Risk of Rain is strange game to quantify. It presents a mix of concepts like “roguelike,” “procedural generation,” or “Metroidvania” that are wildly overused. But thankfully it includes a functional online and offline coop mode which seems exceedingly rare these days. We’ve spent several hours trying to tackle the punishing difficulty of this game and walk away uncertain about the experience. It’s not exactly fun, there’s little motivation to keep playing, and just where the hell is this rain we’re hearing about?
You play as 1 of 12 (unlockable) characters dropped into a randomly generated platforming level comprised of jump pads, oddly placed ladders, and an increasingly more difficult mob of enemies on your heels. The game hinges on an ever present but invisible timer that makes the game harder as minutes pass. It’s not clear when you start, but your goal isn’t to fight back against the random creatures of these worlds, your goal is to get to exit asap. Once you hit the exit you’ll have to defend yourself for 90-120 seconds before the spawning system stops allowing you to purge the planet of anything left standing before you move on to the next random level.
It should be noted though that this game started as a student project by two developers from University of Washington before it evolved into a fully funded Kickstarter to get a wider release. With that in mind, it’s much easier to appreciate a lot about this game. First, it’s got a fabulous soundtrack for this genre (largely thanks to the successful Kickstarter to hire a composer). Also it’s a unique study on random generation and enemy generation that the two developers went through to come up with the current experience. If you are curious about game development at all, it’s worth reviewing their findings.
With that said the game’s just not much fun largely due to its weak combat system. Enemies are bullet sponges that all drift mindlessly towards you so the only strategy for the game is to run away shooting over your shoulder the entire time. Boss fights are an entertaining diversion but majority of the game just isn’t rewarding to play. There’s no progression system besides unlocking another character with different stats or weapons which makes each playthrough somewhat arbitrary. We’ve played games before that do this (e.g. Binding of Isaac, FTL, etc.) but the core gameplay of those games are significantly more enjoyable to play.
It’s an interesting study of game design and has a surprisingly solid score. The coop mode makes this a fun title to play with friends when you have 5-10 minutes to spare before doing something else more fun. RNG games are unpredictable which, when the gods are favorable, can be entertaining.
What Doesn’t Work
The run-and-gun gameplay gets old fast and never really changes, no matter how many times you play. Once you get past the novelty, it’s hard to find a reason to keep playing.
We’re desperate for coop games so we’re disappointed this isn’t more fun that it is. The devs are talented so hopefully they’re able to take lessons learned here for something great next.