Sublevel Zero Redux is a first-person looter shooter developed by Sigtrap and published by Merge Games. Let’s see if this indie studio delivers a Descent-inspired post-apocalyptic experience that’s worth your $14.99.

Story

The developers really skimped on this one, which is disappointing as I enjoyed what little context was provided. Upon starting a new game, four or five small walls of text explain that new players are lone gunship pilots in a futuristic setting whose mission is to discover technology in an ancient facility. In a world that’s collapsed to the core, pilots fight for their home clans in desperate efforts to survive. Nobody knows why the universe is falling apart, but the story fits the cliché of making it the player’s priority to finding out why. That’s really all there is to it. I would’ve loved to see these notions explained further, at least in the early game. I’m not asking for all the answers up front, but don’t spawn me in a ship and say ‘Explore!’ without giving me a little more to chew on. After doing a fair share of adventuring though, bits and parts of the story can be pieced together through an in-game log and codex. That makes me feel a little better.

Combat

Sublevel Zero Redux does combat in a simple, yet super satisfying way. Gunships are armed with two types of launchers alongside two types of guns that can be selected on the fly. Weapon variety is done right, with options beginning with average pulsar and laser guns but ending with homing swarm and super cluster missiles. The more players explore, the greater the likelihood of discovering those hard-hitting must-haves that will get the job done with one shot. As the gunship pilot, it is the player’s choice to decide if a flamethrower will best suit the task at hand. Maybe an impact rifle will decimate the targets on other occasions, or take a stroll down plasmacaster lane this time around. This goes without mentioning the movement system. Gunships adopt the traditional move-set of up/down/left/right, but Sublevel Zero Redux allows 90 degree positioning adjustments to be made whenever the pilot deems it necessary. Rolling left or right is made easier than ever, and it’s a mechanic players will find themselves performing more than you might initially think. Permadeath is absolutely a thing, and it’s a one and done roguelike type of system. If players die in Sublevel Zero Redux, that’s it. Say goodbye to that gamesave!

Levels/Stages

The world reminds me of a cross-breed between Galaga and Tron, with neon colors and pixel-shaped designs throughout. Let’s not forget its roots in Descent; players will appreciate the retro theme. Both Descent and Sublevel Zero have similar corridor navigation, 6 degrees of responsive movement, and central rooms. How Sublevel Zero differs however, is that the levels are advertised to be procedurally generated, and for the most part, they are. It is a breath of fresh air to spawn into the same mission and not repeat the same steps every single time. The formula is limited, though. There are only so many level configurations before players will eventually see the same scenery. That’s not so much a problem on the development side as much as it is on the player’s side. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but it’s worth mentioning.

Crafting

For an indie studio, this system is very impressive. Traversing the world means collecting countless numbers of resources to craft countless numbers of weapon upgrades along the way. Gunships can also be crafted and upgraded, each with its own list of pros and cons. There is a tier system to reflect the rarity of all craftable items in Sublevel Zero Redux, with Tier 3 being the most valuable but also the most expensive. Players will have a difficult time acquiring those Tier 3 weapons and upgrades, and that’s how it should be. Reward the players for simply playing the game, earning those blueprints with hard work and survival. In Sublevel Zero Redux, those who live long enough to tell their story usually have amassed the firepower to back it up.

Field of View

My biggest issue with his game is that the field of view works against the player. Generally speaking, a larger field of view usually equates to a better gameplay experience. Players will have a wider perspective, allowing for more visual cues and adjustments in combat can be made accordingly. Sublevel Zero Redux tosses this notion out the window, as increasing the field of view dramatically decreases the size of the user interface. While it simulates a more authentic pilot POV, the rest of the interface becomes too small to navigate. Fonts become so illegible that I was more focused on reading what cannon was equipped rather than on when the enemy was blasting me to pieces. It may not be the biggest of issues for some, but FOV size does restrict gameplay to a certain degree. If you want to play Sublevel Zero Redux, turn the field of view all the way down for the best experience possible.

Sublevel Zero Redux - Review
Pros
  • Satisfying Combat
  • Extensive Crafting System
  • Superb Level/Audio Design
Cons
  • Limited Story
  • Field of View Limitations
9Overall Score
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About The Author

Anthony G
Review/Editorial Writer

From posting videos on YouTube to livestreaming on Beam, Anthony enjoys immersing himself in all things video games. Starting with a NES, his love for gaming expanded into handhelds and eventually everything first-person shooter. When he's not shooting ALL THE THINGS, you'll find Anthony reporting on Ghost Recon as a Ubisoft Star Player.