Impressions: Risk Of Rain Beta

By John Walker on October 7th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

At the very centre of the crossroads between roguelikelike and metroidvania lies Risk Of Rain. It is a ridiculously compelling procedurally generated side-scrolling platform survivor-me-do, with multiple characters to play as, single and co-op play, and some of the hardest-hitting deaths I’ve experienced in such games. Recently Greenlit, and due out very soon, I thought I’d plunge into the beta.

The trick behind Risk Of Rain is the speed and generosity with which it gives you your special abilities. Drawn from a mammoth pool of possibilities, the game quickly starts improving your characters with bonuses that feel too good to ever lose. And then you get killed. And then you throw open your windows and bellow your fury to the world, and start again.

And when you do, there’s a surprising amount of variation, from completely different locations, to the huge variety in dropped or “bought” bonuses that entirely change how you go about surviving. I just died with a character equipped with the following:

Infected! – enemies that touch me get covered in green, life-taking goo
Increased attack speed – self-evident, but oh-so useful
Enemies drop chunks of healing meat – in other rounds I’d have been delighted, but they were superfluous here
Increased maximum health by 8% – these bonuses are all stackable, so this can go up and up.
Killing an enemy permanently increases your health – I’ve only had this one the once, and losing it was agony

On top of that lot, I had two floaty robots healing me. This time out, playing as the Huntress, I was a healing machine. TAKE THAT, KIERON GILLEN. Still, it wasn’t quite enough for the nine hundred billion enemies that I’d allowed to all be attacking me at once. I panicked, ran into a crowd rather than getting away, and yelled aloud as I felt the loss of all those bonuses.

The game is primarily about getting to a teleporter. Getting there involves killing an awful lot of spawning enemies. Doing that requires juggling your four special abilities – a basic attack, a special movement, and two cool-down beefier attacks – and running away an awful lot. Each class type has a different set of skills, that significantly change how you play. The Commando is your generic gun-wielding hero, whose biggest advantage is that his weapon fire knocks enemies backward. Or you could pick the Acrid, a strange beast dragging a ball and chain behind him, with a primary melee attack and some ghastly acid-spitting skills for brief ranged moments. There’s HAN-D, a big robot, who is your tank. An Engineer, who unsurprisingly uses mines, turrets and grenades, but also harpoons!

The Miner offers an interesting take on a slightly ranged tank, whose pair of pickaxes can beat the ground and damage nearby enemies without directly hitting them, while his specials all require close proximity. Finally, and best of all, is the Huntress, whose ranged arrows can be fired backward as you run away, making her the most interesting character to play. Her specials are all ranged too, meaning she’s fantastic at managing mobs. But of course horribly vulnerable when it all goes wrong and they surround you.

You gather money and experience as enemies die. Currently experience doesn’t do anything but increase your level, and thus improve your health and strength. It’d be really nice to see a skill tree added in here, especially as by the time you’re on the second level (which is as far as I’ve gotten so far) it’s so astonishingly hard. Difficulty increases with time, urging you to race forward and see how far you can get before it’s too tough. But I think right now that’s happening much too quickly. Perhaps the Huntress just isn’t strong enough to deal with it – I’m not sure. But selectable skills would help with balancing this. The coins are used for opening chests which contain bonuses or more money/experience, and for activating statues, which may give you bonuses, or enemies, or some combination of the two. And don’t worry – it’s all in-game money. Oh, and the music! The music is really splendid, and never more so than when it spookily throws in some church bell chimes.

The result is a death-heavy platform roguelikeish, that delivers metroidvania-style gathered abilities in fast-forward. And that’s a splendid thing to have. Although the difficulty level is way off by the time you’re searching for the second teleport, the game spawning literally dozens of enemies in that you have no reasonable chance of beating. And since activating a teleport requires staying alive for 90 seconds after, and then taking out all the enemies that spawns, you’re going to need to fight them eventually. The bosses it creates are great, insofar as they’re consistent with the rest of the game, beefed up versions of what you already know, but I cannot beat those of the second teleport.

It sounds crazy recommending a game I can’t beat the second level of, but replaying the first offers not just the variety of procedurally generated levels, many enemy types, and even entirely different locations, but also that chance to experiment with different classes, or even just what happens to a particular class with a different set of extras. For long-term love its going to need to calm itself down a touch, but Risk Of Rain has certainly entertained me good and proper today. As the work of a couple of college students, this is quite the thing.

The full game is due out “soon”, but it looks like that’s a very “soon”. If you pay $10 you can pre-order the whole thing. Fork out rather more at $25 and you can download the beta right away. That’s all via the game’s website.

__________________

« | »

, , , , .

