Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Your first few wasted lives in Risk of Rain [official site] might give you the impression of a very limited action game. A tiny sprite armed with a handful of basic abilities (shoot, roll, shoot harder), you have to take on waves of bad things, from flying jellyfish to giant lava snakes, as you seek out teleporters and travel from level to level. What’s worse, you move everywhere at a slow pace, you can’t jump very high and you can only fire on a single plane in two directions. Oh, and the difficulty is increasing all the time. My first hour was spent shaking my head and getting annoyed, death after death. Then I learned to repair robots.
You get cash monies for every bad lizard or ghost thing you kill, you see, and this money can be spent buying random upgrades from boxes, opening cannisters full of gift-bearing imps or reclaiming dead gun drones. Fixing damaged robots along the way gave me that bit of extra firepower I needed to get on with things and survive just a little longer each time, eventually unlocking new characters with different weapons and abilities. The Enforcer is a riot cop who can plant down his shield, blocking all damage from one side while shooting faster himself. But this makes him an immobile target and vulnerable from the opposite side, something which you need to keep in mind in a game which gradually becomes, as Adam described it, “the platforming equivalent of bullet hell”.
Other characters mix it up even more. The Bandit throws dynamite, the Engineer has two turrets and heat-seeking harpoons, and the Sniper can do a dodging backflip and take careful aim, increasing your damage by ridiculous percent. There’s more characters I can’t remember, but the point is that the whole thing takes on the atmosphere of an action roguelike that has been accidentally staffed with MMO characters. On top of this, all the semi-randomised abilities start to stack, granting you health bonuses, missile attacks, proximity damage… the variety of buffs is massive, a whole matrix of them visible from the unlocks menu.
One of them plants a flag down when you level up that makes you fearsome murderer, but only within a small area. Another earns you cash over time. Another turns all the enemies you kill into ghosts that help you. The longer you survive the more hectic your screen becomes, not just thanks to the steadily increasing difficulty and the mini-bosses, but also thanks to your own insane firepower. Add three friends to the mix on multiplayer and you are in for a debilitating hour or two of gunfire and hot pursuits – all set to some great music.