Game: Land Above Sea Below
Genre: Indie, Strategy, Puzzle
System: Steam (Windows)
Developers | Publishers: Glasscannon Studio | Skystone Games
Controller Support: No
Price: US $6.99 | UK £5.99 | EU € 6,99
Release Date: September 13th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Keymailer.
Since Dorfromantik came onto the gaming scene, many games have been released with similar styles and execution of placing tiles to build an island.
Land Above Sea Below is a puzzle strategy game based around placing tiles. So, for players like myself who have played Dorfromantik, playing Land Above Sea Below is familiar territory, though it is a different game.
Furthermore, Land Above Sea Below is a very chill, meditative game with soothing music. After a short tutorial to explain the rules, you have three modes to play. Firstly, there is a timed Challenge mode, then Eternal Autumn, an untimed mode, and a Sandbox mode, where you can play however you want.
Save The Tree of Fall
The game is divided into rounds; in each round, you place procedurally generated tiles, the season ends, and the water rises.
Your goal is to prevent the land from flooding. Additionally, you must keep the Tree of Fall (the large tree in the centre) alive by increasing its height from the constantly rising sea level. The length of the round depends on how long you can keep the Tree of Fall above the water; once it floods, it’s game over.
However, you do have some help in keeping the Tree of Fall above the waterline. You must create synergies when placing the tiles.
Creating synergies is achieved by placing a tile beside three or more of the same tiles. Once you do that correctly, you can watch the surrounding tiles rise in height, preventing the tiles closest to the Tree of Fall from flooding, and if you combine more than four tiles, you can extend the number of turns you have for that season.
There are also some special tile types for you to place to help keep your head above water. Though initially, the tile options are limited to a forest, town, and special tiles such as rivers, you quickly unlock more.
Tiles with a river running through them come in different shapes (the rivers are different shapes on the tiles) and will always keep adjacent tiles of their biome above sea level. So putting a river down will separate any land it’s between, effectively separating them into two land masses you’ll need to keep making it taller.
However, as you play and your score increases, you unlock more tiles. But they don’t match the autumnal season of the tiles already placed. For instance, a green summer tile unlocks, so you can’t create synergies. Plenty of strategic thinking is involved to keep placing the tiles so the round continues.
Additionally, special cards pop up on the screen during gameplay, such as the New Dawn card, which gives you one extra day before the season ends. There is also a skip turn card, which comes in handy when you don’t like the next time you must place.
Also, as you expand your island, there are undiscovered areas on the map to find. Little, lonely, tiny islands appear, allowing you to connect these small islands to your island.
The game is enjoyable, and along with some strategic thinking and the occasional pop-up bonus card, I happily built islands for hours. Land Above Sea Below is a game you can get lost in and watch your creation grow before your eyes. However, I noticed that the various tiles you unlock while playing the game don’t stay unlocked. So, each time you play a round or season, you unlock the same tiles repeatedly.
Also, the game will show icons above certain tiles; they can warn you when the tiles are about to flood.
While it’s a handy hint that things are about to go wrong, I found the icons hard to see. They blend into the surroundings, and that makes them hard to read.
Visuals and Controls
Land Above Sea Below’s appearance has a lot of charm; the autumnal colours are gorgeous, and the trees swaying in the breeze are animated well.
It’s all brought together by a beautiful soundtrack that is relaxing and calming; it’s great to listen to. Controls are the keyboard and mouse, and everything performs as it should.
Land Above Sea Below is a great addition to the strategy/puzzle genre. The game has more than enough of a different gameplay style to make it stand out from similar games in the same genre. It is a very beautiful and relaxing game, yet it requires forward-thinking to optimize your score and outcome.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot