Risk of Rain is hands down one of my top 3 games of 2014. It is a relatively simple platformer with a twist and some roguelike elements thrown in for good measure. There is a vague backstory for those interested but strong gameplay is the focus for this game. In this extended discussion I’ll go over how the game handles difficulty and items as they are truly unique systems.
The difficulty in Risk of Rain is handled by a trick two stage system. The first stage is a user selectable ‘starting difficulty’ which provides players an opportunity to set the baseline difficulty of that particular run. The second stage of difficulty is the ‘scaling difficulty’ which effectively makes the game more difficult over fixed time intervals. When combined the two systems can accommodate a wide variety of player skill, however keep in mind that the item system can provide an equally large challenge as I will discuss later.
I’ll begin with the starting difficulty as players must choose this before beginning a new run. When you begin the game you are presented with three settings which have the scaling difficulty interval rate appended as well;
- Drizzle (Easy) – 9 minutes.
- Rainstorm (Medium) – 4.5 minutes.
- Monsoon (Hard) – 3 minutes.
While new players will notice the quicker intervals, more experienced players will feel the pain from the more expensive item chests and capsules for reasons I will discuss later on. As expected enemies also tend to do more damage and bosses spawn more frequently on the higher settings too. The best way to illustrate these settings would be as follows;
- Drizzle – Good for newbies as there is plenty of time and money to farm items. You can easily max out the scaling difficulty without worrying too much.
- Rainstorm – Moderately experienced players shouldn’t struggle to complete a run. Depending on item luck it is possible but difficult to sit on maxed out difficulty scaling too.
- Monsoon – Challenging as you don’t have enough time, money and items to survive on higher scaling settings. You better move fast and be smart about it too.
So since I have referenced the scaling difficulty a few times, I better follow up with that. As stated above there are timing intervals at which this scale increases. There are 10 intervals in total with a unique name for each one, players can see track it at all times on the top right corner of the screen. The scaling difficulty becomes especially important on Monsoon settings as every interval increases the enemy strength, spawn count and spawn interval. Unless you manage to get extremely good items to combat an exponential increase in strength, you better get your move on as you will die rather quickly.
So about those items I have mentioned a few times, what is the deal with that? Well in Risk of Rain items are extremely important as you can carry and stack as many passive boosts as you can buy. When playing through various levels there are capsules, chests and shrines which may contain items and various enemies and bosses can drop some too. Of these items 24 in total are ‘use’ ones while the 88 others are all passive boosts. The use items tend to have strong effects and as such you can only carry one in your 5th ability slot. It is possible to swap them with a different one however this isn’t very common in most playthroughs.
The passive items is where stuff gets really interesting, especially if you enable the artifact that removes the drop randomization. You see most passive items fall under offensive or defensive boosts while a couple others add miscellaneous modifiers which can be quite useful too. So given the ability to choose your own items, imagine stacking one that permanently increases your health for every kill? With the sheer quantity of enemies late game it doesn’t take too long to hit insane numbers when you stack this effect to give 10+hp per kill. If you are speedrunning why not stack the double jump one instead, after all being able to 5-10 times consecutively will get you pretty much anywhere in the level without any hassle. These are just a couple examples of some truly interesting stuff that can occur in this game, granted I gave some examples with the randomization off it is still possible and common to get some really neat item stacks in typical playthroughs.
I really could go on all day about every aspect of Risk of Rain, heck I could spend a whole day talking about the multiple large and significant updates they have done to this game alone. But at the end of the day just about everything about this game feels right and is amazingly addictive and rewarding. The fact this game came from two people who were basically self-taught with no game development background is even more impressive too. It just goes to show that technically anybody else could come out and make equally wonderful games given the right attitude and motivation.
- A big collection of items with a huge variety of perks.
- Very addictive gameplay with decent replayability.
- Art style, graphics and music are all good as well.
- The game slows down when going for very long sessions.
- Keeping track of your character becomes fairly tricky.
- No dedicated servers for co-op, must host locally and port-forward.
Play time: 24h – Steam.
Completion: Completed several runs.
Last played: December 20th, 2014 – Same day as review.
Version: v1.2.4 – Latest.
Platform: PC – Windows.
Acquisition: Via Steam sale – 7.50$ for a 4-Pack.