If there is any word that could properly describe Risk of Rain, it is madness. Your character has collected dozens of items and is currently fending off numerous alien species, twenty-four robots, and is simultaneously dodging the relentless attacks of the six-hundred-foot Magna Worm. This is the sort of thing that can be found in every playthrough of Risk of Rain.
In traditional 2D-roguelike fashion, each session of Risk of Rain is randomly generated. The items, world construction, and enemies are different every single time. What sets this roguelike apart from the rest are its unique mechanics. Rather than being given the typical task of reaching the end of the stage or destroying a certain enemy, the player must search each world for a portal. Once the player activates the portal, they must withstand and destroy waves of enemies for a period of time. Every run consists of five worlds, with the final world consisting of a more defined structure and ending boss battle. The kicker is that the level of difficulty is constantly being increased every few minutes. The world is full of items and chests that can be incredibly beneficial to the player, but searching for these collectables and the hidden portal for too long can make for an extremely hard playthrough. This forces the player to choose what they want – more experience points and equipment, or easier enemies. The key to Risk of Rain is finding the happy medium. This makes for a fast-paced and exciting run, every single time, and certainly a welcomed change and interesting take on the roguelike genre.
Despite all the items and resources you may find in each playthrough, Risk of Rain is still very punishing. Enemies are constantly spawning around the player, and get stronger as time passes. Some players may be turned away by challenging gameplay, yet it only fueled my desire to play even more. There were times where my demise felt a bit unfair, but I immediately wanted to rush into my next run. At its best Risk of Rain can be incredibly addictive, constantly feeding those “one last run” temptations. Whenever I began to feel that it was time to stop playing, I would unlock another new playable character (the game hosts a total of twelve) and feel the urge to jump right back in.
Although there is a moderate amount of lore to be found in the monster logs scattered throughout the worlds, many of the creatures and enemies feel uninspired and uninteresting. Most of the enemies fall victim to typical sci-fi tropes, often leaving the player to fight dull robots, mushrooms, and jellyfish. While several of the enemies may feel a bit lackluster, the same cannot be said about the atmosphere. Risk of Rain does not look beautiful, but it feels alive. The combination of its fantastic soundtrack, diverse and exploratory worlds, and a constant barrage of threats gives Risk of Rain the heart and soul it needs. The wonderful variety in the soundtrack gives every world its own unique feel. At times the enemies made me not care about these worlds, but the music always drew me back in.
While the single-player playthroughs are fun, Risk of Rain is at its finest when played with friends. Players have the option to partake in up to four-player local or online co-op. All the things that make Risk of Rain great are even further enhanced when shared with friends. During cooperative play, players share gold, but not items. This forces them to work together and carefully decide who gets what. The cooperative aspect can change the game entirely, allowing for one player to pick the tanky “Enforcer”, another to pick the crit-based sniper, and the others to pick mid-ranged attackers. Figuring out the best possible teams and coupling them with the correct items will surely give players an immense amount of replay value and room for improvement. The variety of characters allows for some very interesting possibilities. The roster ranges from the laser-sword wielding Mercenary to the explosive-based Engineer, and even includes a poisonous beast that uses a combination of melee and ranged attacks. Each character boasts four different skills that are often coupled with cooldown times, forcing players to learn how to use their abilities in unison for the best results. I found some characters (such as the Enforcer) to be a bit of a bore, but others that made each round both exciting and rewarding.
Risk of Rain takes a lot of – wait for it – risks. It puts a whole new spin on the roguelike genre, placing an emphasis on team-based strategies and revolving most of the gameplay around speed and time. While its lore may be a bit lacking, the game makes up for it with the possibility of countless hours of playthroughs and a convincing atmosphere. This game is not for everyone, especially since sessions can often be hit or miss – if you’re ten minutes into your run and you still haven’t found the first portal, you’re pretty much a goner. However, there is a special and satisfying feeling when things go right. When you have dozens of items and start to feel invincible as you walk into the final epic battle, Risk of Rain once again shows you how extraordinary and satisfying it can really be.