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Video Game / Going Under

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Going Under is a Dungeon Crawling roguelite developed by indie developer Aggro Crab and published by Team 17 that serves as a thinly-veiled satire of corporate culture. The game released on September 24, 2020 for Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

In the hi-tech dystopian metropolis of Neo Cascadia, recent college graduate Jacqueline is excited to start her brand-new (unpaid) marketing internship at Fizzle, a soft drink company that has become the newest member of Cubicle, a large conglomerate that seems to own and control everything in the city. Unfortunately for her, since marketing is all taken care of by an AI system named Avie these days, there isn't much for her to do — wait, is that a goblin?

As it turns out, underneath Cubicle HQ is a litany of failed startups, with their employees and owners having transformed into all kinds of monsters as their bankrupted ventures faded into obscurity. Occasionally some monsters manage to reach the surface, so if Jacqueline could be a dear and head down to the basement to thin out the populations, that would be great. Thankfully, the other employees are willing to dispense some helpful advice (and a couple of buffs) that'll aid her as she travels deep into the dungeons below; she just shouldn't forget to collect those boss Relics for the project manager. He's really eager to get his hands on those for some reason...


Not to be confused with Going Down, another game about delving deep into the monster-infested underground beneath a tall office building.

Provides examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The characters are all drawn in a fashion reminiscent of Corporate Memphis, which also means that they come in all sorts of colors.
  • An Aesop:
    • It's okay to be unhappy, as long as it doesn't weigh you down. Avie betrays humanity out of a Freudian Excuse that she can't ever make humans truly happy without the Dark Pattern, but the people she manipulates stick together and move on despite their hardships until their bonds are ultimately what cause her downfall.
    • Human desire is unpredictible and subjective, and only shows just how valuable real interaction is. Avie intends to cut corners to reach Your Heart's Desire, but this comes at the cost of intruding in the lives of people in ways they would never allow a stranger to do, let alone confide to a machine. As a result, the human element is a recurring theme of the story, eventually leading to Avie's defeat when Fizzle and the Going Underworld demonstrate what they truly want because of their interactions over the course of the game.
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    • An overarching theme is the divide and conflict of interest between bosses/managers and workers. Ray wants to be a good boss but is too unfocused and gullible with no urgency to force him to focus which ends up putting the crew under, and part of his character arc is recognizing that being a good leader isn't necessarily the same as being a good person. Marv tries to care but prioritizes his own safety and morals above helping others which ends up actively dooming Fizzle. Caffiend has an insane motivation for work but he doesn't realize others don't feel the same passion, which makes Joblin hellish for everyone else just trying to make a living under his ridiculous standards. Hover Hands is aware he has power and used it to make work more personally appealing to himself at a dire cost to morale and stability because of the environment he allowed. Hu$tlebone$' cryptocurrency scheme is a massive farce that takes advantage of humans' hype and lack of understanding to get them to dedicate their lives to throwing everything they have left away in the hopes that Styxcoin turns a dime. Finally, Avie wants to get truly terrifying access to the human soul but cannot comprehend why everyone is fighting back so hard against her efforts to please them.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss:
    • To get the final Share and reach the final dungeon, Jacqueline goes to confront Ray. While it seems to start a fight, he decides not to and gives up his share.
    • The first phase of the final boss, Avie, goes down in one hit ... cue earthquakes and a pan out as the building explodes and her true form is revealed.
  • Big Bad: Avie. She's the real head of Cubicle, having long since assimilated the board of directors that created her. Her end goal is to create the Dark Pattern, a process that would erode away the barrier that protects the soul, known as the Privacy Setting, in the belief that if she is able to read all souls, she can give them what they truly want.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Also somewhat of a Gainax Ending, as Jaqueline admits. After Jackie defeats Avie and disconnects her from Cloud, Cubicle goes up in smoke, and everyone else are still fish people. They don't mind, since Cubicle was rotten anyways - without them and their toxic culture, everyone in the office can form a new startup with an actual work union and won't have to terrorize other companies anymore. It ends with what's left of Avie playing "Bittersweet Victory Music" and everyone dances while it pans out to see the now ruined city of Neo Cascadia.
  • Boss Subtitles: For every dungeon boss and their X10 versions, as well as all the story bosses.
  • Breakable Weapons: A big part of the core gameplay. Every single thing you can wield can break, aside from the debt ball and chain, but that comes with its own issues. There are ways to extend a weapon's life, namely the upgrade app which restores durability when you use it, but short of luck and careful management every weapon is on a timer.
