Ten years ago, Risk of Rain was released on November 8th, 2013. It was developed by Hopoo Games as its first major game. In the years that followed, a sequel called Risk of Rain 2 was released again developed by Hopoo Games and now published by Gearbox, with the gameplay changing from a 2D sidescroller to a 3D third person shooter. Now, on the ten year anniversary of the original game, a remake named Risk of Rain Returns has released, updating the game with new visuals and content, including some brought over from its sequel.
Story – Stranded on a Strange World
Much like in the original, the game starts with a cargo spaceship called the UES Contact Light being attacked by a mysterious figure, causing it to crash-land on the planet of Petrichor V, a world populated by dangerous, hostile creatures. The survivors must make their way across the planet’s vast landscapes to reach teleporters so that they can eventually make their way back to the ship and leave the planet, fighting off whatever gets in their way.
The story of Risk of Rain doesn’t play a large role in the gameplay itself, but every character, enemy, location, and item has its own description, which provides interesting backstory on the game’s setting and shows that there might be more to the story than there first seems.
Gameplay – Fighting Your Way Off the Planet
The player chooses a survivor, a difficulty level, and what artifacts to use if they’ve unlocked any. They spawn at a random point in the first level and must make their way to the teleporter, also spawned at a random location. Along the way, they’ll have to fight through enemies of all shapes and sizes. They’ll pick up items to improve their characters abilities and collect money to open chests and repair drones to help them fight. Upon reaching and activating the teleporter, a dangerous boss will spawn along with waves of enemies, and the player will have to fend them off for 90 seconds before they can proceed to the next level.
At the end of the fifth stage, they can choose to either teleport to the final level or to go back to the first stage, letting them continue their run indefinitely. There are two possible environments each for the first four levels, while the fifth and sixth levels are always the same location. The longer a run goes on, the higher the difficulty will ramp up, so you’d better get plenty of items as well. Risk of Rain has roguelike elements, meaning that you start from the beginning whenever you die, but you can unlock things like items or characters that can influence future runs.
Risk of Rain Returns has a total of 15 playable characters, adding an additional 3 to the 12 that the original had. They each have four abilities, a standard attack that they can use without limit, and three abilities with cooldowns. A feature brought over from Risk of Rain 2 is unlockable alt skills, of which each character gets three. These serve as alternate abilities you can select to take the place of the default moves.
Every character has a unique playstyle that sets them apart from each other, even after you’ve acquired dozens of items. For example, the Engineer has low mobility but can deal heavy damage with turrets and homing missiles. Meanwhile, the robotic Chef hurls cleavers at enemies like boomerangs and can upgrade his own attacks or cook enemies into temporary items. One character that’s gotten a notable improvement in the remake is the Miner. Arguably one of the weaker characters in the original, he’s been given a meter system that’s charged by his basic attack and strengthens all of his moves.
The three new additions to the roster are the Artificer (brought over from Risk of Rain 2), the Drifter, and the Pilot. All three have interesting playstyles, but the Drifter in particular stands out, being a melee brawler who can collect scrap and turn it into temporary items. These three each fit right in with the rest of the playable cast.
One of the most significant aspects of Risk of Rain throughout the original, the sequel, and the remake is the many different items you collect along each playthrough. These effect you in a wide variety of ways. Some of them increase stats, like health regeneration or attack speed. Others give attacks a chance to have extra effects like damage over time or causing explosions. Some even upgrade your attacks or let you gain even more items. There are also items that can be used on a cooldown to perform an action, rather than giving a passive effect.
These items prove critical to clearing your way through the game. Items have easily the biggest effect on your stats and performance. Later parts of the game can either be easily rushed through or kill you in seconds depending on which items you have or haven’t picked up. You’ll have a hard time fighting later bosses without at least a few items that increase offense. This might feel like your ability to beat the game is based on random chance, but each item has enough use that you’ll still have a shot at winning as long as you get a good amount.
Risk of Rain Returns adds a number of new items. Overall, they prove to be fun and varied in how they can add to and effect your build.
