What happens when you leave a couple college students alone in their room with Gamemaker studio and a plethora of games from their past to influence them? Risk of Rain happens. A genre bending, wait...make that a blended indie sweetheart who made it through the trenches of the Steam Greenlight program. Cross a roguelike with metroidvania, sprinkle on some 4 player co-op and dangle a tasty bunch of useful collectibles in front and you’re left with one of the best co-op games I’ve played this year.
Hopoo Games isn’t kidding around when it comes to getting straight into the action. Immediately following the crash landing onto an unknown planet, the upgrades generously begin to come. These upgrades will shape and mold the character, building a drastically different loadout with each play though. The arsenal of available power-ups clocks in over 100, giving an immense amount of possibilities. As the character levels up and more power ups are collected, you begin to feel invincible. This dream is quickly shattered by the reality of death. It’s a roguelike, it happens. That inevitable tantrum subsides and then you start again. A 5 minute session can be as rewarding as a 25 minute one. The flow of life and death happening here here is a beautiful thing.
Trust me when I say there will be many lives lost during your time in Risk of Rain. It is one of the most difficult games to grace my hard drive. A run can be going perfectly, and then one costly mistake turns everything bad (I’m looking at you, Spelunky). It's okay because there is a surprising amount of variation, from location, bosses, and the drops from mobs. It changes how you will survive every time you start a game. The first thing players will miss but should take into account is the timer in the top right of the screen. As time passes the game gets more difficult; enemies gain health, hit harder, and spawn more. The constant pressure of wanting to move forward is in perfect balance with the choice to look for more items in the level. You may just need an extra eight percent health pickup or missile droid, but just don’t take too long looking for it.
The pickups/power-ups/drops range from defensive items which allow you to take more damage to your typical increased attack speed buff. There are also items with some crazy abilities such as summoning spirits to help you, or a personal favorite the Tesla Coil, which zaps any enemies in close proximity. Some runs will put you in command of a small platoon of droids, shifting your role from agressor to more of a passive general. Other times the stars will align for a perfect front line fighter where each killing blow nets you more health, permanently while a barbed wire shield damages everything that tries to touch your character. Most of the time it will be a mix of items, but you learn to make it work. Each game is different, and therein lies the beauty of the roguelike. Of course, it all comes crashing down when you dive into a crowd of enemies and lose the dozen items collected over the course of a single run. C’est la vie.