Rift Keeper is a game which is a self-proclaimed “roguelite” platformer. This is certainly true of some aspects, but not necessarily others.
The terms “roguelite” and “roguelike” refer to a dungeon crawler called Rogue which released way back in 1980. It was a role-playing game complete with multiple dungeons in which you had to face off against waves of enemies. The big difference with Rogue was that the dungeons you entered were randomly generated from a list of pre-created labyrinths, and if you were killed you would lose your progress and be sent back to a different, randomly generated dungeon. This feature gave birth to the phrase “perma-death”. It is these elements which Rift Keeper employs most prominently, and Rogue’s influence is clear to see.
Your job, as a Rift Keeper, is to restore balance to your world threatened by the sporadic opening of rifts all over. This basic story device means that you are needed to go and kick some enemy backside within various dungeons.
You start off in your hometown, and this acts as the hub area outside of the dungeons. Here, as you earn gold from your endeavours, you’ll be able to buy and sell all sorts of items with local traders. If you press the “view” button you can access the inventory screen and equip and manage your items. Otherwise, there’s not much else to see or do. You’ll need to head to the chapel to find the gateway to the dungeons that await you, which you enter through the rift.
Before you enter you will see which conditions will apply, such as damage, health and drop increases for your enemies. There are 30 dungeons in total but they are, of course, randomly generated. When you have beaten nine of these dungeons, you’ll be able to take on the boss battle. The first boss battle isn’t particularly exciting, in fact you’ll just face off against a more powerful humanoid character, instead of something a little more interesting. It hardly seems like a worthy reward for all that dungeon crawling. Once you prevail, you’ll go back to clearing out the next nine dungeons, and so on.
To complete each dungeon you’ll need to defeat a certain number of enemies, then find one of the exit rifts to escape. If you do so within the time limit, you’ll unlock some extra chests containing goodies which you can open up back in town.
The combat is pretty straightforward and fast paced. You have a close and ranged attack, can block once you get a shield and can dodge and jump. There are collectables to find in the dungeons, as well as statues that will boost your attributes. You’re lobbed straight in with little guidance on the controls, although they are available via the start menu.
The platforming however is a mess. You’ll constantly fail to jump and hang off ledges, and your character is unnecessarily heavy, making getting around more frustrating that it ought to be. When you’re against the clock and the seemingly simple jump and hang moves take numerous attempts to get right, it all gets very irritating.
The upside around the dungeons varying each time you enter is that it helps things to feel more varied, but ultimately they are all extremely similar to one another. Once you get the *ahem* hang of things, you’ll be blasting through them incredibly quickly. However, with a target of 180 seconds per dungeon you find yourself asking just how long can this game be? The answer is not very long at all.
In all honesty, Rift Keeper looks basic at best. The menus resemble something out of Runescape, which was a free to play PC MMORPG released nearly 20 years ago. The music is funky but pretty irritating after a while, but at least it only kicks in during the dungeons. As with so many indie games that arrive on console, Rift Keeper started life on the PC. I think it’s fair to say that not all games are able to convincingly make the jump, and this is one of them.
Rift Keeper on Xbox One is entertaining for a short period of time, however due to dodgy controls and simple visuals it provides little incentive to carry on playing. The action getting repetitive quickly is not surprising due to the meagre amount on offer here.