Your path to the teleporter is blocked by mobs of enemies that will do everything they can to try to kill you. Seven-foot reptiles try to bite at you. Stone golems try to crush you. Living fireballs spit flames at you. The bosses prove to be even more deadly, with such creatures as a giant worm made out of magma that tunnels through the ground, or a jellyfish that swims through the air. These enemies attack you relentlessly with massive numbers, with teleporter events seeing you face off against dozens or even hundreds of enemies at later stages of the game. The smaller humanoid enemies can also climb ropes and ladders, leaving you fewer safe spots.
Risk of Rain Returns introduces some new enemies as well as a new boss. These largely fit well into the original game’s bestiary and challenge the player in unique ways. In addition, the final boss has some new tricks up his sleeve as well.
Difficulty Over Time
One of the most defining features of the Risk of Rain games is the difficulty meter, which steadily increases the longer a run goes on. It starts out with few enemies spawning and your path through the levels being pretty empty. Later on, more and stronger enemies spawn, especially during teleporter events. After enough time passes, the game can start throwing entire bosses at you as if they were regular enemies. This seems overwhelming, but with the right items and skill, you can fight your way through even entire armies of enemies.
This feature adds a lot to how the game plays. The faster you play through the game, the less you’ll have to deal with later on, but the less equipped you’ll be due to having less items and exp. If you hang around a level to find collectables, or simply have trouble locating the teleporter, the endgame will throw more difficult and numerous enemies at you, but you’ll be more powerful. If you loop instead of heading to the final level, you can end up as an incredibly powerful super-solider, taking on vast hordes of elite enemies and bosses that attack with no end in sight. It certainly helps it stand out from similar games of its genre.
Hidden in each stage is an artifact, usually in some far, out of the way area that you’ll need some clever thinking to reach. These can then be selected before the start of a run, you can pick as many at once as you want out of what you’ve unlocked. Artifacts each have a different effect on the game that can radically alter how it’s played. One example is Command, which lets you pick which items you collect instead of them being chosen randomly. Another is Sacrifice, where items now drop randomly defeated enemies instead of from chests. The Artifact of Glass both dramatically increases your attack and drastically decreases your health. Some make the game harder, others make the game easier, and other still do a little of both. These add a lot of fun and challenge to the game, offering new spins on the gameplay.
The remake adds some new Artifacts as well. The Artifact of Tempus, for instance, makes all collectable items temporary. Combining as many artifacts as you have can make for very wild and hectic playthroughs.
New to Risk of Rain Returns are the Providence Trials. These are a side mode where you play preset challenges with specific characters and conditions. Completing these unlocks things such as new items, alternate skills for characters, and alt colors. Some of these trials are fun and interesting, but others can be tedious or frustrating, especially if you want to go for a gold rank. Fortunately, most of the rewards are either cosmetic or can be gotten through normal gameplay, such as the alternate skills.
Changes in Mechanics
Risk of Rain Returns has added a few changes to the gameplay, largely to make things more convenient in certain aspects. For example, most of the characters can now move while attacking, something that the first game limited to the Huntress. While in the first game the player had to defeat all remaining enemies in the level to use the teleporter, in the remake they only need to have defeated the boss. These changes may take some getting used to, but you can also select for the game’s rules to be more like the original game if you’d prefer. It’s nice to be able to opt out of some of the remake’s changes.
Graphics and Audio – Eerie Otherworldly Tunes
The game has a pixel art style that resembles a 16-bit game. The visuals have been updated since the original, with the character sprites in particular being larger and more detailed compared to before. While both styles certainly have their charm, it is nice to be able to see more detail in the characters and each of their animations. The newly updated visuals for the levels are also interesting to see, with the Desolate Forest in particular having a nice new look.
The game’s music is the same as it is in the original. The soundtrack of Risk of Rain has many well-composed and memorable songs. They do a good job setting the atmosphere of strange alien planet populated by hostile creatures. “Coalescence”, the theme for the game’s final level, is a standout among the game’s soundtrack, and does a perfect job setting the stage for the finale.
Risk Of Rain Returns was reviewed on PC.