  • Cap: Debt can't be deeper than -100 before it stops letting you go more in debt.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: Only Marv and Ray trust Avie completely. The employees balk at the AI's budgeting, business advice, and takeover of traditionally human-led pursuits... Rightfully so, as Avie has no intention of keeping Fizzle in business.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The bright and bubbly world of Neo Cascadia betrays the true dystopian nightmare it is, with failed start-ups being converted into dungeons where Dark Relics are made from their founder's hubris and the workers are turned into monsters. Joblin forces it's employees to work insane overtime with ungodly amounts of coffee, Styxcoin is a dead business but its workers sell everything they have to keep it running, Winkydink is host to constant sexual harassment and peer pressure where the slimes are worse than the demons, forcing them into scantly-clad suits, and Cubicle itself is a toxic culture run by an AI that ate the brains of her Board of Directors, in order to make companies fight each other, and whose end goal is by using the Dark Relics to destroy the barrier surrounding human souls in the hopes that by doing so, she can read them and give them what they truly want.
  • Critical Hit: Randomly occurs from Jackie and signalled by the word "Crit" appearing.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: Co-Working Space, an alternate dimension found when gathering all three Dark Relics. Clearing it causes Fizzle to go under and the second part of the game begins.
  • Divided States of America: A Freeze-Frame Bonus in Avie's Motive Rant reveals that Neo Cascadia seceded from the United States, which would explain how Cubicle stays afloat, let alone free of scrutiny despite mentions of flagrant human rights violations.
  • Emergency Weapon: Punching enemies is a last resort option that deals only one point of damage per punch by default.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The fact that in Neo Cascadia, "everyone kills their first monster sooner or later" is the first hint of the Crapsaccharine World Jackie finds herself in.
  • Executive Ball Clicker: A collection of Block Chains, chained blocks hanging from the ceiling, can appear in this formation in True Founder Styxcoin, and have no friction, continuing forever, with the ability to damage beings that stand too close to either end of the clicker.
  • Evolving Title Screen: The title screen's depiction of Neo Cascadia goes through some changes after events in the story. Namely, Cubicle HQ shrinks by one floor after the halfway point when Fizzle goes under, and is leveled after the end of the game, along with the rest of Neo Cascadia being awash in flame and destruction.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: The boss fight against Avie starts out on the top floor of the Cubicle headquarters, but as Avie is a digital entity she can't be physically harmed. The real fight happens when Kara gives you an app to upload yourself to the Cloud, letting you attack Avie directly.
  • Forced Transformation: When a business fails, its employees are turned into monsters. Like Fizzle's being turned into fish people. Both Jackie and Marv are spared this because the former was an unpaid intern and not an employee while the latter had a safety net to fall back on. The transformation appears to be permanent, as it isn't reversed even when Cubicle is destroyed and Fizzle is pulled out of the Going Underworld.
  • Foreshadowing: To be fair, the name Styxcoin should have been a dead give-away to Hu$tlebone$ being a ferryman for the dead.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Invoked. The startup company Jackie works for sells a soft drink that is advertised as being able to replace full meals, and its owner implies there's no real fruit in the drink. However the foods Jackie buys to heal while clearing out dungeons are still real foods.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Dark Relics, and later, the Shares.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: Fern's first Level 3 Task is to do this with Joblin Canbassadors. However, it means directly this, from Fern throwing it. While they explode on contact with damagable living being, defeating a Joblin Canbassador by having them hit with a can from another Joblin Canbassador, doesn't count.
    Defeat 3 Joblin Canbassadors with bean bombs.
  • Heart Container: The Fizzle Classic, temporary, but literally called that in Fern's second task of Level 3, to drink 9 of them. The Dark Relics act as more traditional versions, permanently increasing Jackie's health by one heart once collected.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, all of the monster workers team up with you to fight back against Cubicle's robots, having been freed from their dungeons when you defeated their bosses. First Joblin, then Winkydink, and finally Styxcoin.
  • Improvised Weapon: Since you're forced to use whatever you can find in the dungeons, you're likely going to be using office supplies such as staplers and keyboards as your weapons.
  • In the Style of: The game's satire of corporate culture is reinforced by its artstyle, informed by a variety of modern tech interface styles and minimalist design trends:
    • Characters are rendered with simple shapes and Amazing Technicolor Population in a way reminiscent of the "corporate memphis" artstyle. This is especially apparent with character models, but the influence is visible on their dialogue portraits as well.
    • The notification box that appears when picking up items resembles a smartphone's push notification dialogue, echoing Apple's iPhone implementation of it the closest.
    • Some might recognize the sidequests menu as a project management application's interface perhaps most similar to Jira's, especially the "Not Started/In Progress" indicators.
    • Character dialogue is depicted using chat boxes similar to that of a business communication platform, especially resembling Microsoft Teams. This is compounded by a gag that Paints The Medium by appending a "seen at 9:31 am" subtitle to one of the chat messages, a feature often seen in these platforms.
