I love the idea of playing a game that has that “je ne sais quoi” that makes me want to keep playing it, regardless of my obvious lack of talent and reflexes.
I believe Risk of Rain Returns, the remake of the already classic Risk of Rain – originally released in 2013 – happens to be that game, once again. Don’t get me wrong, while I have played hours and hours of Risk of Rain 2, I needed to have my own adventures in a 2D procedurally generated environment with a collection of survivors that might as well share my disregard for strategy as a common trait. But that’s my fault, of course.
And while adult me – that is, me, me – is very consistently enticed by the familiarity of 3D games – after all, I’m a Super Mario 64 millennial – I must say that I have a lot more fun playing this bidimensional journey, transforming my experiencing into what can be felt like a million of adventures waiting to be started. All of them connected by the phrase: “one more round”. Here is my review of Risk of Rain Returns.
I have a need, a need for speed!
Coming from playing and beating Risk of Rain 2, imagine my surprise when I picked up my controller and was obliterated by the most insignificant Lemurian. It wasn’t because I don’t have skill – which I don’t have – but it was because of a little word that made the difference between the sequel and the remake of the original: speed. Yes, RoR2 might have great environments, but RoRR feels more challenging from the get-go.
Not only that, but it felt more alive. Yes, there were instances that I was alone on the screen – maybe because I mistakenly, of course, picked the easiest difficulty -, but most of the time I found myself surrounded by an increasing amount of enemies, each of them decided to kill me as it they were being paid to do so. RoR2 felt – at times – a bit empty and disorienting. That did not happen with this game.
Now, I know that comparing both games for some might be the equivalent of apples and oranges, but since RoR2 is the game I’ve played, and given it is the nearest example I can compare it to, I will not refrain from exalting RoRR whenever necessary. Just so you know, I love RoR2, and I play it whenever I have the chance, but nothing is perfect and everything can be criticized.
A remake of a classic
The thing I enjoyed the most was the inclusion of the Providence Trials. I know that this game is a roguelike and many are fans of the formula. I mean, that’s what makes it repayable and still enjoyable each time you attempt to survive those early stages! However, I’m a big sucker for arcade-style mini-games, and RoRR made my dreams come true.
Not only do we get references to games such as Donkey Kong Jr. or even Castlevania, but we also get to experiment with the different 15 explorers and their corresponding abilities. Some of these challenges will be easy to complete, but every single one of them will have you crafting a strategic approach to the situation.
At the same time, the new items and survivors will have you enjoying yourself by inventing new ways to deal with bosses and challenges in the base game. I know many fall into the cliché of saying that playing a good roguelike is like every single run feeling like the very first one, but in Risk of Rain Returns it truly is the case.
Mobility, or an attempt at it
And to that note, I must say that RoRR, while more engaging due to its speed and even its verticality – which is something that makes this game feel more like an adventure than its sequel/predecessor – gave me some headaches from time to time. I feel that, while not the biggest part of the game, platforming was a bit choppy and a tad punishing at times.
I mean, sometimes I felt that I had to aim straight to the center of the platform, otherwise, I would fall to my doom! I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to feel scared whenever it’s time to jump to the next floating block of terrain that defies the laws of physics by not having any type of structure holding it in the air. I want to feel empowered!
And while the countless items included in the game made my survivor of choice transform from zero to hero a la Disney’s Hercules – or Heracles if you are Greek – I think that the constant falling damage hindered my experience a bit. Not much! But it did. And no, I didn’t rage quit and threw my controller at the wall. I was already dead at that point and already on my next playthrough. Man, this game is addicting.
Pixel art? Yes, please
What is addicting as well is the way this game looks and can be appreciated by both newcomers and fans of the original. If done well, pixel art can become as detailed as a photorealistic 3D render. And what could we expect other than that combination between the retro and the new? Especially if we part from a great spot that is the very original Risk of Rain?
Visually, things look better and crispier this time. It might not be a night and day difference, and some of you might think it is just a copy and paste of the 2013 game, but the truth is that there is a difference while also a great effort to protect and value the classic visuals and sound from the original. And talking about sounds, what a great soundtrack RoRR has! I always felt welcomed and intrigued by the music, improving upon the mystery of each new stage and the discovery of each new item and each new variety of enemies.
Risk of Rain Returns took what Risk of Rain offered and elevated the experience even further. While my job as a reviewer oftentimes is filled with frustrations and anger not necessarily related to what a game is, but oftentimes to what it could have been, the case is that RoRR never had me wanting more. Now, of course, I wanted more, but the game was able to provide more. And provide it did.
The various modes, the variety of items, the different ways to play thanks to the survivors, and the overall feel that I was being fed quality content made my experience very pleasant. While things such as the platforming and overall survivor movement could be improved, one can surpass that initial feeling in favor of adaptation and oftentimes, creativity.
And that creativity is expressed in the way you approach the different challenges that the game presents. One way or another, you will see yourself putting to the test new ways to deal with enemies and bosses or how to set a new record on a specific trial. And being able to give the player the keys to enjoy a game is what gaming is all about: the feeling of having control of your own story. And what a story this is.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on November 8th, 2023