13 Comments »

  1. hap says:

    crossroads between roguelikelike and metroidvania

    Well, I’m sold.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    I like that it looks like it has local coop.

  3. BisonHero says:

    Having played the current version of the beta, I really like what it’s doing, but I think I may just abhor how the game is structured. There is literally a difficulty meter that just increases the longer you play, so on top of the fact that each successive area has enemies that have higher base stats than the previous area, the difficulty meter seems to gradually increase the rate they spawn at.

    The upgrades add that neat bit of variation like in Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, but are almost inconsequential because they won’t trigger very often. Ultimately, your character’s primary abilities will be your main source of damage. However, you’ll need to get at least a couple healing-related items, because the default healing rate is ridiculously slow.

    Eventually the game swarms you with an unfair amount of enemies, and you just spend minutes and minutes desperately kiting them and whittling them down because their HP and damage scales up many times faster than yours can. I’ve gotten to the third area at best. If I rush to the third area, my difficulty level is lower (fewer enemies), but the base stats of enemies in that area make it hard to deal with because since I rushed I haven’t leveled up much, nor have I got many items. If I clean out each area, getting all the items and experience I can, I’m more powerful with more items when I reach the third area, but the difficulty meter is higher (more enemies) and the overpowered enemies in the third area just swarm me to death because killing them takes forever and they’re all cheap assholes that can close in on you quickly.

    The structure just feels unfair.

    • DuneTiger says:

      I find I have the same experiences with playing Legend of Dungeon (which I adore). It seems – to me, at least – that it’s highly improbably to survive to the end of the game without playing co-op (in which you have a sort of built-in continue system so long as you can collect enough souls to respawn). In single player, as you level up, your base attack increases, but your overall defense does not. You’re stuck, then, looking for a hat (to overly simplify it, of course). Come to the last few levels, however, and everything knocks ridiculous amounts of health off you and they’re all fast as monkeys (monkeys are fast, right?).

      Still, the way I think of it is that if I can pass all the original Castlevanias before they became SotN clones, I can do this! I can DO THIS!!! …But I haven’t been able to yet. And RoR looks to be just as fun, if not moreso. Maybe I’m just a masochist considering how much time I spent on the weekend trying to make progress in Volgarr.

      • BisonHero says:

        Yeah, it could very well be that Risk of Rain is just impossible to solo. I haven’t tried to play it co-op with anybody. I watched a video where some people played co-op, and they did OK, but the melee characters just seem unplayable past the first area, since every enemy hits for so much damage. Who knows, maybe in the final build the damage and HP will be tweaked so that the game becomes even remotely possible in the third area.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Yes, monkeys have a significantly higher amount of fast-twitch muscle fiber, making them much faster than you.

  4. Engonge says:

    I’ve just played the demo and I had fun.

    End of report.

  5. The Random One says:

    Looks very bindinglike. (Binding of Isalike?) I’ll certainly try the demo. Sounds like I’ll enjoy this, even though I bounced right off Rogue Legacy.

  6. kalirion says:

    Still unclear on how this is a “Metroidvania” – since the abilities are all random, and from this article they seem to be combat and not “exploration / progression” related, wouldn’t this be just a rogue-like-like? I never heard of Binding of Isaac being called a “metroidvania.”

    • squareking says:

      Yeah, it’s not really a metroidvania at all. You get incremental (randomized) powerups, but that’s about it. All the exploration is via platforms; there are no puzzles, no passageways to other areas, just different levels. It’s basically a scifi platformer roguelikelike.

      It’s also a buttload of fun. I think 65m is my best on the demo.

    • BisonHero says:

      Yeah, it’s not Metroidvania at all. John meant to say “it’s side-scrolling The Binding of Isaac, but with sci-fi”, because that is literally what the game is. You can have any number of passive powerups, and then you also have another slot that can hold exactly one item that you activate whenever it’s off cooldown, and if you find another one of those items you exchange it with the current one you have because you can only carry one.

      VERY occasionally there is a chest that is really annoying to reach and it’s somewhat helpful to have the passive powerup that increase your jump height (technically the in-game description is that it decreases your gravity, which is way less intuitive, but whatever, game, do what you want). But that’s really the only “traversal/platforming” powerup that ever matters.

  7. Rawrquaza says:

    This game is a ton of fun. I’ve been following it’s development since the kickstarter, and it is an intensely enjoyable experience. The learning curve can be tough at first, but with practice you can get really far. If you’re interested in seeing some gameplay, I’ve uploaded upwards of 60 videos about it to http://www.youtube.com/user/ShinyRawrquaza

    If you’re on the fence about picking it up I would definitely give the demo a whirl, with the knowledge that there are way more items, classes, stages, and bosses/mobs in the final release!

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>