Risk of Rain is a rogue-like 2D indie platformer that ran the risk of being yet another game I bought and added to my Steam library and never played due to lack of time. Thankfully that was not the case! I bought a couple of copies for my friends and we decided to give it a go during lunch break at work. And. I. Was. Hooked.
We died. Oh how we died. This game is a bit hard for a newbie. At first the game lulls you into feeling safe. A few enemy spawns here and there. You’re like: Ok I can do this. You kill them easily at first. However, after a few minutes of fighting you realize that there isn’t really a point to standing still and fighting everything that spawns on screen as they keep coming at you relentlessly. Soon you are no longer killing them easily. Soon you’re running around trying to survive being decimated by the myriad different types of enemies and their painful attacks. And then one of you realizes. Guys we need to find a portal. Huh? It says so at the bottom of the screen. Oh! That’s the kind of game Risk of Rain. Old school. No tutorials. You learn by exploring or you die and try again. Back to the good old days where games were challenging instead of the current trend to have everything explained with a million screens or endless text. Just one sentence and you have your mission.
Once you find the level’s portal, which by the way, is never in the same place because every level is randomly generated, you think to yourself. On to the next level. But no. The game decides to punish you for your minor achievement. You survived this long? Let’s see if you really deserve to proceed. With that it starts spawning a number of enemies at a faster rate near where you and your team-mates are. Since that is not enough it also spawns one of a number of boss enemies. Cause: Hey! Why! Not! Each boss enemy is a b**ch to kill and downing them is an achievement in itself. Once the timer expires no more enemies spawn and finally you have earned a bit of respite. You get to clear all the enemies and then using the portal you get to do this again on an another level. Only this time it’s harder and harder. Risk of Rain punishes you the longer you play. Enemy spawns happen more often, have more hitpoints and often become more advanced versions of themselves the longer you play. Just to give you an example, the first enemy you are bound to meet in a game is called a Lemurian. A Lemurian is your height and is relatively easy to fight and kill. An Elder Lemurian in comparison is more than 3 times your height and shooting it feels like you are tickling it. Either way, if you think you are going to blast your way through and survive you are wrong. You have to keep moving and shooting until finally you say to yourself: Are they really all dead? At which point the game starts spawning enemies again…
Not all is doom and gloom however. As you kill enemies they drop some coins and experience for you. The latter helps you level up and with that you become a bit stronger. Not enough to survive, however, but your odds are, if ever so slightly, a bit more in your favour. The coins on the other hand can be used to open chests/trigger statues and repair drones. Once opened or triggered, the former two drop items which you can collect. Items give you a slight advantage such as enabling you to jump higher or faster regen. You get the idea. They are not going to win the game for you but no player, in their rightful mind, would decline collecting them after they have played the game for a few minutes. Some items are use items which are equipped in your action bar and allow you to trigger an effect such as firing a powerful weapon or spawning a ghost of some of the dead creatures in the level to help you in your fight… Drones are … well… drones which follow you around and help you in various ways. Either by helping you increase your damage output or by healing you up. They do get damaged however by the enemy spawns so moving is imperative to keep them going for longer. If they do get destroyed you can repair them but this often takes more coins each time it happens.
Once you run through a number of levels you are greeted with the final level and boss. I won’t spoil the final fight but if you manage to defeat the final boss the adrenaline kick you get is amazing. So much so that, if you are like me, you’ll end up wanting to do it again. And why not? Risk of Rain is not a long game but it’s replay value is great. Every run is guaranteed to feel like a new experience not only because of the different layouts, different items you can collect in a run or the different enemies that spawn. You also get to play it with different characters you can unlock and which change the game completely. Each of the characters in-game has 4 different abilities. I personally believe which one you choose says a lot about you as a player. When my friends and I started to play the game we immediately found a character we liked – often when you unlock a new character you end up either never going back or quickly realizing that you prefer the previous favourite’s style of fighting.
Another cool feature of the game, which also adds to its replay value, are the hidden areas. These sometimes spawn in the map and if the level aligns itself properly you can collect an artifact item. Artifact items are special items which enable you to change the game in a subtle way before you start a run. One of them for example removes the RNG of the items which drop from chests/statues and allows the player to pick the item they prefer allowing for a more customized experience. Me myself? I usually end up puttiny my fate in the hands of the RNG gods.
Some other things which are worth mentioning: its atmospheric music gets stuck in your head. It’s that good. More than I expected for an indie game of its price to be honest. And if you like pixel art you are in for a treat. The environments, characters, enemy spawns, biographies (which you can collect by the way) and effects are really amazing as well. Currently my desktop background is one of the environments in fact. It’s that good. Finally the game has challenges and achievements too if you are into that kind of thing.
There are only two minor things I can mention as negatives: the game only updates your stats if you play on normal mode (not on easy). I didn’t understand this at first and thought the game was buggy. The other one is that sometimes the character you are playing with clips through the level. This usually happens at the very beginning of the game and then it is usually fine for the rest of your run so no biggie.
Risk of rain is a game worth every dollar/euro/pound/yen/etc you pay for. The small team that made it deserves what they get from you because they produced a solid product with an unlimited amount of enjoyment. 10/10