By now you played all sorts of roguelike games. From 2D action ones to those set in space and even those that are played with cards. The market is getting really crowded and 2018 in particular, has had some awesome roguelike games on offer. In such a market situation, it gets really difficult to set yourself apart. Even more so when your game is developed on a tight budget by only two people.
Rift Keeper feels like it could have been a great game and it certainly takes inspiration from some of the best roguelikes out there. Unfortunately, it has some problems that make it fall flat just short of entering the big boys club. Why so? Let's break it down.
Rift Keeper is available for purchase on Steam.
Rift Keeper doesn't offer much in the way of story. It's more of a general premise that will send you on your way through portals leading to increasingly difficult, randomly generated locations in which you'll face all sorts of horrific opponents in an attempt to get as far as possible. The review will feature a couple mentions of Dead Cells which was clearly a big source of inspiration for the developers.
Although at face value, the formula of what made Dead Cells such a blast to play, is here, it's missing a few ingredients to make it reach that bar. Most of the problems Rift Keeper has can be attributed to the lack of diverse gameplay options and the progression system. Let me just state that Rift Keeper is not a full-on roguelike game but more of a roguelite. This means that it has some elements we usually associate with roguelike games while missing some others. Unfortunately, the mix here is all wrong. Whereas in most rogue games you'll find a meaningful progression system that will incrementally make you more powerful – that's not present in Rift Keeper.
Once you are in a rift, you'll have to kill at least 70% of the enemies to be able to progress. You'll do this with a weapon of your choice, and you also have a rechargeable dash to avoid attacks and a double jump at your disposal. Enemies are very simple-minded and lack variety. They won't attack you unless you jump to their platform and won't follow you if you go to another. Once they spot you, they'll flail or shoot in your general direction which makes them easy to dispatch if you get behind their backs.
Each enemy drops gold which you can spend in the HUB area shops. Once there you can also exchange other optional collectibles for a random item. And that's about it. Once you inevitably die, you'll lose all your items as well as some gold and be sent back to try it all over again. But the real question is: Will you want to? The enemies are just simple reskins that lack any real variety or challenge. Coupled with only a two dozen weapons and accessories (which either boost your attack or health) – you'll probably see everything of value in an hour or two of gameplay.
The game tries to mix it up a bit with some bosses and having each rift start with a modifier – but these are also too far in between to really make you stick with the game for a long time.
While the combat can be fun for a short while, it lacks the impactfulness of Dead Cells that made that game worth playing on that mechanic alone. Additionally, the movement, while responsive, lacks fluidity and weight that often makes the main character feel completely afloat. Everything stated above makes the Rift Keeper an average rougelite at best and a real missed opportunity.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
If the game has one thing going for it – it's the unique visuals style and music. The aesthetic of an endless loop of hopeless dungeons hits all the right marks and makes the game look and feel like a pixelated 2D version of Dark Souls. It all runs very smooth and bug-free for the most part.
I really liked the music in Rift Keeper. With that being said, I felt like it missed the mark in complementing the gameplay or the visual style. It felt more like the music was made for a cyberpunk game and not for a cold and atmospheric dungeon crawling rougelite.
Rift Keeper is a simple rougelite experience. You'll definitely get some enjoyment out of it and the game can slowly but surely become a real challenge as you progress through the rifts. The lack of variety sticks out like a sore thumb and is the key ingredient that would have kept the player invested and coming back for more. Furthermore, it lacks general polish and a more meaningful upgrade system to make it truly worthwhile. While Rift Keeper is reasonably priced, it's up to you if you want to spend your money on it when there are so many rogue games that do everything it does – only much better.
|+ Interesting visual style||– Lack of variety|
|+ Some good music||– Lack of progression system|
|+ A smooth, bug-free experience||– Bad and predictable enemy AI|