Explore the deadly caverns of the Northern Mountains to try to discover the fate of your father, a notorious and well-respected explorer who never returned from his expedition ten years earlier.
Beyond Stars and Under Hills, from Rat King Entertainment, follows the story of Livia Geiger as she sets off in the steps of her father, renowned explorer Lord Frenklyn Geiger. His disappearance in the North was never resolved. Inspired by a lost expedition from the nineteenth century, the game touches upon colonialism and imperialism, as well as addressing the class, race and gender standards of the time.
Arriving with a group of other animal people in your destination, the land of The Tuskers, you quickly set about exploring the caverns they live within. It’s a game played through a first-person perspective that perfectly fits the tight, torch-licked corridors and low cavern ceilings that dominate the early game.
You quickly learn that your father has left some legacy in the populated areas of the caverns, as you start completing fetch quests and performing favours (or not) for the denizens of the North. Some tell you tales of his heroics, others of his crimes, while some speak about his lack of respect or patience for those who call the land home.
It’s not a simple exploration game of tunnels and locked doors, mind. You have ongoing conversations with those who dwell in the North, returning back to base between your forays through ancient temples and ruins. Dangerous little beasts occupy the ruins, serving as a distraction from your main path — a route that takes you down all sorts of strange corridors. When not learning more about the lore of the area, you’ll be creeping along alcoves and sneaking through tiny crawlspaces to find new ways around the world.
All of the moments are laced together with detective themes: you decide which information you take on as truth; you unearth secrets and evaluate the death of those who came before; you collate clues and question locals.
I was lucky enough to play through an early build of the game whilst at Gamescom last year; I was instantly captivated with the torch-lit caverns and the deep lore available from the very start of the journey.
Beyond Stars and Under Hills has a provisional release date of 2018. Planned platforms haven’t been stated, but I played through the demo on PC. You can stay up to date with the game by following the developers on twitter, @RatKingslair.