Critical Hit: Risk of Rain
Quick Breakdown: A thrilling roguelike action platformer with multiple classes to play as, and a unique way to handle the game’s difficulty.
Length:14-16 hours (Main game), 1-2 hours (Single run)
Genre: Platformer / Action / Roguelike
Note: Controller recommended
Full Review: Risk of Rain is a strong action platformer, and it has some roguelike elements that give it some interesting qualities, as well as some unique quirks too.
The game features 12 different classes to play as, though you only start with one, the Commando. While it’s not my favourite class, it’s thankfully a good one to begin the game with. The other classes are unlocked by completing various tasks in the game.
Each class has its own unique attacks and qualities. You have 4 attacks or abilities with each class, 3 of which require a cooldown period before they can be used again, the duration of which varies by character and attack. The remaining attack is just an attack that can be used as often as you like with no cool down (it's essentially your basic attack). The cooldown on some attacks and abilities gives the combat an interesting twist, as you can’t just use any attack at any time. This means that sometimes you must think before using an attack so you don’t screw yourself over in case you need it just after, or prioritize the order of your attacks so that the one with the longer cooldown is used first.
For the Commando you have a basic shot, a shotgun attack that pierces through enemies, a rapid shooting attack in both directions, and finally a dodge roll. My favourite class to play is the Huntress, as she’s the best for kiting (running back and forth while shooting, and causing enemies to follow you in a way that groups them together), she auto-targets when firing, and one of her attacks even hits multiple enemies too.
The game features a total of 7 levels per playthrough, with most levels having 2 different stages to play, and each stage having more than one possible layout. Being a roguelike, the randomized elements don’t end there: scattered throughout each level are various chests and shrines that give you items to augment your character. The pickup items are randomized through each playthrough and their effects range from improving your attack by increasing damage, raising your attack speed, or adding an electrical shock that targets enemies near the enemy you hit. Other augmentations improve your health regeneration abilities, increase your movement speed, or even give you a usable item of some sort (with varying cooldown rates). One must purchase chests to be able to get the item inside: as the difficulty level increases, so does the price of the chest. In general, the more expensive the chest (relative to the others on the level), the better the item. Money is earned simply by killing enemies.
One of the unique aspects of the game is the way the difficulty scales. For every 5 minutes you spend during a playthrough, the game’s difficulty goes up one level. There’s a bar in the upper right corner showing you both the time and difficulty level, such as Easy, Hard, Nightmare, Impossible, etc. After 10 levels the text will cease to change, though the difficulty level still increments every 5 minutes. For each level of difficulty increase, more enemies will spawn, they’ll have more health and do more damage, and tougher enemies will also appear. Eventually, the difficulty will increment to the point where bosses will spawn along with the normal enemies. This forces one to balance how much time they spend farming on a level before progressing to the next one, as they risk increasing the difficulty at a rate disproportionate to the reward. The game itself has some difficulty, but it’s not terribly high. However the combat system does have some unique quirks (as discussed earlier), and combined with the difficulty scaling, it does take some getting used to.
The game took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 hours before I completed my first successful run. Each run will only take about 60-120 minutes to play all the way through (obviously less if you die early).
If you play with a keyboard then the controls default to moving with the arrow keys, jumping with Space, and using Z-X-C-V to attack or use abilities. I found this setup awkward, and while remapping the attacks to Q-W-E-R did make things easier, I still greatly preferred playing with a controller. A friend of mine mentioned that this control set up was similar to DOTA 2 or other MOBAs, though I haven’t ever played any, so I can’t comment. However, I mention it just in case those used to that sort of game find the keyboard controls more functional than I did.
The game has some UI issues. For one, I can’t scroll through the menus with the arrow keys, needing to use the mouse instead. It’s a minor thing but it should be fixed, because it’s quite an annoyance at times. Furthermore, while the game does offer controller support, it must be toggled on/off in the sub-menu for the game controller setup. Toggling this on will also disable the keyboard controls in-game until it’s toggled off again. This is counterintuitive in two ways, first in that the controller needs to be turned on, and second in that it renders the keyboard unusable until it’s turned off again. Finally, and the biggest one for me personally, is that you are not able to use the Steam overlay to take screenshots or upload them to Steam. This meant I had to use Print Screen to take pictures, pause the game, paste them in a Word doc, and then eventually upload them to Imgur.
So in the end, Risk of Rain is a very strong action platformer, with roguelike elements to help spice the game up. Its combat system and difficulty scaling help keep it interesting, while the different classes help extend its longevity.
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