Risk of Rain
PC, Mac, Linux
One of the most shocking aspects of the indie gaming movement is how it has led to a laundry list of titles that are almost impossible to describe in simplistic terms. Take Risk of Rain for example. Its creators describe it as a “rogue-like-action-platformer” but it’s clear almost immediately from playing the game that it has RPG elements and can even be described as a bullet-hell type hardcore actioner, especially as the difficulty rises with each passing minute. All of which is to say, it’s a tougher task than usual to explain what makes Risk of Rain so great and so very frustrating in equal measure.
Hastening to try, allow an attempt to present the game from ground zero. Basically, the player begins as the sole survivor of a spaceship that has crashed on an alien planet. Initially you only have one choice for who that survivor might be, but as you play, exploring (and dying) more and more, you begin to unlock other characters, each with their own unique weapons and play styles.
The name of the game is to escape from this dangerous planet via a series of teleporters, which will eventually lead you to a ship piloted by the fiend who shot you down in the first place. Accomplishing this task, however, is much easier said than done. From the moment you begin a game, a timer appears in the corner and with each passing second of battle or exploration, the difficulty curve will increase, peaking at a new threshold every five minutes. As the clock keeps ticking, enemies begin to appear more often, in greater numbers, and with much more dangerous stats.
This essentially makes Risk of Rain like a gaming version of Saw. You’re placed into an already dangerous position, which is growing more dangerous for every passing moment you spend trying to accomplish a task you don’t even understand, in a place that you’re unfamiliar with. It’s kind of like a really addictive version of dying and going to hell.
Now if it sounds like I’m shooting down this game, let me do a brief aside to let you know that this is far from the case. On the contrary: Risk of Rain is a phenomenal title; eerily simple in its execution of an /explore >>kill >>advance/ gameplay design, yet supremely punishing, with a permanent death feature that becomes increasingly more dangerous for literally every second you play.
If you’ve already cut your teeth with VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, Rogue Legacy, and the like, then you’re probably more than ready for what Risk of Rain will throw your way. You’ll be tested, but you will likely persevere in the end, and see the value of the experience for every hour it takes you to finally complete this title (or smash your controller in frustration, whatever comes first). If, on the other hand, you’re used to a more conventional and user-friendly game design, than Risk of Rain will happily chew you up and spit you out until you either fold into a fetal position or level up your skills to a cruel new extreme of gaming challenges.
Risk of Rain is by no means a game for everyone but those who take the time to push through its insanely daunting difficulty curve will find one of the deepest and most rewarding strategic titles in recent years.