Land Above Sea Below is an atmospheric, island-building, strategy, and puzzle game created by the talented indie developer Glasscannon Studio and published by Skystone Games. The game is set in a fantastic world of eternal autumn, that is backed up with a gorgeous art design, and some very nice animations. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the game.
A Very Simple, Yet Very Effective Narrative
Land Above Sea Below is set eternally in autumn. The player’s goal is to keep their Tree of Fall alive from the constantly rising sea level. You accomplish this by increasing its height. This is achieved by placing procedurally generated tiles next to each other. So they will interact with each other and, in turn, will increase the height of the other tiles.
The player will have to be strategic with their tile placement. The aim of the game is to keep their tree safe from the rising waters. The game doesn’t feature any characters, nor does it have any particular dialogue it’s a pretty straightforward experience once you complete the tutorial.
Land Above Sea Below’s Graphics, & Art Style
The art style of this game is simply gorgeous. I especially love how dynamic everything looks especially with the game’s weather system. The game showcases its growing world with bright, vibrant colors that are tied together extremely well with the game’s impressive depiction of nature.
The game’s water looks stunning. Especially when the season changes in which the game utilizes a very convincing rain mechanic.
Particle effects looked impressive with the inclusion of the awesome detail with the ripple effects from the rain during the seasonal changes, and the islands that are expanded further out. Overall, Land Above Sea Below sports a welcoming environment and vibe that is calming and soothing.
The gameplay is quite simple and ironically that’s where the game shines. The objective is for the player to save his/her Tree of Fall before it is consumed by the rising water level. At the start of every season, you are given access to a growing number of tiles (depending on the level of the season). You are then tasked to place them in any order you choose on the map. The objective for the player is to create synergies with the other tiles which then are multiplied by the others surrounding it/connected. This in turn raises the area in which you are connecting.
At the end of each season, the water level rises and takes away a tile from the map. This puts you under constant pressure as the objective is to protect their tree. If the water consumes the tree you lose the game. I must admit placing the tiles on the map and potentially getting the multipliers for your score is engaging. I loved looking for cool ways to further raise the platforms for each area with the tiles especially when areas are in danger of being drowned. This surprisingly adds tension to the game especially when you are in a situation where you only have 1-2 tiles. The game really tests your critical thinking as one mistake is all it takes to ruin your next season.
Power Ups Make the Difference
Aside from the player having to play strategically, the game offers you cards that act as power-ups to help turn the odds in your favor. Each card serves a different purpose from switching between different tiles to even the ability to skip a season overall. Players will find themselves using these cards in tight situations as they become more pronounced with the increasing seasons.
Even though the cards offer the player a much-needed advantage at times the player will find themselves in tight situations. The game balances the card system pretty well due to high scores being required to unlock them. As for my experience, I found myself utilizing the New Dawn card (which gives the player an additional day before the end of the season), when I got the chance. All the cards are cleverly thought out and each offers the player a much-needed boost.
A Challenge, No Doubt
Land Above Sea Below also has challenges (as you can see in the image above) that consist of raising areas to a certain level and matching different tiles in a group for an even bigger score. Challenges can range from easy to near impossible as it comes down to the player’s choice of tile placement. If the player puts the wrong tile in the selected area the game will switch to another type.
In theory, this can be a good and bad thing for strategic plays as it is easy to misplay. However, the challenges could potentially ruin the synergy with the other tiles. Also, keep in mind you still need to think about the tree so there will be times when you skip doing a challenge altogether in favor of preserving the tree which I’ve lost count of doing.
When each tile is used and properly synergized, the player is awarded a high score as the season progresses. The higher the score received, the more effective tiles are unlocked for better score potential on the map. On a side note as far as optimization goes I must say the game ran like a treat on my RTX 3070.
The Lack of Modes is Apparent
There wasn’t a dull moment in Land Above Sea Below I could think of. But at the same time, I do have a few gripes. My first critique of the game is pretty simple the game doesn’t feature any additional modes. There are no team-based modes or even elimination types of modes. Land Above Sea Below really is going to need it. Especially since the gameplay can get repetitive very quickly due to the fatigue of doing the same thing over and over again.
Last but not least let’s talk about the soundtrack. I was pleasantly surprised by the music that’s in the game. From the very start, you are greeted with a very calm and soothing soundtrack which adds to the game’s atmosphere.
Considering that it’s essentially about nature, as the seasons progress the songs become more relaxing and catchy. Yet, as you find yourself at the higher levels the song changes with the harsher season changes.
However as Land Above Sea Below becomes more challenging, the music gets more intense almost adding a sense of urgency.
Final Thoughts on Land Above Sea Below
The team over at Glasscannon Studio really did a great job bringing Land Above Sea Below to life. The passion is there and you can most certainly feel it. Despite the lack of modes and the repetitive nature of the gameplay loop, I still had a great time playing the game. If you are looking for a hidden gem amongst all the AAA games that have launched this year. Or if you just simply want a break and relax I highly recommend this game.
Land Above Sea Below is currently available on PC through Steam and here’s the kicker it’s only $7. Definitely do yourself a favor and check it out.