In The Game: Laughing Machines’ ‘Undungeon’ is Challenging, Thought Provoking and Beautiful.

Undungeon on the PlayStation 4 was developed by the indie dev team Laughing Machines. In Undungeon you play as a herald. Someone who is seen as a god amongst men. Everyone in the multiverse has been waiting for for the arrival of the omnipotent and all knowing god that is you. However, unbeknownst to them… you don’t really know anything. You know just as much of your surrounding world as a baby might know the hospital room they’re born in. You have to travel the multiverse to find more about the mysterious event called The Shift. Why did The Shift make so many alternate universes collide into one? The only way to save the multiverse from fading into nothing is to combine different cores belonging to each of the gods throughout the multiverse. I’m going to say multiverse as little as possible from here on out.

Combat in Undungeon appears simple on the surface. You have a mix of tools up your sleeve. Altogether you have three melee weapons and three ranged weapons. Each attack has a charged and instant cast. Possibilities are vast when it comes to the type of armoury you can pull together. Dozens of different grenades and throwing knives with different debuffs. Some weapons are heavier and use more stamina but do more damage. Some are lighter and do a little less damage but let you get more hits in. An interesting thing that’s tied to killing monsters in Undungeon is the organ crafting. You can create organs out of the body parts of creatures you’ve killed. Different organs have different buffs that can be applied. You also have a core. Your core is where you place runes that give you bonus stats. Some runes make you tankier, while some runes make your ranged damage more potent. You can apply different runes to reflect your playstyle.

The combat is fun, responsive, and a major component as to why this game is great. However it has its drawbacks. The difficulty shoots up pretty majorly once you really get into the game. Enemies have a unique ability that you don’t. Every time an enemy successfully hits you, their next attack does 100% added damage. That can stack until it hits 500% added damage. I believe this was intended to give you bonus incentive to learn how to avoid certain creature’s attacks and different patterns. But what it does is make some sections of the game feel artificially more difficult, as sometimes it is nearly impossible to dodge some attacks later on. It makes a good amount of the game feel punishing and not in a fun organic way.

Another place where Undungeon shines is its looks. Undungeon is an absolute delight to look at. Beautiful pixel art and overall art direction. The characters and environments are well designed and filled with personality. The colour palette is futuristic yet prehistoric. The pixel artists at Laughing Machine are wizards. What they were able to achieve here is incredible.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Undungeon is the writing. The story is really well crafted and delivered. There are many things happening in the story, but seldom did I ever feel lost because I was learning along with my herald. The way knowledge and info is delivered to you as a protagonist is very funny because you’re supposed to be this all knowing deity, but you have no clue what’s happening as you were born with no memory or knowledge. Often you are gaining info by saying to an NPC something along the lines of “Of course you’re building ______ for me. But, just to see if you know why… why are you building _______ for me?” You learn a lot by acting like you’re testing other’s knowledge. I do that in real life when I introduce a friend to a person whose name I can’t remember. I make a joke how it feels like I’m meeting them for the first time and I’ll say “oh hahahaha my name is Wade, and you are?” So I got a lot of great belly laughs out of this game.

Undungeon is an exciting little indie game. Rarely am I excited for a developer’s future only after my first 15 minutes of play, but that is how I felt about Laughing Machines. I hope Undungeon is successful enough so we can see more gems like this one come out of their studio. I loved my time with Undungeon and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

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