Sequels are usually predictable. A game is expanded with a few new mechanics and the story continues. Hoppo Games has opted to throw this convention out the window with Risk of Rain 2. Instead of continuing with the praised 2D platforming gameplay, the developers decided to reinterpret the game as a third person shooter for the sequel. After 17 months in early access and a short delay, Risk of Rain 2 is finally out in full.
Like its predecessor, Risk of Rain 2 does not offer much of a storyline but rather some context for the game. The game does have a surprising amount of writing in the logbook. These entries are usually collected as drops as the game progresses and provide an enjoyable little break that breathe a bit of life into the game.
Risk of Rain 2 is a third person shooter that retains the spirit of Risk of Rain. Players choose a character, each with unique skills, to take into a run. Each run consists of a chain of levels where players rush to find a teleporter to send them to the next level. Each level is picked from a pool of possible maps, and all the loot, enemies, and shrines are randomly placed. The game is a tricky balance between exploring the level to get enough enemies to survive the boss fight at the teleporter and rushing through the level as quickly as possible as enemy spawn and difficulty levels increase as time progresses. As a rogue-lite, items collected between runs do not carry over, but unlocked characters and artifacts do.
Combat feels tight and is enjoyable. While the game is no longer a 2D platformer, combat still has several nods to the game’s roots like highly telegraphed attacks, plenty of dodging, and epic boss fights. The boss fights become more common as the game progresses as the bosses start spawning as normal enemies instead of only at the teleporter. Combat usually feels fair due to the emphasis on learning how to deal with big telegraphed attacks; however, the 3D nature of the game means dodging is not always the most reliable way to avoid damage. Players will have to lean heavily on using the environment to stay out of the enemy’s line of sight or kite them around. Part of the fun of combat is how runs are rarely the same because items are the main source of power in the game. There are a lot of items with a variety of modifiers, from humble stat increases to some weird and wonderful effects. Unless the player uses certain artifacts to control their drops, the random drops means players will need to think on their feet to adapt to the items they are dealt.
Risk of Rain 2 is an ability heavy game where each character approaches combat differently. Every player should be able to find a few characters they enjoy, and the alternate abilities tweak the character’s playstyle enough to keep the game fresh. The characters have been designed for a variety of skill levels and controller methods, so players who are just picking up a controller for the first time will have characters that rely on lock on attacks and positioning, while high skill mouse and keyboard users will have a few high risk/high reward snipers to choose from.
The game can be incredibly challenging due to the randomness and the increasing difficulty level as time progresses. The game currently has three difficulty levels that adjust player health regeneration, player damage reduction, and the rate at which the difficulty increases. I found the difficulty jump between the easy and normal difficulty levels to be very high. I think a custom level that allows players to specify the exact values would help bridge the gap between difficulty levels.
The learning curve is on the higher end of the spectrum without becoming painfully masochistic. While basic shooter skills will get players through the first level consistently, players will need to learn quite a bit to become good at the game. Map layout, enemy attack patterns, and how to avoid damage is all necessary for deep runs.
The controls are good for the most part. The limited number of skills and tightly executed controls works well for the genre. My only issue is there are a few key bindings that are permanently locked to certain functions like opening chat. I would prefer the developers allow us to rebind all keys freely.
Risk of Rain 2’s gameplay is very good. It is a solid hybrid of horde mode shooters and rogue-lite platformers. The addictive loop that made Risk of Rain unique is still recognizable, even though Risk of Rain 2 is now a 3D shooter. The lack of randomized levels can be dull after a while, but I understand why the decision was made. The heavy reliance on using line of sight to avoid damage means learning the map becomes part of the strategy. Additionally, getting lost trying to find the teleporter is intensely frustrating as it drags out the game and increases the difficulty for little gain. A randomly generated level would infinitely increase my rage as I ran to several occasions where it took 20 minutes to find a teleporter. Unfortunately, it is just a no-win situation for the developers.
Risk of Rain 2 does an excellent job of taking Risk of Rain’s visual style into the 3D space. The two games share a muted colour scheme and simpler character models. Risk of Rain 2 doesn’t translate the pixelated look by using voxels though, opting to use a flatter palette of colours to create a lo-fi style. I particularly like the environment artist’s choice to use lots of shades of a single colour to create each map as it gives the game a distinctive look.
The audio experience in Risk of Rain 2 is solid. The sound effects are enjoyable. The soundtrack is fantastic and compliments the game well.
Risk of Rain 2 is a solid shooter that channels the spirit of the original game in a new format. The game has some unpleasant spikes in the difficulty curve, and the premade maps can get a little repetitive at times. But much of this can be overlooked due to the game’s addictive gameplay loop and excellent audio/visual presentation. For the gamers who skipped on Risk of Rain because 2D platformers are not their thing, Risk of Rain 2 offers them the rare opportunity to see what all the fuss is about in a genre that may be more familiar.
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