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Risk of Rain 2 Review

Risk of Rain 2 Review

It’s with an abrupt crash that I make contact with Risk of Rain 2’s hostile alien planet. After springing forth from my ship’s now-busted escape pod, taking those first few cautious steps into uncharted alien terrain and getting my bearings, I see… nothing. “This won’t be so bad”, I think to myself. How wrong I was... Soon, a single, flaming head-monster approaches from the horizon. ”Nothing I can’t manage”, my inner monologue chimes in once again. As suddenly as it appeared, the beastie is reduced to nothing thanks to a well-placed rifle shot or two. It explodes, leaving no trace except for an all-important cash reward. A few ‘barely more than a nuisance’ encounters like that, and I can use said cash to open one of the supply crates that crashed alongside my escape pod and I. What does the first crate contain? A weapon upgrade: enemies now engulf their surroundings with fire upon death. “Ha!”, I cry. These pitiful enemies were already pushovers; with this upgrade, I was going to take them on with my eyes closed! But the enemies aren’t as easy as they were in previous minutes: they were becoming more plentiful, stronger and able to shrug off bullets as if they were little more than mildly sharp wood chippings. “Oh. It’s going to be like THAT is it?”, I say, cracking my knuckles in anticipation. Oh yes, it’s going to be like THAT.

Jump forward an hour, and the pleasantly warm opening minutes had heated up to a screaming hot, skin-peeling nightmare. Explosions, lasers and energy fields light up the environment in a (sometimes literal) fireworks show of chaos. Enemies swarm around in overwhelming numbers, some flying, some tunneling up from the ground and some even appearing from thin air. Even my movement—once a cautious jog—had ramped up into a barely-manageable, inhumanly fast sprint from place-to-place with multiple jumps and opportunities for flight. Welcome to Risk of Rain 2, the game that drops you into the water, turns up the heat and watches as you boil to death—smiling the whole time.

Risk of Rain 2 Screenshot 1jpg

When it launched onto Early Access back in March 2019, Risk of Rain 2 attracted a fair bit of attention for the bold decision on the part of its developer, Hopoo Games, to translate the 2D stylings of the original Risk of Rain into 3D. It goes without saying that 3D sequels to 2D games can be resounding successes—just look at Mario 64—but Hopoo Games isn’t Nintendo, it’s a three-person team with limited experience in game development. Still, now that the game is officially available in its full (albeit likely not final) ‘1.0’ form, I can say with complete confidence that the team at Hopoo Games has nailed the conversion.

Thinking back to the original game (which kept my PS Vita in action for longer than I care to admit), it now feels like a proof-of-concept. So many of the mechanics, upgrades and character abilities carry over from the original to the sequel (with many, many more added), but where they felt somewhat theoretical in 2D, they achieve a real impact in 3D. Likewise, the different playable characters—of which there are 10—are far more easily distinguished in 3D thanks to both their visual design, exciting abilities and control variances.

Risk of Rain 2 Screenshot 2

In the grand tradition of roguelikes (roguelites? The difference still eludes me), Risk of Rain 2 puts players, either solo or with co-op buddies, in pre-designed, open-ended levels filled with enemies, treacherous terrain and opportunities to acquire power-boosting items. Somewhere in the level sits a teleporter that, when activated, spawns a powerful boss (typically a majorly beefed-up version of a regular enemy). After activating the teleporter and defeating the boss, players can advance to the next level and start the loop again in a new, mostly uninspired environment type. (Desert, grassland, caverns, icy tundra. You know the drill.) Except for unlockable characters, abilities and items, there’s no permanent progress—death means a full restart. Hopoo Games added a much-needed final boss in the full release; before that, the game would continue indefinitely until the enemies became too much to handle. With no ‘suspend game’ feature, this led to most playthroughs being self-sabotaged around the one-to-two hour mark, at least in my experience. Perhaps the nature of the game’s design makes implementing a save feature impossible, but even with the end-point provided by the final boss, a suspend feature would certainly be appreciated.

The various, randomised item pickups are plentiful, distinct and go a long way towards making each ‘run’ different in Risk of Rain 2. All too often in games of this ilk, items serve primarily as stat-boosters instead of modifiers that impact play in any tangible way. Thankfully, every item—or close enough to it—has a real effect on how either the character moves, the weapons behave or the enemies die. Healing items are the one exception to this rule, although it’s easy to forgive this: really, how would you represent health bar replenishment in a tangible on-screen way? There are items that burn, bleed or stun enemies; others that heal, increase maximum health or grant a rechargeable shield; there are even items that grant additional jumps, temporary invisibility or enemy-damaging force fields. The list of items is colossal and each one earns its place among the rest.

Risk of Rain 2 Screenshot 3

While it may seem like a fairly mindless shooter on the surface (okay, to a large extent, it sort of is), there’s an underlying sense of mystery running through Risk of Rain 2's environments. Secret realms, ancient deities(?) and peculiar shrines can be found in every corner of every level. While I’m not the type of player to dig into the lore of any given fictional universe, I do appreciate the allusion to wider happenings, even if I don’t do the leg-work to discover what those happenings actually are.

I’ve played my share of roguelike shooters in recent years, and Risk of Rain 2 ranks up there with the best of them. It’s a masterclass in making characters and items that feel truly distinct: no two items serve the same purpose. Oh, and the cool-as-hell soundtrack deserves a mention too; it’s a damn shame that many players won’t ever hear it in its full glory. After all, most of them—I Imagine—will be either talking to friends or listening to their podcast/audiobook/album of choice instead of letting the soundtrack cap off the experience.

8.00/10 8

Risk of Rain 2 (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Varied items, engrossing gameplay and a killer soundtrack make Risk of Rain 2 one of the best roguelike shooters in recent years. The lack of a mid-game save feature and some uninspired environments hold this sequel back, but the astonishing translation from 2D to 3D more than makes up for it.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Jamie Davies

Jamie Davies

Staff Writer

Raised on a steady diet of violent shooters and sugary cereal. He regrets no part of this

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