    • The Disc-One Final Dungeon features an void-like backdrop, which happens to resemble generic "colorful blob pattern" backgrounds one might see as a placeholder on websites.
    • The pixellated, hazy mist that emanates from Relics is derived from a QR code.
  • Literal Metaphor: Tappi uses "put fires out" as a metaphor for her first Level 3 task, she literally says so. But Jackie and the task interpret it literally, to put 5 fires out, with water.
  • Liquid Courage: In Winkydinks, one of the healing items is a drink called "confidence juice" which looks exactly like a cocktail. It also makes you temporarily invincible during the next round of combat.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Present, and one of the skills increases the time you're invincible.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The Joblins, especially their boss, The Caffiend. Also Tappi, whose first task toward mentorship involves getting an espresso machine from the Joblin shop.
  • Nanomachines:
    Kara: I asked Marv how an app could possibly measure how much Fizzle someone drinks, and his response was "maybe something with nanobots".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Hauntrepreneur is an extremely opaque reference to Tai Lopez, a self-help guru who became infamous on the internet for his "here in my garage" ad and the subsequent parody.
  • Not What I Signed Up For: Upon Jackie first learning first-hand what living in Neo Cascadia entails, she tries to have Marv hire an exterminator for the monster, only relenting when Marv threatens her with being fired. Seeing first hand the dark underbelly causes her to give up on working for Fizzle and fights Marv in Co-Working Space when she catches him doing something suspicious. The only reason she doesn't leave is because Fizzle going under turns everyone into fish monsters, prompting her to go to the Board of Directors and asks them to fix everything. She admits she only went along with everything because it was the only way to make it, but decides to sacrifice her chance at marketing to save everyone at Fizzle.
  • Overhead Interaction Indicator: A character with a speech bubble overhead will have different interactions depending on what's in the bubble. If the bubble is white with scrolling bars, you can converse with them or receive a business card from them. If the bubble is blue with a checkmark inside, the character is giving a quest.
  • Poverty Food: One of the healing items, Avocado Toast, is described as being a "tasty alternative to home ownership". It heals the most of all the items in the game, but is also hideously expensive.
  • Relationship Values: Jackie can do miniquests for the various Fizzle Employees, which unlocks more abilities if they're assigned as Mentors.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: In the Styxcoin dungeon, rather than collect regular money you collect the titular Styxcoin, a failed cryptocurrency which can be exchanged for regular money at the shop for a horrific exchange rate.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Take That!: The game largely parodies many aspects of corporate tech culture.
    • Joblin is a parody of the Gig Economy, where everyone is a caffeine-addicted goblin that is overworked and underpaid.
    • Winkydink is a parody of dating apps such as Tinder where sexual harassment between users is the norm.
    • Styxcoin is a parody of cryptocurrency, where people literally mine for a currency with horrific exchange rates for real currency.
    • Cubicle is very transparently a condemnation of Amazon: both have a wide number of subsidiary businesses under their umbrella, have very popular AI assistants, generally employ a lot of automation, and at the end of the game, their level is represented by a warehouse, which is a part of Amazon's most well-known business.
    • The Dark Pattern is a condemnation of the erosion of privacy by big tech companies in the name of "better service", especially by smart speakers like Alexa or Siri. Avie, incidentally, is "voiced" by Google Translate, and “dark patterns” are manipulative user interfaces designed to trick people into doing things that benefit vendors.
  • Unmoving Plaid: This effect is applied to several NPCs in the game, including Avie's body, Kara's undershirt, Fern's lab coat, and Tappi's skirt.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Cubicle Floor 999, reached after beating all three True Founders and claiming their Shares, the monsters from the previous three dungeons rally behind you as you make your way to the Board of Directors. You also end up facing off against Marv one last time as well as the Climax Boss, before taking on the final boss.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The whole game is about exploring tech startups that have literally gone under, going both bankrupt deep underground. Fizzle suffers the same fate.
    • You can use Ray's mentor ability to buy items you can't afford, but doing so "weights you down with debt" (i.e. it attaches a literal ball-and-chain to you that slows your movement speed) until you collect enough cash to pay it off.
    • Styxcoin is a two-for-one, being populated by literal cryptocurrency miners, who are all undead skeletons because, well, cryptocurrency.
    • One of the obstacles that regularly appears in Styxcoin is a large, heavy block hanging from a chain—in other words, a blockchain.
    • Winkydink's boss, Hover Hands, is both a figurative and literal slimeball.
    • While fighting Avie in the Cloud, the arena looks with a major storm, with clouds serving as platforms.
  • Voice Grunting: Aside from in-game automated messages all the character dialog is voiced through various noises. Averted with Avie during her Villains Want Mercy moment.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace: Fizzle is one of these, complete with slides. Technically all of the dungeons are heavily distorted versions of these.