Saturday, December 26, 2015

PC Review #136: Sublevel Zero

Title: Sublevel Zero
Developer: SIGTRAP Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price:  $14.99
The six-degrees of freedom subgenre of shooters had an illustrious start thanks to the Descent franchise, but in recent years, the genre has laid relatively dormant, not yet rising anew like the space sim and CRPG outside of minor titles such as NeonXSZ and Kromaia. But while the Kickstarter success of Descent Underground offers some competitive 6DOF action, Sublevel Zero blends the genre with the looming tension of a roguelike, to stellar results.
The story merely serves as a framework for the action. Reality has been crumbling for centuries, parts of the universe vanishing from existence and appearing elsewhere or not at all. The secrets to discovering why space-time has been torn asunder and saving the ravaged universe rests inside a mysterious facility.

Finding that secret won't be easy. Throughout cramped technological tunnels and lava-lit caverns where it's easy to lose your bearings to cavernous crystalline quarries, mechanical threats lurk at every turn. Enemies range from drifting slow-firing drones to wall-crawling tanks, and you can't take any lightly. Permadeath looms over every new room and every unknown corner, so each encounter must be tackled like it could be your last. An aggressive offense is the best defense here: deftly weaving between projectiles, boosting past enemies to spin around and unleash a storm of energy as they're turning to lock onto you,
Agility and speed will only get you so far in Sublevel Zero, and a vast arsenal awaits you. Autocannons and miniguns that fire out bullets at a lightning pace. Railguns, flamethrowers, devastating shredder shotguns. Grenades and homing rockets. Each weapons has unique stats - Marksman class being more accurate, Relentless having better firing rates and damage - and by combining two weapons, you can create a new weapon that inherits those two. This simple crafting system expands your array of weapons even more, unlocking powerful firepower like the ion beam, plasmacaster, homing missile swarm, magnetic explosives, and more.

Each weapon feels powerful and satisfying to use, tearing through the levels in overwhelming streaks of colorful energy. You never know what weapons you might come across, so improvising with what you have on head is key to survival. One minute, you might be a sniper taking out enemies from a distance with a railgun; later, you'll be softening up drones with lasers before boosting in to finish them off with a shredder blast.

But all those weapons wouldn't matter if Sublevel Zero's movement was as fun and responsive it is. Thrusting down its serpentine tunnels or flipping around a junction or retreating from a relentless ground of enemies is always satisfying and you always feel in control.
Sublevel Zero combines the claustrophobic tunnels and hectic action of Descent with the looming tension and unpredictable nature of the roguelite, each playthrough delivering reckless flights down tight corridors and relentless firepower. You can purchase Sublevel Zero on Steam, Humble, and GOG.

1 comment:

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