Rogue-likes have never really been my bag. While I’ve enjoyed a few in my time to a point, there was always a sense that if you don’t commit to learning the intricacies fully then you may as well not bother at all. I admired Black Paradox for this reason, and Risk of Rain 2 follows suit. It’s not perfect, but this is the one of the more enjoyable takes on the genre I’ve played.
To start with, things seem a little bare bones. In almost every menu, there are coming soon signs, or blank areas where further options will slot in to place in the future. While it’s not a full priced release, it’s also not been launched in early access as far as I can tell. While new content being added to games down the line is hardly a new idea, it’s generally not presented in a way that makes the product feel half finished outside of early access releases. But at least there’s the dangling carrot of further things to look forward to.
And really, things only go up from here anyway. The core gameplay is fun, snappy and – most of all for a rogue-like – holds up to repeated plays, even when you’ve been stripped of all your upgrades and abilities. Played in a 3rd person perspective, we find ourselves running around mid sized areas scavenging coins to spend opening the various crates dotted around while fighting an ever increasing onslaught of enemies. The combat is fast and fluid, with some lovely looking effects on your special powers. There is a slight lack of punch to it – even the stronger attacks don’t tend to phase enemies until their dead – but once it all kicks off, that won’t matter too much. You’ll be too busy trying to stay alive to worry about that.
Opening the aforementioned crates will grant you randomised loot, offering power ups to help you through. There’s a ton of variables in play, with some offering huge advantages – sometimes at a cost elsewhere – while others will need to be used in concert with complimenting ones for the best effect. These buff and aid your standard mode of attacks. Each of the currently available characters have different abilities, each with cooldowns dictating their play style. Only one is unlocked from the start, and unlocking the others requires some luck/skill in game, but to honest, our default hero is more than capable.
As soon as you start, a bar in the top corner will begin moving up; as it does so, the difficulty of the area increases. Even at easy, things are tough, but once it moves to hard and beyond you’ll need to have made the most of the upgrades dotted about. There’s a fine balancing act to figure out – do you spend more time gather loot at the risk of a harder fight, or just activate each levels end gate and hope for the best.
This gate, once found, needs protecting while a percentage number fills up before you can clear the stage. Not only will the horde get harder, but huge bosses appear at this point too – sometimes several at once. For solo players, this can seem to be an insurmountable task. Thankfully, we can head online to team up in four player action.
It’s here that Risk of Rain 2 really shines. What can be a little tedious and a frustrating venture solo suddenly turns into a manic display of co-ordination, with weapon fire going off in all directions, saves from out of nowhere and just absolute carnage once the difficulty ramps up. While none of the players I found wanted to talk ( 🙁 ), soon the unspoken rule of follow the one with the most kills reared its head. Realistically, you won’t want to separate anyway, as not only will you die, but loot is not shared, so you’ll need to try to co-operate to give everyone a chance.
That’s not to say that rogue-likes trappings don’t rear their head. As is standard, everything is randomised for each play. Though the geometry is standardised for each world, the location of the end gate, boxes coins etc change each time. Levels are large enough to accommodate this, but it can also be a bit demoralising to know that you have to explore the entire thing time after time.And of course, we lose any upgrades and loot we’d gained upon death. Some titles at least have a few permanent upgrades you can unlock, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. It would have been nice to have a revive mechanic too, at least in multiplayer.
Thankfully, there’s something about the core feel to the gun-play and movement that mostly makes up for things. Everything is snappy, even with the screen chock full of enemies, gunfire and gigantic bosses. Getting a particularly powerful upgrade early on feels like winning the lottery, while teaming up with 3 players online makes the grind far more appetising. It’d have been nice to be able to keep something from each run, and have online loot shared amongst the team, but as it is, Risk of Rain 2 is a great example of the genre.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.