which will keep your thirst quenched.
I honestly could not tear myself away from it and just wanted to continue playing and making just a little more progress to get to the next room or floor, it is so addictive and compelling. I can’t recommend it enough.