Death of the Critic

The Backlog - Risk of Rain

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With the announcement of the now 3D sequel, there is no time like the present to jump back into Risk of Rain, Happo’s side-scrolling roguelike. You take control of one of a cast of high-powered characters, each with their own special attributes, from the simple Commando, to the quick and lethal Huntress, or the careful Sniper. And while it is technically a roguelike, the levels themselves follow a predictable format. Every one of the first four levels is a choice between two separate maps, each with two, slightly different, versions. So if you play half a dozen games or so, you’ve seen all of the level variety that there is to see.

The actual variety comes from the gameplay itself. Depending on the base character that you choose, your play style can drastically change. The Huntress is rather easy to play, with a fast-paced, hit and run style well suited to large groups of enemies. But the Sniper relies way more on positioning and staying at range. With the whole roster, you can constantly be changing your style, if through nothing else than the range of attacks at your disposal.

This is then modified by the robust item and artifact system within the game. Artifacts function like skulls from
Halo, adding more challenge to the game and changing the style with which you have to attack a playthrough. The items are hugely varied and range from the very simple, like one that raises your damage, health, or fire rate, to the more complex, which change movement mechanics, attack styles, or more.

It adds a surprising amount of depth to what would otherwise be a simple game. As you play, you can unlock more of the items to be found in the game, or more characters to play as, substantially increasing the starting roster and variety that you encounter. A short game can be ten minutes, from the first level to the final boss. A long one can easily last an hour as you tackled different areas over and over to become more powerful, difficulty slowly increasing as you play.


Most runs will end with you dying. It can happen in just a moment, a missed jump or mistimed usage of a power landing you in hot water, surrounded by enemies that will drop your health to zero in a second. You have to stay on your toes, ready to escape or fight your way out of any situation that you find yourself in.

If you have the patience, you can play multiplayer, but this is easily the worst part of the game, its implementation, that is. When it worked, it was fantastic. But getting it to work required way too many steps, and programs outside of the game to make it a viable choice.

It is a game that begs you to sink time into it, to master characters and keep playing to try to complete new challenges to unlock more stuff. It is one of my favorite
roguelikes that I’ve played in a while, and I play a lot of them. It is just tight, well-polished, and a joy to play in a way that makes you want to come back even if you’ve already seen and done everything. You just want to do more, play more, and master more. And that’s damned great.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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