It’s a question that is uppermost in the minds of world leaders, Nobel prize winners, and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models: “What’s Gator Playing?” Which means that it’s definitely worth a regular spot on these pages. In this week’s installment, I will be exploring the evil depths of David Brevik’s new game, It Lurks Below.

But first, a confession. I am a serial game re-starter. Don’t look at me like that! There are thousands of us, all around the country, quietly throwing away dozens of play hours in order to restart a game from the beginning and do it “right.” At the last convention, they told us not to admit this, but we re-starters quietly judge you people who plow on through a game with wasted talent tree points or rushed customizations.

Anyway, that’s just an explanation for why my first hours spent playing It Lurks Below are technically two starts. In other words, I chose the bard class, got adjusted, and then remade my bard. After giving it the careful thought that characterizes us re-starters, I named him Furioso. I think it gives him a certain panache that says, “Yes, I’m technically a musician, but I will rip your throat out at the slightest provocation.”

What's Gator Playing
May ballads and songs be written about the great Bard Furioso.

Before I start, let’s hit the disclaimers: I was not paid or compensated in any way to play or write about this game. I chose it because of its initial word-of-mouth reputation and the fact that it’s a new creation from Greybeard Games and a solo creation from David Brevik — the man and mind behind such hits like Diablo, Diablo II, Hellgate: London and Marvel Heroes. (R.I.P. Marvel Heroes. Sleep well, sweet prince.)

I’ll also point out that this isn’t a review. First, because the game is in Early Access, and it wouldn’t be fair to review it yet. And also because I am just going to share my impressions and experiences navigating this new game rather than subject it to review-level scrutiny. With that said, expect changes and various differences between this version and the eventual official release.

What's Gator Playing
Humble beginnings.

This is definitely a game you can lose time in. Right at the beginning, you are given a few initial tutorial quests, which help you navigate the various systems in the game (e.g. craft a weapon, then armor etc.).

There’s a temptation to jump past tutorials, and It Lurks Below is no exception. Which explains how I was easily sidetracked into exploring the depths while I was on the tutorial quests. (More on that in a moment.)

From the very beginning, it was clear that this game has a very solid progression system. There are two level systems — your character’s power level and its survival level. The first one governs your attributes and the other unlocks perks that make your tasks in this world easier or more convenient and efficient.

That system is the main thing that separates It Lurks Below from Terraria. While Terraria is a great game, It Lurks Below takes progression to a whole new evolution in this genre.

What's Gator Playing
Getting sidetracked early on.

In pursuit of my starting quest, I set off to gather the resources to make a set of iron armor before heading off to crush Commander Vile with the power of music. Or rather, I would have if it weren’t for the urge to explore.

Commander Vile simply had to wait as I got distracted a few times with, “Oh what is this? Should I go explore that?” And before I knew it, I was wondering how it got so late and why my wife didn’t leave some much-needed “new game” tacos in the fridge. It was very clear that this game can take what you thought was going to be a 30-45 minute session and suck you in to the point that you look up and realize you’ve been playing for 3 hours.

Well, my bard did finally defeat Commander Vile (hooray!). And afterwards…

[Be warned! Here there be spoilers…]

I encounter Mooffulo, which the text very clearly indicates is NOT a cow. The obvious non-cow is voiced by Brevik, who provides excellent non-cow-like “Moo”s supplemented by an occasional “Moo” voiced by Brevik’s wife. (If you ever get the chance, check out her twitch stream. It’s quite fun, and David sometimes makes an appearance there as well.)

What's Gator Playing
Definitely NOT a cow.

Obviously, it’s impossible to top an encounter with a non-cow of this stature and renown. But I’m looking forward to playing more of It Lurks Below and sharing it with you. This is just part one of three, so stay tuned. Who knows what other non-animals my perpetually angry bard might encounter? Assuming I don’t restart him, of course.

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