Imagine my concern at being asked to review Risk of Rain 2. “I haven’t played the first game!” I said, “How will I know what’s going on?” Well, it turns out I needn’t have worried about not being sure what the story of the game was, because it doesn’t appear that there is one. You see, every game in Risk of Rain 2 begins with a character being dropped onto a planet, and told to find a teleporter, while anything and everything attempts to kill you. And I mean literally every little thing, except some of the flowers. So, as I explore for reasons to why we are here, strap on a spacesuit, grab a big ass gun, and come with me into the worlds of Risk of Rain 2!
The first thing that strikes you in Risk of Rain 2 is usually a fireball from an unseen enemy, but after that, it’s the look of the world. The graphics have a gorgeous hand drawn vibe to them, and the scenery, while sparse, has an other worldly feel going on. Enemies come at you literally out of the ground, or from the sky, or from just about anywhere really, and are a varied bunch. They range from annoying little floating heads that attempt to snipe you from afar, through beetle looking things and lizardmen that throw fireballs, all the way up to giant stone robots. And that’s not counting the bosses who pretty much steamroller you whenever you attempt to play this game alone.
A special mention must also go to the in-game music, which is absolutely first class. When I was a younger man (and not as cool as I am now) I used to listen to a lot of Rick Wakeman’s music, and the tunes here put me in mind of his style; lots of synthesizers and energy. It makes getting battered again not so much of an ordeal.
So, Risk of Rain 2 on Xbox One looks good, and sounds great, but how does it play? Well, it’s a roguelike game and that means it can be brutally hard, like Dark Souls say. But the key to these games is learning from your past mistakes, knowing an enemy will be around that corner, knowing how to combat said enemy and moving on. The worlds are random though, as are the enemy spawns, the various power ups, and so on. To me then, there’s not much learning going on, and it’s harder to get better at a game when you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know where you should be going, or even what you should be doing. The only common factor from one run to the next is found in the enemies, and given that all you need to do is shoot them until they fall over, there are not many patterns to decipher. Still, the game is what it is, and despite my misgivings, I have found myself having fun. And that really is the main thing.
The aim of every level is to find a teleporter, a small kind of obelisk that you have to locate in the level you are on, and then activate. Now, before finding the teleporter, it’s always worth having a poke about the level, as some kind being has left various artefacts/power ups for you to find. Some are chests containing money, and luckily each enemy you kill must have just been to the cashpoint, as they also drop coins that you can collect. Dotted about the place are various things to spend your hard earned cash on, ranging from repairing turrets that aid you in the fight right up to healing shrines that help you out as long as you stay in their radius. My favourite powerup is the Monster Tooth, which makes every enemy you kill drop a healing orb, which as you can imagine comes in very handy when you are swamped. And you will be, particularly when you activate the teleporter, as it summons a Guardian who usually attempts to stomp you into a pink paste on the rocks. The bosses are huge, and require a lot of hits to put down, usually coming with a veritable bevy of minions too, all eager for blood. Running away, while shooting, is a tactic that should be employ, and you can sometimes find a useful vantage point to hit the boss where it can’t hit you. These times are rare though.
Playing alone is almost too hard, even on the so called “Drizzle” difficulty, but this is where multiplayer comes in. By joining a lobby with three other like minded individuals, Risk of Rain 2 does become a tad easier. I say a tad easier, as although more firepower is usually a good thing, if one of the team is taken out, they are dead until the rest of the survivors manage to activate the teleporter and go through, when they are miraculously returned to life. As you go through the level, you do level up (it’s hard to tell when it happens, apart from if you have a certain item that drops a banner and power aura when you actually level up), and increasing levels allows to be stronger and do more damage. Sadly, the same happens to the enemies, and as you get stronger, so do they. By the fourth world, even run of the mill baddies are the size of strongest foes from earlier levels, and the whole game gets even harder.
This is where I have another problem with Risk of Rain 2 in its current state – you’re not ever playing towards a goal. You just keep levelling up, fighting and exploring until you die and it’s game over. That’s it. Fight, explore, teleport, fight, explore, teleport, rinse and repeat ad infinitum. Apparently there is an end game coming in a later update – in Spring 2020 according the developers – but to be honest, I don’t think I’m still going to be playing it then.
All in all though and Risk of Rain 2 is an interesting game, with some novel ideas. It looks great, it plays smoothly and difficulty spikes aside, it’s good fun to play. Chasing scores and leaderboard places in the Prismatic Trials mode is quite challenging, but given that it’s single player only, I’m not sure I’m going to be troubling those leaderboards any time soon. Single player is punishing, multiplayer is better and works well, and it is here where Risk of Rain 2 comes alive.
If you have a like minded group of friends then this is a good game, but if you are a single player, then only serious masochists need apply.