Mine, Die, Rinse, Repeat in Roguelike Undermine - Review

Undermine Hub

Developed by Canadian based developer Thorium Entertainment, Undermine is an action-adventure roguelike game.  Following a year in early access, Undertale was released on Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux and Xbox GamesPass on August 6th 2020.  Playstation and Switch versions are also planned for release in the future.

I've had this in my library since slightly before the end of early access and until the past couple of weeks I had barely touched it.  This was partly due to frustration with getting destroyed by the first boss a few times, rage quitting and not picking it back up.  I recently started playing it again during my lunch breaks at work, by streaming to my tablet using Steam Link.  The game is ideal for dipping in to if you don't have a lot of time as you can just play one or two runs and turn it off (although it does very much suffer from "just one more run" syndrome).  

Undermine Arkanos The Wizard
Arkanos setting you the task of discovering what is causing the mysterious tremors
The game starts with you being called into a library by a mysterious magician who tells you of unusual activity within the Undermine.  He tasks you with finding the blacksmith and the source of mysterious earthquakes in the mine before giving you a key to unlock the entrance.  The mine is made up of randomly generated levels with a number of chambers.  These will feature a combination of mobs, hazards, traps and equipment which can either help or hinder your quest.

The core gameplay loop is fairly standard fare for roguelike dungeon crawlers.  Explore the caverns of the mine discovering loot and killing monsters before finding the ladder to take you down to the next level of the mines.  Die and you are returned to the Hub with a fraction of your gold and none of your found relics.  These relics are scattered throughout the mines and dungeons, normally one per level.  They will give you a variety of bonuses, or buffs, to aid you in your run ranging from the Bombushka, turning all of your bombs into explosive Russian dolls or the Key Blade which increases your swing damage based on the number of keys you are carrying.  

Undermine Key Blade Relic
The Key Blade relic discovered in a relic room
Whilst you will lose any gathered relics at the end of a run, you can also obtain various artifacts and upgrades for your character.  These will persist through your game with artifacts being items, such as special keys or maps, which determine your progression through the story and upgrades being permanent improvements to your gear.  These will have properties such as increasing the blast power of bombs, increasing damage from your pickaxe and even reducing the amount of gold you lose upon death.

In addition to these special items, you will find a variety of other items scattered throughout the Undermine.  Ranging from keys to unlock additional rooms, bombs and treasure chests.  These will either be consumed during the run, or lost upon character death but are extremely useful in your run.  Often you will find that relic rooms are behind hidden doors or that you are overwhelmed by enemies and an explosive blast may be a better way to deal with them.  Occasionally, you may notice some sparkling at one wall of a chamber.  This is usually following an explosion and indicates the presence of a hidden room, causing an explosion against this wall will open up this additional area, you can also sometimes find ladders to hidden rooms if you explode the rocks within the various rooms.

Undermine Secret Room
A well placed bomb will open up passages to hidden rooms
Over time you will learn to recognise what the various beneficial items are within a room, such as rocks containing gold nuggets, veins of gold in walls of a room and various treasure chests.  There are 5 kinds of chest within the game, each with a distinct appearance.  Normal chests will be encountered from early in the game and may be encased in rock or chains, requiring a bomb or key repectively to allow them to be opened.  These will drop some gold and a basic item, food, potions or even mini chests.  There is a small chance these may be trapped and drop some lit bombs, or expose themselves as a mimic.  Other chests you will find are Thorium Chests, Gold Chests, Cursed Chests and Big Chests, each with their own variety of items to drop.    

A nice mechanic is the Cartographer.  After completing the goldmine, the Cartographer becomes available (although you will need to unlock some upgrades and find him).  If you visit him and have discovered a map piece for a different area, he can transport you to this area instantly.  Upon arriving you will be granted some relics to mitigate those you will have missed, however you will still have missed the opportunity for collecting additional gold.  There are also various other NPCs to assist you throughout the game.  As you discover merchants from the village, they will return to the Hub and allow you to purchase items from them, for example the blacksmith can make relics for which you have discovered blueprints (for a cost of Thorium) making these available to appear in relic rooms in the Undermine.  There are also a couple of different shops you can discover in the mines.  These are run by the Pilfers and by the mysterious Black Rabbit who will present you with a game of chance to gain items.  There is one further store which will appear randomly which is run by the demon Sho'guul who will offer you a choice of two relics, but at the cost of receiving curses (effectively debuffs).

Undermine Sho'Guul
Dare you make a deal with Sho'guul the demon?
What would a roguelike be without various risks?  I've mentioned some earlier in the article and they are too numerous to list in detail.  The mine is populated with a variety of mobs and NPCs.  One of the most annoying creatures for me are the placid Pilfers.  Whilst they are neutral, they can be a nightmare when you are mining for gold.  When free gold is available (from mining a vein or opening a chest) they will appear and try to steal it.  Whilst they won't attack you directly, they can push you whilst making their way to a gold nugget and force you into pits or traps.  Hostile mobs include flies, rats, bats, glomps, worms, humans and many more.  Rooms can contain hazards including pits, traps which will cause arrows to shoot across a room and furnaces blasting fire every few seconds.  Whilst these are hazardous to you, with some practice you can use them to your advantage when fighting groups of mobs.

For the headline price, the game has an absolute tonne of content and even with about 8 hours in my current run I have barely managed to get beneath the surface of what the game has to offer.  The pixelart graphics are gorgeous and the soundtrack adds to the feel of the game brilliantly, with some tracks even being contextual based on the room you are in with seamless transitions.  Unlike many games you can also see that they took their time when planning the controls as both KBM and controller (XBOX) are equally good - I do sometimes have issues with aiming thrown weapons with both but that's more on me than the design.  This one is definitely a game to add to your libraries!

Undermine Blacksmith Rescue
Exploring the UnderMine you will find NPCs to help you, the first of these is the blacksmith
Undermine Blacksmith Forge
After his rescue, the Blacksmith will return to the forge in the hub where you can exchange Thorium for new relics
Undermine Pilfer Stealing Gold
Despite their cute appearance, the Pilfers can be a right pain when they steal gold you have just mined
Undermine Pilfer Store
The kleptomania of the pilfers can come in useful if you stumble across their store
Undermine Locked Normal Chest
A normal chest encased in chains, open it with a key to discover its' contents
Undermine Cursed Chest
A cursed chest which may include normal items, blessings, potions and familiar eggs, but is it worth the risk of being afflicted?
Undermine Rockpile Mimic
A Rockpile Mimic - the first boss you will encounter in the game
Undermine Rockpile Mimic Defeat
If you can defeat the Rock Mimic, you will receive great rewards
Undermine Delvemore Dungeon entrance
The entrance to Delvemore Dungeon guarded by Bathcat and Toadvine who don't want to let you in. This is one of 2 possible routes from the goldmine into the dungeons
Undermine Delvmore Dungeon
One ofthe many hazards and traps in the Delvemore Dungeons, you don't want to get too close to that spiked ball - it hurts!
Undermine Death Summary
When you inevitably die, the summary screen will detail various stats about your run
Undermine is available now on Windows, Mac and XBOX and can be purchased on Steam or enjoyed as part of XBOX Games Pass (at time of writing).

Mine, Die, Rinse, Repeat in Roguelike Undermine - Review Mine, Die, Rinse, Repeat in Roguelike Undermine - Review Reviewed by Parcival on October 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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