Microsoft's E3 press conference yesterday was full of gigantic new titles like Titanfall, Ryze, and Metal Gear Solid 5, but in among the blockbusters, there was one little announce that stood out in a big way. Below is the latest game from Capybara Games, the indie Canadian studio behind Critter Crunch and Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, who most recently won all the awards with the beautiful iOS title Sword and Sworcery EP. Below is about as far from an early next-generation console title as you'd imagine: Instead of bombastic, flashy, and loud, it's quiet, subtle, and slightly menacing.
"You are small," Capy co-founder Nathan Vella says while smoking a cigarette outside a Microsoft E3 showcase last evening. "Death is at every turn if you are not smart about it." Below is "a roguelike like," he says, focusing on sending the player through a series of randomized, one-screen dungeons, with a sword, shield, and some other not-yet-revealed tools and weapons.
Sword and Sworcery EP was a big collaboration between Capy, the artist named Superbrothers, and musician Jim Guthrie, and Guthrie is returning to provide the soundtrack for Below. But Vella says that despite some initial similarities, the two games aren't very closely related. "Because Below is about exploration and Sword and Sworcery was, in a different way, about exploration, there are things that are going to overlap in terms of our sensibilities in both," he says. "But there's a lot more going on there."
Below is more of a "gamey-game," according to Vella, and it's very much influenced by the ideas of Capy's creative director Kris Piotrowski. "This is kind of like Kris' vision, with Jim's music," says Vella. Unfortunately, the game itself wasn't on display, but Vella says there are action RPG elements in the title, draped over the permadeath frame of a roguelike. "It's very much not hack-and-slash. You can, but you will die," he says. "We're all about making it brutally fair, so you make a mistake, you will die, and death is permanent."
Despite that stark outlook, Vella says Capy is ready to bring a different experience to the Xbox One's early library. "Sworcery proved a lot to us," he says, not just in terms of the team's ability, but in terms of what could be popular to a mass audience. Players are hungry for different experiences, believes Vella. "If you really like art and music, if you like playing something for a sense of exploration or a sense of discovery, than this is for you." And that's how Capybara Games ended up on stage revealing its game to millions of people at an E3 press conference, says Vella. "That's why we wanted to get it there, why us and the folks at Microsoft Studios pushed to get it there."
Vella says he does realize that Below is one of the smallest topics in the cavalcade of discussion and arguments about the Xbox One during this conference. "That stuff is so far out of our control," he admits, adding that his plan is to "continue to just let it be." As for the exact rules around exclusivity, Vella only says that Below "is coming to Xbox One," so the door seems wide open to see the game on other platforms sooner or later.
Vella says that no matter what happens with the console and its launch, Capy is excited to have Microsoft as a partner for a project like Below. "For us," he says as he finishes his cigarette, "we've been given an opportunity to make something special and been given a lot of support to do it. And I can't ask for anything else."