Risk of Rain Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Risking Everything…

…to Please the NES Gods

Make no mistake- modern though its release date may be, Risk of Rain’s gameplay is just as classic as Donkey Kong, Mario, or Mega Man’s gameplay. I say this mainly because it brings back that sense of arcade-style gaming, where players are often given little to no direction and are able to play and find out how things work and what they’re supposed to do through trial and experimentation. As classic as this approach is by today’s standards, some games don’t always work so well attempting to emulate those mannerisms- thankfully however, Risk of Rain is a game that manages to avoid many of the pitfalls other copycats have run into through the years. Risk of Rain’s aim is to be fun and adventurous, and it achieves this through its unique, retro experience.

This platforming title feels like an 8-bit era game for good reason, as it thoroughly emulates that look as well, despite having some newer actions and options added in as well- giving it more depth than most of those games ever had. Like said games, there is little backstory, or any storytelling at all really, as the gameplay speaks volumes for itself and is how a player is supposed to glean information and decipher what is going on throughout the game. The story essential boils down to the classic: you’re the survivor of a space wreck and must defend yourself from foreign enemies whilst figuring out a way to get back home. This could very well be an 8-bit Pikmin game in that sense.

As with the unforgiving oldies such as Kong and other arcade 8-bit wonders, Risk of Rain doesn’t offer players any sort of tutorial before throwing them to the 8-bit wolves in a sense, and also doesn’t really feature any manual or opening explanation aside from giving you the rundown on your little predicament briefly. After that, everything you do or don’t do is up to you, and the only goal is to really survive the enemy encounters you’re bound to have multiple times throughout. What makes the game surprisingly even more replayable than most other 8-bit classics is the fact that it not only has such a already high degree of difficulty added to it, but it also has several randomly generated worlds to start players off in- never really starting in the same one several playthroughs over.

Your 8-bit hero/survivor has several different abilities, all set to specific cool-down timers, with which he can defend himself or use to go on the offensive against your foes. This not only adds to the tension and excitement, but adds an air of strategy to the action as well, thanks to the fact that you must gauge your timing and use of abilities appropriately against certain enemies and in specific areas where abilities could benefit you even more. After thoroughly exploring most areas, you will come to find certain teleporters which spawn bosses but also serve as your means of escaping to the next zone, after having defeated said bosses. Each zone is another randomly generated area with randomly generated enemies. You might start in a different zone each time and even face different bosses on replay of the same zones, it just depends.

“It gets so hard, the game laughs at you- literally.”

Players are welcome to “wuss out” so to speak and make a mad dash for the area’s teleporter if you can successfully locate it, and this may be more crucial on replays of zones you’ve already seen, however it also means you will miss out on a lot of exploration and loot. The more enemies you manage to take down, the more experience and cash you will collect, which in turn unlocks specific upgrades scattered around each randomly generated area in special caskets just waiting with your name on them.

Upgrades can be really helpful, as most are powerful buffers and boosts to your already impress array of abilities, ranging from healing capability increases to a bolstered defensive aura and overall defensive increase. Chipping in with some more of that retro mystery is the fact that you must experiment even with upgrades, as you won’t know what a specific upgrade will do unless you actually use it. This makes things more exciting and the replay value rocket up even higher as well. By the end of the game, you’ll be hunting every last enemy down for their dropped loot, as you eagerly try to get enough cash to unlock the next chest and whatever game0changing upgrade it may contain.

Risk of Rain is one the whole a pretty short game in terms of modern games, but it is such a replayable title that it will keep your interest for a pretty good amount of time, and also keep you constantly trying to best your previous runs as well. The game also, interestingly enough, features a permadeath system, so if you kick the bucket you’ll be starting the already challenging adventure over again back at square one. While that can be extremely frustrating to be sure, I am positive that many gamers will relish the challenge it brings, and the same group of torturous souls who have enjoyed games like Dark Souls will try this retro title as well and enjoy it profusely.

Be it as it may that beginners will probably want to steer clear of this hardcore retro-wannabe title, everyone else should also know that there are a few minor annoyances to be had in this game as well- it is, after all, not perfect. Throughout the game, you are constantly on a timer which times your progress as well as any setbacks, and will literally never pause during gameplay. Because of this and the vast amount of space to cover and items to discover in the game’s randomly generated areas, inevitably many players will fail just from running out of time. The fact that it is pretty much impossible to unlock everything in one playthrough due to time constraints may prove annoying to some as well.

As you explore, there is also a difficulty meter which will increase as time goes on- meaning the game only gets harder and harder, and never any easier at all. Because of this, while you can loot certain areas and not really move on for too long, it is actually better to keep moving between worlds because otherwise you eventually find overleveled enemies facing you down with no means of escape, and then it’s back to square one again for you.I love the risks you must take to clear areas out and explore new places in the game, but the fact that everything is random can sometimes be an issue as well as a cool aspect- as things may spawn where it is impossible to grab them, or enemies may continually block areas, making it impossible to progress.

“The calm before the storm…”

Be it as it may be, Risk of Rain is an incredibly replayable game if you have the stomach for its challenging gameplay and incredible difficulty. Retro though it may be, I do believe this was one of the harder titles I’ve attempted to play in recent years, and the satisfaction of having completed even a marginally successful run is immense and like no other elated feeling I’ve felt in a pretty long while. Strangely, despite it’s scarier foes, even Dark Souls pales a little in comparison to Risk of Rain, so I don’t know which really scares me more anymore- they’re both hardcore…

Concept: 8-bit awesomeness with a real kick in the tail for the unprepared player attempting it, especially when they realize things only get harder as they progress, and never any easier at all.

Graphics: The 8-bit art is pretty mundane as environments go, with nothing you haven’t really seen before. However, the enemy designs and the random worlds that are generated, along with the dynamic enemy spawning are some pretty imaginative and awesome things.

Sound: It’s an 8-bit soundtrack if there ever was one. The same chip tunes and synth notes can be heard ringing in my head now just at the mere mention of them…

Playability: The control scheme is simplistic and works well, which is good since it is a PC title- though if possible, you can play with a special controller as well, if you have the means to do so. I’d recommend either way that suits you, as both are about the same in execution.

Entertainment: It’s really replayable and catchy, despite the challenge and extreme difficulty. The progression system is very large and you can unlock nearly a dozen or more classes throughout your travels and woes, even if you don’t necessarily complete the game every single time. A thoroughly enjoyable experience to be sure.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.25

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