Risk of Rain Returns on PC
As with most things, progress when it comes to a video game series can be clearly demonstrated in several ways. Better gameplay mechanics, an upgrade to the visuals, and a continuation of a story, these are just some avenues in which a sequel can build on previous foundations to theoretically make things better. However, for Risk of Rain Returns, Hopoo Games has gone backwards in a sense, pursuing a remaster of the original game instead of creating a sequel to Risk of Rain 2, and fans can count themselves lucky.
With a decade having passed since the original, it may be fair to say that the original may be unfamiliar to many modern gamers. Thankfully, Risk of Rain Returns serves as an excellent point of entry into the franchise, delivering a whole host of improvements and tweaks to elevate an already wonderful gameplay experience made very much for the present.
As a roguelike action platformer, things start off quite predictably, with players crash-landing onto the alien planet of Petrichor V and having to fend for themselves, all the while learning more and more about the dangers of the land. The ultimate aim is to get off the planet, and that requires parts that must be hunted down in various regions that make up the world, serving as the underlying blueprint of exploration and combat.
Players can choose from either the Commando or Huntress as their designated Survivor at the beginning, eventually expanding the roster to a total of 15 unique characters, including three new additions, through progress and exploration. The same goes for the gear and items at your disposal, together with upgrades that can be obtained via spending coins. A standard roguelike setup, if you will.
However, the seemingly simple mechanics are accompanied by the ever-present pressure of time and intensity, as each biome gets more dangerous as time passes. Enemies increase in both strength and numbers, and the platforming becomes even more hectic as the screen gets swamped by adversaries and hazards. Making the decision to either blaze through everything in the hope of teleporting away to another stage or to stay, fight, and hopefully become a more capable Survivor are valid choices either way, allowing Risk of Rain Returns to be played and enjoyed in two distinct ways.
It also helps that there is a healthy variety of environments, enemies, and bosses to marvel at and fear. The visual upgrades work spectacularly well for the 2D art direction, enhancing the detail at players’ fingertips while also making sure they know exactly what kills them on every single run as a lesson to be heeded.
Of course, death will inevitably become a constant companion, but the way the gameplay loop is set up for that gnawing inclination of having one more run, it never feels frustrating. Rather, it can become a source of motivation for progressing just a little further than before. While you may not always become stronger with a run, there is the possibility of unlocking something new and helpful that can be incentivizing, a hallmark of an addictive roguelike if there ever was one.
Furthermore, you don’t have to go at it alone, with the game capable of supporting up to four players both online and locally. The former is definitely the way to go, with improvements being made that now allow for lobbies and multiplayer options that are standard, making it easier to team up with others to survive the horrors of Petrichor V. Local co-op can be fun as well, but it does present an issue where players can get too far from each other and having no way to find their way back to each other, causing a run to be wasted entirely.
If the normal roguelike gameplay is not enough for you, Risk of Rain Returns has other tricks up its sleeves as well. For starters, there are a bunch of Artifacts that can be obtained, each mutating the run in different ways, such as rotating skills, random equipment changes, or a constant stream of elite enemies to make your life hell. This ensures that there is always a different way to play and challenge yourself.
Then there are the Providence Trials, which are a gauntlet of challenges that will push players to their limits by imposing various conditions as a test of skill. Whether it be your platforming prowess or combat accuracy, these trials are a great way to see where you stand against the systems of the game, together with the mastery of the many Survivors that can be used in the main experience.
While most of the time spent on the alien planet is entertaining and fun, there will be occasions when players might feel a little frustrated. Not including those randomized parameters that can sometimes result in seemingly unfair situations, which is to be expected, Risk of Rain Returns does make some peculiar design choices that can have an adverse impact on gameplay. Not being able to shoot in all directions can be jarring, and the inability to attack when climbing ladders and ropes can also mess things up. These may be the rules of Petrichor V, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.
While it would have been expected that the series would continue with another sequel, Hopoo Games’ decision to go with the remastered Risk of Rain Returns is a pleasant surprise that we didn’t know we needed. The visual upgrade, coupled with the smart additions and gameplay tweaks to an already solid roguelike formula, make for an experience that constantly entertains and challenges the player, even with the niggling issues that will take some getting used to. Brilliantly modernized for a new generation of players, who knew death could be so rewarding?
Roguelike as it should be.
Variety is the spice of life.
Challenging combat and platforming goodness.
Visual upgrades are a big plus.
RNG can be brutal.
Shooting limitations will still frustrate.
November 8, 2023
PC, Nintendo Switch
Copy provided by Publisher