Indie Spotlight: Risk of Rain

Indie Spotlight: Risk of Rain

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To even give you an idea of what Risk of Rain is like, imagine you took Super Metroid as a base, sprinkled in some Cave Story and The Binding of Isaac and then mixed in Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP. Then, put in an ever-increasing difficulty, randomly generated levels and 4 player co-op and you may get an idea of how Risk of Rain plays. It can get controller shatteringly frustrating at times but if you like roguelikes or action platformers, Risk of Rain is definitely worth picking up.

Risk of Rain is the product of Hopoo Games, the student team of Paul Morse and Duncan Drummond (with the help of Chris Christodoulo for the soundtrack), where your aim is to survive as long as possible and get off the planet you are stranded on by fighting your way through hundreds of monsters and various different levels.

The game starts off fairly easy, with your character standing outside of their crashed ship as enemies start to trickle in, giving you bits of cannon fodder as you try to gain money, level up and grab items and upgrades (akin to The Binding of Isaac’s trinkets and power-ups) as you try and find the teleporter to get to the next level. However, you then notice the meter in the top right hand corner of the screen, which causes the game’s difficulty to rise every 5 or so minutes, going from Very Easy to HAHAHAHAHAHA over the course of about an hour.

This feature is what sets Risk of Rain apart from other roguelikes, with the game getting progressively harder as you fight through each level, making each section not only a chance to grind XP and gold to buy power-ups but a mad dash to the teleporter in order to get to the next level before the difficulty rises yet again.

This constant stress of balancing grabbing items and getting to the teleporter gives Risk of Rain a unique spin on the ‘risk or reward’ formula, as players have to choose between making a godlike character in the early game but risking annihilation by the horde of super-powered monsters coming your way. Or you could dash to each teleporter, trying to beat the boss at a low level but not having to deal with the possibility of two bosses with ridiculously large health bars, as well as a gigantic horde of aliens.

Risk of Rain gives you the opportunity to play any way you want but bearing in mind that once your character dies, they are permanently dead and you must start again with a brand new person.

Don’t think you are playing just one class though, Risk of Rain has 10 different characters to choose from like the agile Commando which has the ability to dodge roll, fire a piercing shot through lines of enemies or lay down suppressive fire to the sword wielding Mercenary who can cut enemies to ribbons. However, you only start with the Commando and must unlock the other classes by getting certain achievements which range from the mildly challenging to the outright ridiculous. For me, this is where Risk of Rain turns a lot of players off on just how hard it is.

Even on medium difficulty, the game sends armies of aliens at you which can easily overwhelm you if you do not have decent enough items, which is somewhat down to the luck of the draw. Even a run with great items and decent health can be quickly ruined by a fast moving mob of jellyfish and imps which pop up out of nowhere.

In single player, the game can be impossible in the later levels but when playing with friends, the game can become an absolute breeze. At the moment, the game is not correctly balanced for multiplayer, making it easy for a dedicated team of 3 players to blaze through the campaign with no major trouble. Also, certain elements like the inability to see a friend’s health mar the experience, as players have to gauge the healthiness of their teammates whilst trying to balance their own life which adds further pressure to an already pressurised experience.

While suffering from some balance issues as I have mentioned, some other problems exist like the fact that some classes like the Enforcer and the Sniper are vastly underpowered compared to the Commando or that the game can suffer from some weird hit detection issues when fighting certain enemies and collision problems when trying to climb ladders and ropes.

I have lost count how many times I have died because I was standing a pixel off a rope when trying to escape a horde of marauding aliens. The sarcastic quips when you die do not help dull the pain either.

Furthermore, even though the levels within Risk of Rain are randomly generated, many areas seem to repeat themselves after multiple runs and the lack of a mini-map gets irritating as you try and find that teleporter you swear you saw early when you were being chased by hundreds of angry sand crabs.

Also, this may be a personal gripe but having falling damage in a platformer seems counter-intuitive, especially when you can easily fall off platforms when you are using jump pads but that’s only a minor problem

Besides these gripes, the game looks great with the minimalist pixel art and the Metroid-esque score helping to create a great feeling of isolation and often panic as you try and escape from this hellish planet. Moreover, the chaps at Hopoo Games are continuing to patch and add things to the game which will more than likely correct the faults I have brought up in this spotlight.

It is remarkable that a game made by such a small team has such a high level of polish and challenge so kudos must be given them for making Risk of Rain the game that it is.

If you like roguelikes or action platformers or if you are a bit of a masochist, Risk of Rain is definitely for you which will give you hours of fun as you jump, blast and swear your way through its well-crafted world.

However, if you are new to roguelikes or are looking for something a little bit lighter, Risk of Rain will kick you in the balls and leave you crying in the gutter as aliens eat your skin. Happy hunting and don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

 

 

Sam Foxall

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