The Land Beneath Us Title
Image via FairPlay Studios

The Land Beneath Us Review

The Land Beneath Us is an odd and original game. It has some problems, but they don't prevent it from being a good experience.

The Land Beneath Us starts a bit slow and the gameplay can feel repetitive after a while. However, although it doesn’t succeed at everything, it’s an entertaining game that can be experienced casually while also providing a challenge for those who want to master its tactical combat.

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The Blend Beneath Us

The-Land-Beneath-Us-White-and-Boring-Room
Image via FairPlay Studios

The visuals of The Land Beneath Us are not necessarily original, but they get the job done. The game has that same minimalist pixel art style without outlines that we’ve seen in many indie games lately, but combined with simple 3D platforms and a modern-looking UI. Other games pulled out the combination of retro and modern elements, but here I feel like it makes the game look like it’s struggling to find an identity. It doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look entirely cohesive either.

This is sad because mixing retro and modern visual elements often lead to very unique looking games, but the problem might be the lack of variation and personality in the floors you explore. I wish the game had more distinct scenarios and made more use of this pixel art and 3D blend to provide more distinct backgrounds and environmental storytelling instead of another red or blue room with random monsters.

Speaking of monsters, I didn’t really feel any sense of coherence or belonging to the creatures I was facing. More often than not, they seemed to be there only so I could kill them and move on. Although there’s nothing wrong with it, it does contrast with the game’s initial effort to provide so much lore and context to what you’re doing.

The-Land-Beneath-Us-Stage-3
Image via FairPlay Studios

Generally speaking, the art is functional, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but for a game that spends so much of your time with a long lore exposition dump before it lets you play, I was expecting a bit more.

The Plot In Front of Us

Soul-Power
Image via FairPlay Studios

In The Land Beneath Us, you play as Sven, a Soul Harvester summoned by an odd AI in a weird sci-fi lab. As Sven, you must rescue The Creator so the world can go back to harvesting Soul Energy, the ultimate solution to a very troubling energy crisis. As you advance, you will meet new characters, learn more about your past, and the AI’s true intentions.

Frankly, I didn’t care much about the plot. Sven is cool, and I love his design, but I felt like the quirky AI is trying too hard to be funny with references and tropes that are decades old by now. I get the idea of making a Claptrap-like character who can deliver some jokes from time to time, and I do believe it can work no matter how many times it has been done, but I still feel like it could have been toned down a bit. I also feel very disturbed by the one pixel in Sven’s helmet that makes it look crocked for some reason.

Main-PC-in-The-Land-Beneath-Us
Screenshot by Attack of the Fanboy

That said, it’s not like I hate the writing or the characters in this game. There’s a lot to be admired here. Whether you agree or not with the message that the game is trying to pass, or how it is ultimately delivered, it’s very clear that the team had a clear vision of what the game’s plot was meant to be.

The Land Beneath Us uses absurd fantasy and sci-fi concepts to make the player think about the consequences of going too far, the value of life, the sense of self, and other ethical dilemmas. As I said, there is a message that the developers were trying to pass, but although I severely dislike preaching in games, I feel like The Land Beneath Us presents its themes in a way that makes the players think critically about it more than hammering down a message into their heads, and I commend the writers for it.

Tactical Turn-Based Roguelite

The gameplay is by far the best and most original part of The Land Beneath Us and the main reason you will play this game. I was very impressed by the way that FairPlay Studios Co. was able to provide an experience that reminds me of Crown Trick while being its own thing.

This game is a turn-based tactical game on a square grid, but not in the way you think. The weird thing about turns in this game is that they all happen at the same time. Every time you take your turn, all the enemies on the map do too. So, how does it work? You can see where you can move, the range and reach of your weapons, and the enemies’ attack trajectory on the grid.

Weapons-in-The-Land-Beneath-Us
Image via FairPlay Studios

Enemies don’t necessarily attack every turn, but they will always telegraph their attacks, and if you move into one of those squares or stay there, you will take damage. Each weapon you find must be equipped in one of your four slots. Each slot represents a direction: up, down, left, or right. These weapons only attack in that direction. If you have a spear in your down slot and a gun in your left slot, neither weapon will ever attack enemies above you or to your right.

I know it sounds odd and complicated, but it is the core of the tactical aspect of The Land Beneath Us. To make it even better, the game doesn’t have any sort of timer. It won’t rush you, so you have all the time in the world to make the best decision. After a while, you will get used to the enemies and their attack patterns, making you speed through the first floors of the dungeon while always having the option of carefully considering the best next move when things get more complicated.

Weapons might have special properties, like reaching 3 squares afar, attacking two enemies in a 2-squares long line, or healing you when an enemy is defeated. There are many weapons, and you’ll most likely find some more interesting than others. Although I’m not a fan of the weapon allocation system, I won’t hold it against the game because it is a very creative, very unique tactical battle system, and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

Death-Screen-in-The-Land-Beneath-Us
Screenshot by Attack of the Fanboy

As soon as the game started, I was hooked by the battle system, but the rest of the game made me wish that more care was put into the rest of it. Enemies feel a bit bland and over-simplistic at first. The game does have a slow start and waits too long before letting you use its more fun mechanics. Unlocking new weapons should be interesting, but it only makes upgrading them much harder since you need to get the same weapon from a chest to upgrade the ones you have.

There’s also the problem of overpowered abilities or builds that are significantly abusable. Don’t get me wrong, the game is good and worth trying, and I do love the battle system of The Land Beneath Us, but I believe that some minor tweaks could have made this game so, so much better.

The Verdict

Although I was never compelled to listen to the annoying AI and understand Sven’s true purpose, The Land Beneath Us does put good effort into providing a good plot and charismatic characters. As for the gameplay, I was shocked by how much better this game is than Fallen Knight, FairPlay Studios’s previous game released on Steam.

I find it undeniable that The Land Beneath Us is a fun game worthy of its price tag, but I can’t get rid of that feeling that this title is a few balance patches away from greatness. That said, I still recommend it to Roguelite fans and players who enjoy a slower, tactical game. If you like both, this game will feel like it was tailor-made for you.

7
The Land Beneath Us
I find it undeniable that The Land Beneath Us is a fun game worthy of its price tag, but I can't get rid of that feeling that this title is a few balance patches away from greatness.
Reviewed on PC

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Author
Image of Davi Braid
Davi Braid
Davi Braid is a Staff Writer for Attack of the Fanboy with a passion for storytelling. He has been a full-time writer for the past 5 years. His work spans RPGs, Fighting Games, and many other genres, showcasing his versatility and broad interests. With a degree in International Relations, his writing has been published across various outlets and niches. Leaving a traditional office job, he built a career as a writer, embracing new genres and discovering hidden gems in gaming.