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Roguelikes are a dime a dozen these days- it seems like a new one comes out every other week. It’s also worth noting just how varied they’re are getting, merging roguelike aspects with all sorts of different genres. Since the release of Neon Abyss in mid-July (check out our review), there’s been the Turn-Based Tactics title Othercide, the deck-building RTS Necronator: Dead Wrong (review here), and now UnderMine has exited Early Access to a pretty great 93% “Very Positive” reception on Steam.

Developed and published by Thorium Entertainment, does the roguelike dungeon-crawler UnderMine stand out from the sea of its peers as something worth sinking your time (and spending a bit of your hard-earned cash) into? Let’s find out.

Delving Into Delvemore

UnderMine takes place in a world called Delvemore (very subtle), where Arkanos the Archmage commands countless peasants to delve into the mine to try and find the source of bizarre occurrences that have been going on, and also rescue various trapped NPCs down there (who all conveniently turn out to be shopkeepers) while you’re at it.  Except for a few tidbits of revealing dialogue from NPCs later on as you progress through the game, there’s no narrative to speak of.

In each run, you play as another worthless peasant with really no distinguishable personality or identity beyond their name and slightly different appearance. You see, reminiscent of Rogue Legacy, upon the death of a peasant, he/she is gone forever, and another one takes his/her place in the never-ending line of suicide missioners. However, unlike Rogue Legacy, these peasants have no unique characteristics that impact gameplay in any way, which is an unfortunate missed opportunity for additional depth. You might as well be playing the same character. I guess it adds a tiny bit of visual variety, but that’s it, you never really get attached to any of your characters. 


Visually, however, UnderMine is oozing with charm. There are in total, five zones with four floors each, and each zone is visually substantially different from the others, which makes it exciting and encourages you to keep playing to explore all 5. The art is consistently beautiful, and while the first couple zones are your typical caves and dungeons, the other three will definitely provide you the variety you’re looking for – though you’ll have to work for that privilege. However, I do wish there was a fast travel system in place. Most rooms are small enough that there’s not an abundance of annoying backtracking, but the ability to fast travel would’ve made it that much faster.

Likewise, the enemy characters, while simple and clichéd at first, get more and more interesting and inspired as you delve deeper into the mine. You start off fighting your typical rats and spiders, but before you know it, you’ll be fighting for your life against necromancers that conjure skeletons, fire-breathing gargoyles that turn into stone to heal, clerics that heal other enemies, imps that set you on fire, backstabbing rogues,  as well as your usual medieval archers and knights. 

The endearing, cute enemy design is also great and contributes to the light-hearted, fun tone of the game. Overall the visuals definitely do a great job in setting that fun, welcoming, friendly tone that makes you want to keep coming back no matter how many peasants you lead to their doom. 

Speaking of the peasants, the character design is cute but simplistic & mostly static. I wish that their appearance reflected the relics you possess and the upgrades you’ve unlocked (Neon Abyss did this wonderfully), which it sadly doesn’t. Weapon variety is non-existent as well since you only have your pickaxe, but we’ll get to that later.

Also, like Enter The Gungeon and similar games, UnderMine provides you with an encyclopedia with descriptions of all the enemies & familiars you’ve encountered, the blessings you’ve unlocked, etc. which lets you keep track of your progress and how much more there is to unlock, and I love that. This was sorely missed in Neon Abyss so I’m glad it’s included here. 

There’s not much to say about the music, except that it’s decent enough. There’s only one track that loops though, which can get grating pretty quick, so I suggest you listen to your own music as you play to avoid tune-induced insanity.

Mining, Combat, and Exploration


Now getting to the gameplay, you’re armed with only a pickaxe, but it also doubles as a boomerang, so you have a melee and a ranged attack at all times. Instead of the typical dodge roll to evade enemy attacks, you have a jump dodge. While this makes the dodge kind of unique, it can feel pretty strange and unintuitive at times, especially when a slime jumps at you to attack and you jump away from it to evade – it just doesn’t make sense. However, after a couple of hours, I got used to it and it stopped bothering me as much.

Except for your pickaxe, you’re also accompanied by a familiar, or a pet, that assists you in picking up gold, attacking the enemy, etc. There are many to find and unlock, but in my 18 hours I’ve only unlocked one in addition to the default familiar, so they seem pretty rare. 

