It’s been a while since I swore on such a constant scale that passers-by would likely confuse the obscenities heard for that of a sailor’s tavern, which is exactly what makes Risk of Rain a worthy entry into the roguelike genre. On the surface, there’s not much to see and nothing will immediately jump out as anything spectacular. That is until you scratch away the unassuming top layer, to uncover a challenging 2D side-scroller with a ton of content to explore.
The rules are simple, you get one life to progress through a series of levels. Die and it’s game over and you’ve got to start again from the very beginning. To mix things up a bit here, there’s an ominous timer present in the top right corner of the screen, constantly ticking higher and higher as time progresses. Unfortunately for the player this is an increasing difficulty slider, so the more time it takes to complete a level, the harder things will get. It’s savage and unforgiving for those unfamiliar to the genre, but roguelike fans and sadomasochists alike will find a satisfying level of difficulty to make the pain worthwhile.
From the get-go you’re given access to only one character class, with the ability to unlock the rest by achieving a variety of hidden goals throughout each session. At first this may seem like a clever addition to the game’s overall style, but the harsh reality is it’s nigh on impossible to discern what you need to do in order to get access to some of the more obscure characters which is pretty frustrating for those just starting out. A quick Google search and a few specific tasks completed later and the game will most certainly feel more varied as you pick between your favourite sci-fi inspired classes, each bringing a different skill set to the party. This doesn’t matter as much in single player, but for the multiplayer aspects it can be the difference between level completion or ultimate defeat.
The levels are all procedurally generated, and your goal on each level requires you to locate and activate a teleporter. Doing so triggers a timer which counts down for 90 seconds, and during this time an increased number of enemies will continue to spawn along with one big boss monster. These are frantic moments of panic, usually resulting in either glorious victory or humiliating defeat at the hands of the hordes. While these moments are more fast paced and entertaining, the build up to triggering the teleporter devices can be tedious at times. Sometimes you’ll have to back-track the entire length of a level in order to find the teleporter device that was five inches off screen in a corner you didn’t check which can be quite frustrating at times.
Because of its roguelike nature, the story aspects take a backseat to the action of running and gunning. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no substance to what’s happening in the game, in fact quite the opposite. The intro video sets the scene, but most of the game’s lore is uncovered by playing through the levels slaying specific enemies to collect monster logs or by collecting the vast number of power-up items. As you collect each of these objects, an entry will be added to the item and monster logs which can be accessed via the main menu. Each item offers up a little bit of background information on the inhabitants and items found on the strange planet. This is a nice added bonus that provides an extra sense of depth for those who prefer to learn more about the lore of the game world.
Risk of Rain doesn’t bother to hide the fact that it wants you, your family and everyone you’ve ever known to suffer, and ultimately that’s its main attraction and what makes it a worthwhile entry to the roguelike genre. Despite a few minor issues with levels and character unlocks, Risk of Rain is definitely worth the number of broken keyboards you’re likely to burn through whilst playing it.
This game was reviewed using a PC copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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