Deep Down the Dwarven Mines in Below the Stone

Of all the fantasy races, the most reliable tends to be dwarves. Short, burly, epic facial hair and a love of mining are all consistent traits, not to mention top-notch craftsmanship and a slight obsession with gold.  Dwarves are a rock-solid people who are happiest underground, and in Below the Stone you get to play one in its natural habitat.

Granted, that habitat isn’t a particularly friendly one, being filled with bats, slimes, gnomes, spiders and all the subterranean residents a cavern can provide a home for, but it’s also filled with loot.  Ruins hold treasure, enemies drop items, but most of all ore gleams in the walls of the caves.  For a dwarf the ore also occasionally sends out a glimmer from deep within the darkened areas between the caves, like it wants to be mined by someone who can appreciate its worth, but whether that’s garbage tin or precious gems can only be discovered by digging.

Below the Stone
is a mining adventure where you generate a dwarf and set off into the depths to make your fortune.  Starting only with a rusty pickaxe and mining helmet, each successful run sees the dwarf become stronger and better prepared to explore further into the mines.  The adventure is played from a mostly-overhead view, with each unit of the mine being a square of open cavern or dirt, and a few good whacks of the pickaxe clears out most material and carves a new space into the cave.  The object of each run is equally balanced between the need to collect as much as possible and survive to bring everything back, because death loses it all.

In the beginning death is easy, if only because the network of caves stretches into the distance through several biomes before hitting the edge of the world, with the dwarf starting in the center and able to explore in whatever direction seems best.  It’s hard to turn back when the possibility of getting just a bit more by exploring just a few blocks further beckons, but it’s also easy for wandering bats or quick little slimes to ping a few hearts off the health meter.  Thankfully mushrooms are common, with each restoring half a heart of health, but with a health bar ten hearts in size and a bit of a pause between each bite, that can take a while to top off.  Get caught short and dying is easy, but judge the risk right and you get to keep what you’ve found to craft new items for the next run, assuming you survive the final massed assault while waiting for the ride back to the surface.

Whether by dying or returning home, the break between each run brings the dwarf back to the kingdom to re-equip for the next attempt.  The blacksmith can craft ore into ingots and ingots into equipment, while the store has a selection of relatively low-level items that are still better than the junk you’d have to start with if you didn’t have any decent items saved in the bank vaults.  Most importantly, the king has a selection of mini-quests available, and you can take up to three back into the caves.  They’re nothing overly complicated, such as finding a number of a specific type of ore or killing some enemies, but it’s enough to keep you moving forward to earn the best reward for completing all of them.

While the dwarf doesn’t level up, the equipment options get better the further you’re able to survive, with rare ore types being more common at the far edges of the caves.  Of course, these places also house bigger and meaner enemies, like skeletons who are consistently armed with crossbows or floating jellyfish that pack a mean hit on death, so stronger armor and weapons beyond those craftable with the cheap tin found in the earliest areas is a necessity.  Armor is simple, with each piece having a defense rating, but weapons have both damage and attack speed to take into account so there’s some tradeoff to be made there.  So long as you can survive with it, though, it’s the right weapon for the job.

The underground is filled with treasures and any dwarf worth its beard is willing to risk everything to bring them home.  From tin and copper to the ultra-hard rock holding platinum, not to mention the goodies found in chests inside goblin and skeleton-infested ruins, it’s almost a dwarven paradise aside from the ever-present risk of death.  New characters found in the deeper areas come back to the kingdom to offer new services, and the new biomes offer better materials to craft ever-more-powerful equipment.  It’s a cycle of exploration and survival in Below the Stone, and there isn’t a dwarf alive who wouldn’t mine the caves for every bit of loot they hold.

Leave a Reply