Your main goal in UnderMine is to mine as much gold as possible and eventually, to get through the 5 zones. Green slime things, called Pilfers, try to steal your gold every time you mine a rock, which makes it engaging and fun as you have to protect the gold from them if you want all of it. Also, punting them off-screen feels so damn satisfying. There are keys and bombs to find/buy, which help you access chests and hidden rooms. 

Along with the enemies in each room, there are also environmental obstacles and traps to deal with, like holes and spikes on the ground, orbs that shoot fireballs at you, etc. What stood out to me was the emergent gameplay that manifested itself thanks to the water and oil puddles on the ground. If you’ve destroyed a blue or a red crystal recently, your pickaxe deals lightning and fire damage respectively. And when there’s a water puddle on the ground, it can be electrified to damage any enemy standing in the puddle. As for the oil puddles, they can be set on fire to burn enemies, but also to cook steak & fish kebabs for healing. Of course, environmental effects like these hurt you too, so beware. Also, enemy attacks hurt other enemies, so you can use that to your advantage as well. I really like this kind of combat through environmental interaction, and I wish there was more of that in the game.

UnderMine Boss

Also unlike other roguelikes, once you beat the boss of a zone, you don’t need to do so again in subsequent runs. In fact, you don’t even need to descend into the zones one by one, you can immediately fast travel to the 5th zone from the very first one. This is pretty cool as it gives the player the freedom to directly go to the last zone instead of having to repeatedly go through the zones linearly each time. However, you risk losing some great relics and potions on the way, and of course, the gold. That’s a risk you’ll have to take if you want the shortcut.

You’ll find various relics as you explore, each of which grants you certain perks, but a large number of them are sadly just incremental stat boosts (+swing speed/damage/size, critical hit chance, etc.). However, a few of them are pretty useful, like one that lets you walk on air, different kinds of bombs, and a sewing kit that allows you to keep all your gold when you die. But as I said, most are just stat boosts, which is disappointing. You do however unlock more relics as you go, so it’s possible that I just haven’t come across the cool ones yet

Drip-Feeding Progression & Post-game Content

While the moment-to-moment gameplay may not be as fast as bullet-hell roguelikes like EtG, the overall progression of UnderMine seems to be faster. Each run takes a shorter time to complete compared to most roguelikes (the freedom to directly enter any zone you want helps a lot), and the stats upgrade system constantly drip feeds you upgrades like more health, higher base attack, the ability to save more gold, etc. so well that you constantly feel like you’re making progress. Couple that with the various blueprints and Thorium you find, the relics you unlock, and the characters you rescue, and for the first 20 hours at least, the game succeeds so well in this aspect that you’ll find yourself itching for another run, more so than in any other roguelike I’ve played in recent memory. It definitely is addicting and before you know it you’ve played for 5 hours straight, so keep an eye on the time. 


Though I’ve not reached this point yet, upon defeating the fifth boss, you’ll apparently resurrect the bosses, slightly increasing the difficulty, unlocking a sort of New Game+ mode, for the hardcore of you looking for a true challenge.

Also, apparently, a whole other mode is unlocked- appropriately called ‘OtherMine’, which is a kind of challenge mode similar to the Daily Challenge in Dead Cells, where you’re given a choice between a few relics, blessings and familiars, receive a few random upgrades, and are tasked with making it through four sets of three levels and random bosses to be victorious. So if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into, UnderMine seems to offer that in spades.


UnderMine Pet

What matters the most in a roguelike is the core gameplay loop & the progression system, as you’re expected not only to replay the same loop a million times but also to feel like doing so, more and more, for dozens and dozens of hours. It’s a big ask, but when a title pulls it off, it’s a spectacular accomplishment. If it doesn’t, it’s just a boring, repetitive, hellish chore comparable to Sisyphus’ punishment of carrying the boulder up the hill over and over again, just to watch it roll back down. Okay, maybe that was a slight overstatement, but it’s not pleasant.

Undermine succeeds in both these areas, and with a few key differences and twists on the roguelike formula, it differentiates itself from its peers. It definitely grew on me the more I played, which is exactly what you want in a roguelike game, and there’s still so much for me to find that I’m going to go right back to it after finishing this review.

It’s safe to say that, though not without flaws, UnderMine is definitely a charming, fun roguelike that’ll keep you busy for hours and hours.

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