After opening the door to the next room of my game, I emerged in a space-age cave shooting the two enemies in front of me to pieces. After collecting the loot I checked out an area of the room only for a ultra aggressive ship to come crashing into me, and it was then: take him out or die right here! This element of random experiences really makes the game something special and the theme of this Sublevel Zero Review.
In that moment of panic, about 20 minutes or so into my first time with the full game, I realised how much this game could suck you in and get you hooked.
Sublevel Zero Has Now Launched Steam and after playing the game this past week, And interviewing the developers at EGX, I had some high expectations going into the title. As a gamer who fondly remembers Colony Wars on the original PlayStation it’s a shame there are less games of this type made now.
But Sublevel Zero brings back those types of memories for me but also brings a new sense of adventure and excitement as you play a level only you may ever experience in a procedurally generated world.
If this is only the beginning, the console and VR support to come in the future, they could not have made a more impressive start.
Look & Feel
Sublevel Zero is presented in a cool way, it’s bright and colourful with a lot of detailed environments but maintains a slightly 80’s blocky feel to it that merges both the modern detail and retro vibe together really well. There are a few moments where this effect gets overly pixelated as you go very close to things, but overall it’s a wonderful design and one that suits the gameplay perfectly.
One of the most impressive things is how the game sucks you into the universe, even in these early days and with a small team of developers, there is hardly anything that breaks you immersion as you explore the rooms. The smallest millisecond of of slow down happens every now and again but nothing that would stop your enjoyment.
I must also mention how the soundtrack also makes this game a bit special too, even from the start screen it all blends into the genre of the title so well I fail to see how the developers could have got a better balance.
There is a plot to the game albeit more of a premise than anything you directly experience. Everything is falling apart in the universe and you can only survive by exploring and gathering resources for yourself and your clan. You descend, level by level and fight for resources to stay alive.
This is good enough reason as anything to go around blasting things to pieces for me!
So when you begin your adventure, the tutorial gives you the run down on the way to shoot, loot and fly your ship around, moving through the level gradually. But then, once this is completed, it nicely leaves you to your own devices to decide how you will explore the level and ultimately finish it by destroying the reactor found somewhere in your procedurally generated level.
What’s best about this procedural generation is the fact everything works so smoothly and also appears to have some constraints. Enemies are much smaller and easier to deal with earlier in the game, plus maps gain more and more complexity as you advance. Everything is triggered when you open a door and when you move from one area to the next, your way out can be up, down left or right plus so many other areas are around and need exploring.
But doing this will get you shot at, a lot.
Enemies spawn in these rooms too, some are more passive and will shoot as you go close but lose interest quickly. Others are more aggressive and really come at you and will have no problem ramming right into you either, so it’s good to remember to keep moving as you fire. While there are challenges here, it may have been better there were some in-between enemy AI types. It feels at times things will just ignore you if you back off, or they are so angry they will try and ram you to bits. Some more pursuing enemies that will follow you through doorways and do everything they can to not lose sight of you would be a good idea to break this up.
Still, there is a lot to be fun had with the combat and the weapons, crafting and looting systems are a lot of fun too. Destroyed enemies drop Nanites which is money in the game, along with weapons or items for crafting. All this can also be picked up from chests as you explore the rooms with the option to equip them or craft them together to make bigger, better weapons if you have the Nanites to go with the equipment.
Much like the rest of the game you are left to explore this on your own for the most part, perhaps a more detailed guide on how the crafting works could have helped gamers more but part of the fun of the game is figuring things out for yourself.
Controls wise, and this might be my own uselessness with a keyboard and mouse, but I personally played the game with a PS4 controller which worked very nicely indeed. I was a little all over the place with the keyboard controls but this could be personal, although I think the nature of the game lends itself to a pad or even a proper joystick.
But the coolest feature of the game for me is how they manage to stop you getting lost. This was my number one concern in a labyrinth type game that you simply bundle around until you stumble on the exit. But the Metroid Prime inspired 3D map is just perfect. It’s exactly what is needed to help you through the game, but also perfectly presented so you can navigate easily. The fact you can still get shot looking at it adds a healthy sense of danger and need to be thoughtful when using it.
Sublevel Zero makes an impressive start it it’s decent upon the gaming world, it’s hard to see how an indie team of such a size could have done a better job too. Everything flows so well and the presentation, soundtrack and gameplay are all spot on and work perfectly in-sync with one another.
But for some more richness in the tutorials, particularly to support crafting, and some more varied enemy AI this is an amazing experience that doesn’t cost so much and is only going to get better.