There are great games, and then there are games that always find a way to make you smile. Risk of Rain is both.
Despite its simple premise and increasingly common genre, the indie game finds a way to stand out. Is it the visuals? The difficulty? The music? The tense feeling you get as you’re running from one side of the map to another as you’re chased by what seems like hundreds of enemies? Yes. It’s all of that.
As a roguelike, Risk of Rain doesn’t go about changing the genre. The premise remains the same: randomly generated levels, you grow stronger and stronger as the game progresses, and your progress is lost when you die. So how does the game stand out? The key difference is that the better you do in the game, the more difficult things become. It’s a true test of skill.
For veteran gamers, the initial appeal will be its pixelated style combined with its side-scrolling shooter gameplay. Each mission will require players to traverse across a map until they find the teleporter. Accessing it will spawn a boss, which then needs to be defeated before moving onto the next level. As you’d probably expect, this is all much harder than it sounds. The bosses are varied from gigantic fire worms that crawl across the screen to Minotaur things that are fifty times your size. Each and every one of them will require patience and skill to defeat. Oh, and you’ll need to pick up power-ups. A lot of power-ups.
Things will start out in a normal matter at first. You’ll pick up an item that increases your walking speed, one that gives you gold over time, one that drops fire when an enemy dies, pretty standard stuff. But it doesn’t stop, it just keeps coming and coming. There’s never a letup, it’s relentless. Every minute it piles up more and more, and you gotta collect them all, but the more you get, the harder the game gets. And then the enemies are spawning everywhere! And they’re cornering in on you!
The combination of tension from the progressing difficulty and the side-scrolling nature of gameplay create a wonderful feeling. Granted, by wonderful I mean extremely tense, paranoid, and nerve-wracking, but my point remains. Risk of Rain is able to bring emotions out of its players in ways few games can. Whether it’s a sense of accomplishment, fear, or straight up laughter when you finally succumb to certain death, this is a game that will elicit a reaction out of you.
In this regard, the soundtrack helps tenfold. Part of the appeal of a game’s immersion factor is being able to get lost in the universe it creates, whether though scenic visuals or a mood setting score. The latter is absolutely the case here, whether it’s the soft moody notes playing subtly behind the chaos unfolding on screen or the screeching guitar fueling your shooting.
Somehow I’ve gone nearly 500 words without mentioning the game’s classes, a feat that some will call scandalous. It’s not that I don’t think highly of them, because that’s simply not the case. Different classes offer a different way to play the game. Do you prefer to snipe from a distance? Are you a fan of mobililty? Do you just want to take everything that’s being thrown at you and dish out more pain in return? All of that is possible, provided you unlock the character classes. Sadly, only one is available from the start. You’ll need to work your tail off to unlock the rest, but you shouldn’t expect anything less from Risk of Rain.
The problem with any challenging game is finding a way to balance difficulty with enjoyment. This is something Risk of Rain doesn’t struggle with. While frustrations will arise, they’re quickly subsided by accomplishment, joy, and amazement that you were really able to live for that long against seemingly insurmountable odds. While dying is never something to be happy about, there is some good news: you’re one button away from starting the adventure all over again.