Review: Risk of Rain (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play Yes
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Risk of Rain
Format: PlayStation Network Download (104.3 MB)
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Chucklefish Games
Developer: Hopoo Games / Code Mystics
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Risk of Rain is also available on PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Risk of Rain can be, at times, unforgiving and brutal. But even at the game’s most trolling times it is still a blast to play. This is yet another entry in the roguelike throwback visuals category.

If that’s not a genre it should be at this point. In these types of games every death is permanent and progress is not saved, forcing players to start from scratch every game.

Mechanics are simple, each character, of which there are twelve, has four different moves that are assigned to a different shoulder button. These attacks will define the character type.

… Each character brings something different …
For example the starting character, the Commando, is most effective at long range attacks and is very mobile in comparison to others. He has three weapons that do ranged attacks and he has the ability to roll for extra mobility.

Then there is the Engineer that has a powerful close range weapon and all the other abilities are tech based like mines or turrets. These are just two examples of the twelve characters available in the game after unlocking them.

Each character brings something different to the table with each feeling unique from one another. The variety of character abilities adds a lot of choice to how a particular player wants to tackle the game.

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To start the game players only have the Commando available and have to unlock the rest through various challenges. These range from something as simple as beating a level or beating the game, to more time consuming tasks like collecting randomly dropped monster logs or by finding characters hidden somewhere in a run.

The game is difficult and if you do not like the starting character it can be annoying and frustrating because of how long it will take to unlock all of the characters. At the time of this review I have only unlocked ten characters.

There is only one primary objective in each level and it is too make it to a portal and defeat the boss guarding it. There are only five levels to get through to complete the game and while that number may seem low, the whole thing is bolstered by procedurally generated elements.

… make your character feel godlike …
Enemies, objects, and the primary objective will be randomly placed in each level. This makes sure that each playthrough will be different because you will not know what enemies will be waiting for you nor will you know where they will come from.

Each level has objects scattered randomly throughout which include various power-ups and abilities. These range from general boosters like double damage or extra money to abilities like freezing time or powerful timed weapons.

Again items are placed randomly, meaning an item you love might not pop up in a playthrough. There are a ton of items available in the game and they stack too. If you play long enough and find a lot of items it is easy to make your character feel godlike and find yourself to be a powerful killing machine which is a plus in my books.

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The scaling or rising difficulty is the main hook of Risk of Rain. It helps to differentiate it from other titles. The longer you play the game, the more difficult the game will be.

There is even a handy scale on the screen showing the current difficulty level and the time spent playing. Each game starts at “Very Easy” and gradually increases to higher difficulties.

This will eventually get to the point where the level can go from Insane to just mocking you with a “HAHAHAHA” difficulty. The game becomes no joke as the enemies begin to attack in bigger numbers and with a higher health bar and higher damage resistance.

This aspect forces players to make a decision. Do they want to explore the game for every item, therefore spending more time and making the difficulty increase, or do they want to rush for an easier time?

… You will die a lot in this game …
Either choice has its own pros and cons. There is the risk and reward option means risking time and difficulty for unknown power-ups. Or the option of rushing through a game and possibly facing the end game with very little in the way of power-ups or abilities at their disposal.

In the end I found both options to be enjoyable in different scenarios. When I was playing solo I leaned toward a rushed playthrough, making for an easier experience until I was better acquainted with the mechanics.

One thing I do feel the need to bring up is that I have run into some issues with the game freezing from time to time. The first couple of times it happened I didn’t think anything of it, but it eventually happened enough that it warranted being mentioned. It does not factor much into my opinion of the game, but it is something worth mentioning.

Now I am confident enough to take my time playing no matter how high the difficulty gets. You will die a lot in this game and yes, sometimes it will be due to bad luck, but it does not change the fact that the core game is an absolute blast.

Visuals:
The visual design for Risk of Rain is rather simple which works well for a game focused on mechanics. The visuals are an 8-bit style which gives it an old school look that works in the game’s favor and allows the developers to do a lot with the mechanics and enemy variety.

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My only knock against the visuals is that sometimes the character can be easy to lose in a screen filled with chaos due to their size. Character sprites are quite small, especially as the screen fills with enemies and co-op partners.

Another issue with the character sprites is when playing local co-op. If both players pick the same character class there is no way to differentiate them from one another as they will look identical.

This issue is negated as long as the players decide to go for different classes, but a simple color swap option would go a long way. Without that option it’s easy to get confused on which player was which and easy deaths happened.

… a tone for the game …
Audio:
What is there to say about the soundtrack other than it is amazing. In previous reviews I have been known to praise soundtracks that have a throwback sound to them.

Usually games that look like this are accompanied by a chiptune soundtrack, but with this one there is so much more. While it does feature some chiptune sounds it is more of an electronic soundtrack with chilled ambient vibes throughout.

The music sets a tone for the game that jumps from classic adventure style music to relaxed exploration tracks to even some heavier fight invoking awesomeness.

I wrote this review to the soundtrack and while it is playing I find myself thinking back to the levels in which I first heard the tracks. If that is not a sign of a strong soundtrack then I do not know what is.

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Online/Multiplayer:
For those not wanting to face a challenge alone there are options for you with both local and online play for up to four players. The addition of co-op does not change mechanics much other than the fact that some power-ups or abilities cannot be shared between players.

This will either lead to an understanding of who gets to pick up what item or it’ll more likely mean stares as one selfish bastard grabs everything.

I played a good chunk of the game using the offline co-op with my roommate and this is where I found the majority of the fun. Let’s be honest, usually a game of co-op will elevate one’s experience with a game. Luckily for Risk of Rain, I was enjoying my time before I shifted over to primarily playing it in co-op.

… gameplay remained solid …
As for my online play, I tested the game before launch so my experience was limited due to lack of available players. I did connect to a handful of games and those ran smooth in my experience while joining was easy.

The matchmaking options are only Host Game, Join Game, and Invite Friends. I was automatically partnered up with players after hitting Join Game. Getting connected and into a game was relatively fast and there were no notable signs of lag or connectivity issues.

The game does offer up to four players in co-op, but I never went beyond two players in one game. I only had one person available to play the game locally and the gameplay remained solid in that scenario.

As for my time online, I was only ever able to find games that had one person in a lobby so again I only saw the game with two players. I will continue to search for a full four player game and if it changes my experience with the game I will be sure to update my review to reflect those changes.

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Conclusion:
Risk of Rain brings yet another positive title to the growing list of console games in the roguelike genre It’s a great example of a smaller game that brings a lot of fun to the table.

The mechanics are solid and the cycle of loot can be addicting. The hook of a scaling difficulty is an intriguing feature. A feature that I was hesitant of at first glance, but quickly embraced for its ability to add a level of strategy to tackling a run.

The game is bolstered by a fantastic soundtrack and the addition of cooperative play really gives the game some legs. The fact that there are only five levels sounds lacking, but it is compensated for with the procedurally generated elements that add freshness to each playthrough.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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