The odd thing about supporting a number of Kickstarter campaigns, but not really following any of them closely, is that you can suddenly find yourself the owner of a brand new vidya game that you’d entirely forgotten about.
Enter Risk of Rain. After getting successfully Kickstartered back in April, Risk of Rain officially released this week, and trust me when I say you want to check it out.
Despite the almost meditative-sounding name, Risk of Rain is an action platformer with roguelike elements, with the emphasis firmly on the action. It should really be called Risk of Blunt Force Trauma to the Face, but perhaps that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
You’re a soldier of some variety, escaping an exploding space ship in an cramped drop pod that is hurtling down towards a planet’s surface. Initially your only choice is the simple but versatile Commando – a long-ranged combatant with a combat roll to help get you out of tight spots – but in the process of mastering the game you’ll unlock the Enforcer (close-range tank), Engineer (tech tricks and traps), the Huntress (mobility), and another six on top of that.
Each character has 4 abilities – or to be more precise, their basic attack and three abilities – and these are all linked to Z, X, C and V, in a simple control layout reminiscent of a MOBA, though there’s also gamepad support and fully remappable controls if you don’t like the defaults.
The simplicity of the controls is key, as the game is fond of sending ridiculous numbers of enemies at you. Within your first hour of play you’ll be dispatching enemies left and right, not needing to think about the abilities at your disposal, just using muscle memory to mete out justice (or simply to dominate the planet’s indigenous species – remember, the real monster is man).
Another interesting mechanic is the way the difficulty level ramps up the longer you play. The meter on the right hand side of the screen slowly fills up, beginning at Very Easy, and climbing up to I’M COMING TO GET YOU, giving you the choice of rushing through the game to get as far as you can while the enemies are fewer and weaker, or grinding early to progress with your own minor godhood intact.
The different areas in the game have their own selection of unique enemies and a few that carry over across multiple areas. As the difficulty level increases the enemies become stronger, stronger in number, and are endowed with various elemental effects. Things quickly get hectic, with enough enemies, effects and drops on screen to drop the framerate significantly.
To help battle the enemies there is a huge number of items that drop from crates, shrines and bosses. Most of these are passive, stacking on top of each other in brilliantly ridiculous combinations that probably still won’t keep you alive without some additional luck and skill. Other active items have a larger effect and a much longer cooldown than the standard abilities, and they don’t stack, so you’ll need to choose wisely.
The most pleasant surprise on offer with Risk of Rain is the online co-op. You’ll need your IP address and to open up a port, but after that it’s quick and easy to get the game running. You can stick close together to get through the storm, or split up and hope your chosen direction holds the best loot. It’s hard to say if the game ups the difficulty based on the number of players, because given enough time the difficulty ramps up massively anyway, but the number of classes on offer, the near-permadeath (if the remaining players make it to the next level you’ll be resurrected), and the random generation gives Risk of Rain a whole lot scope for jolly cooperation.
Risk of Rain is fun, frantic, with a number of interesting mechanics and innovations and potential for huge replayability. I’d recommend you check it out, but thankfully though you don’t need to listen to my advice if you don’t want to – just check out the demo here.