Risk of Rain Review

Well Choona, you're up. I'll be right behind you...

  • Developer: Hopoo Games
  • Publisher: Chucklefish Games
  • Release Date: 9 November 2013
  • Time played: 4 hours

As mentioned in an earlier blog post of mine, Risk of Rain happens to be one of the games I grabbed during the last Steam sale - at a very cheap price. I actually purchased a 4-pack and gave the extra copies to friends which is just as well since it allowed me to test the game's multiplayer :). I was attracted to the game since it was apparently developed using Game Maker, one of the popular game development tools available out there. Yes, this isn't the first time I've purchased and reviewed a game because it was developed using game development software; Gunpoint was the first to take that honour on this blog but Risk of Rain is probably the first one with multiplayer capabilities.

Besides wanting to play the game to see more examples of what Game Maker is capable of, I was also attracted to the game since it offers co-op play in a sci-fi setting and I haven't come across many games yet that has done it right.

Plot (4/5)
What's actually revealed at the beginning of the game isn't much. What seems to happen is that a spaceship travelling nearby a certain planet is sabotaged by an unknown assailant who teleports onto the craft. The spacecraft starts to break up as it enters the planet's atmosphere but your character manages to survive by escape pod. The game starts right after you've crash landed on the planet's surface. The native lifeforms aren't too happy about your presence though and it's not long before you're attacked.

So as you can see there's not really much of a plot to this game but you are able to collect diary entries that correspond to items or eventually find entries for your monster log which gives you some insight to the native wildlife. I'm assuming you find out the identity of the mysterious assailant from the beginning of the game once you complete Risk of Rain - but since the game is so damn hard, I've never got that far... yet.

Gameplay (3/5)
As mentioned, you play the role of a spaceship crash survivor in Risk of Rain. The first time you play, you only have one class unlocked called the Commando who is able to nimbly dodge his enemies and is very competent with guns. The aim for each level is to find a teleporter that will take you to the next level until you get to the final level (I assume, since as mentioned, I've never actually managed to get there!). Once you reach and activate the teleporter, an enemy boss spawns along with a countdown timer that indicates when extra enemies will stop spawning around you. Once the countdown timer stops your aim is to kill all remaining enemies on the level before proceeding. The longer you play the game, the harder it gets but the only way to level up your character is to kill monsters, and the only way to upgrade your character is to find money in order to purchase them. Consequently, there's a bit of a balancing act between getting to the teleporter as soon as possible and making sure your character is prepared for the enemies on the next level.

Overall I find the game to be fun especially if you're able to grab a few mates to play with you in co-op mode. I haven't had this much fun in a co-op action game since the old Diablo 2 days. Well, that's not entirely true, but good co-op games are hard to come by and this is one of the good ones, if not one of the most challenging since when one of your mates dies, he/she's dead for the entire level and when he/she respawns on the next level, he/she's at the same level he/she died with. And that's the only real criticism I have about the gameplay, the fact it's a roguelike. If you like roguelikes, if you like challenging games with procedurally generated levels, you'll love Risk of Rain. Otherwise, it can sometimes feel like a waste of time to the rest of us peons :).

Sound (3/5)
The game contains basic sound effects but they suit the game.

Music (5/5)
Risk of Rain has a really good soundtrack that contains soaring sci-fi synths reminding me of oldschool sci-fi movies of the 80s and 90s, and recent game soundtracks such as the Mass Effect series. At the same time it manages to sound like a game from the golden era of platformers too which definitely generates pangs of nostalgia. In fact, I'm quite tempted to pay the $6 to purchase it off Chris Christodolou's bandcamp page.

Graphics (3/5)
The game contains basic, low-res, retro-style graphics and it looks like old platformers from yesteryear. While that in itself isn't bad the fact your character is quite small means that if you're in a large firefight with lots of enemies and allies rolling around (who look almost identical to you) it can get confusing as to what's actually going on and where you're at.

Replay (4/5)
Since each level is procedurally generated you're bound to be able to get a lot of replay value here, provided you're a masochist and willing to punish yourself with the difficulty over and over again! Similar to FTL, getting further through the game and earning certain achievements will result in you unlocking new characters with different strengths and weaknesses that you can choose next time you play. There's also some incentive to fill things up like your monster log and there's always Steam achievements to hunt for too.

Polish (2/5)
There were a couple of things that annoyed me about this game. Firstly while I haven't encountered many bugs at all, I did encounter one quite early on that was a showstopper which I mentioned in my First Impressions post for this game. Basically it has something to do with the version of Game Maker used to make Risk of Rain (version 8 I believe?) and the fact it potentially bundles the wrong version of the Visual C++ runtime with the game causing all audio to stop working in your game. Thankfully, installing the correct version from Microsoft's website (in my case, the one for 64-bit Windows) fixes the issue but it's not an issue that's very easy to solve if you're a newbie with PCs.

The second thing that annoys me (and again not a very newbie-friendly issue) is the fact that online co-op play requires you to modify your modem's firewall settings in order to open the right ports to play the game. It's not the most elegant of solutions and it would've been nice to have integrated multiplayer with Steamworks, but you can't have everything I suppose. Fortunately, there's a middle-ground if you're willing to install a virtual LAN over the Internet solution such as Hamachi.

Score – 7/10

Risk of Rain is like FTL's younger platformer cousin with the added bonus of multiplayer. Like FTL, this game is difficult and it will take multiple playthroughs before you make any headway. Also like FTL, the journey can be heaps of fun especially if you manage to get some of your friends along for the ride. It's not the most polished of games out there but if you're willing to be patient with its shortcomings Risk of Rain is a game well worth checking out.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

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[ LINK: Official Risk of Rain website]