Down in the dumps.
Roguelites and roguelikes are close to becoming a meme at this point. What game isn’t one of these things at the moment? It honestly feels like we could plaster that label on anything and get away with it. With the requirements becoming so vague, A Long Way Down aims to scale down to its true meaning, then gives it a little twist.
Unlike some traditional card game trajectories, A Long Way Down offers a new system that is less reliant on blind luck. You are responsible for mapping out the kind of path you want to take, with the AI able to mimic your movements or create its own based on the tiles you choose. Healing, resting, and potion-taking all occur on their own tiles, crafting the dungeon as you crawl, and springing foes on you around each corner. It is quite visually interesting to see the map constructed around you in this way, rather than entering endless dungeons with no requirement for strategy.
This element is a fun experiment, and something that would take a bit of time to plot well, but the rest of the game seems – in Early Access, at least – a little simplistic. You engage in some back-and-forth card game traditionalism with the smaller enemies, which is fine, to begin with. Eventually, however, you come to realise there are no real advancements, and even difficult bosses must be fought using this system.
The lack of variation on offer haunts the design of the levels, becoming frustrating on occasion, and not making a great deal of sense at other times. Surely greater enemies and bosses call for a variation in rules, or at least a tangible difficulty curve that you can prepare for in advance.
The enemies themselves have a tendency to be dull or cliched but make for a fair fight now and then. The developers seem to have stuck fast to the tropes of the genre, and there is little in the way of perceptible lore to explore. Traversing the tiles eventually becomes tiring and bland, as you’re never quite sure why you’re doing what you’re doing. There simply isn’t enough risk or reward – progressing doesn’t hold much of a thrill, and your skills mean relatively little after the first few stages.
It’s hard, and it seems unfair, but a lot of the things I don’t like so much about A Long Way Down are a result of other games doing the same things better. The art style is a little basic for me, looking like a mobile game more than anything. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of the UI either, which is clunky, over-complex, and sometimes just plain dull. The assets look a little copy-and-pasted, and somehow dated in their execution.
That being said, A Long Way Down can be a fun game, and it’s the twist that really makes it work on a more elevated level. Without that, it would seem like more of a mobile game, something to be downloaded before a long bus journey – and I’m hoping that’s the Early Access speaking. It feels hurried, like a game built around one central idea that just ran out of steam along the way.
As it stands, A Long Way Down doesn’t present enough new and interesting ideas to keep people hooked. Fans of the genre will know where else to look, and newcomers could potentially be turned off by the dryness and lack of inspiration that each level presents. Eventually, even the music starts repeating, and the characters run out of varied moves and start making bizarre ones that force you to restart.
A Long Way Down is a quick download that you might award a passing attempt. Something to keep the young ones busy in the back of the car. Something you’d play on your phone in a waiting room. The art style is uninspired, the gameplay is repetitive, and if this was a physical card game I may have taken more issue with it. If you like your games simple and you want to revel in what a great potential idea this was, give it a shot. Otherwise, maybe give it a while to flesh out.
[Reviewed on PC]
Miri is an English grad with a fascination for sci fi, RPGs, grand strategy and point-and-click games. She also enjoys strong coffees and cats.