Risk of Rain 2 - Early Access Review
Risk of Rain 2 pretty much came out of nowhere last week. With a surprise release on Steam, followed a short time later by a surprise mention from Gearbox's stage at PAX East, all of a sudden we had a new game to play. Developed by Hopoo Games, a follow up to the original 2D-platforming rogue-like from 2013, Risk of Rain 2 brings its own spin on the series by taking the action into three dimensions.
The premise, and goal, is much like the original. You play as a Survivor. Your pod lands on a strange alien planet, and you have to find teleporters to get to the next stage. While you search, you will engage with plenty of strange enemies. Killing them gets you gold, gold allows you to open crates, and those crates contain random items that offer you buffs. Over time, the number of items you hold increases, your build becomes more powerful, and this gives you a chance against the ever-increasing difficulty of the game.
Once you are happy with your progress in any stage, you can activate the teleporter and instigate a boss fight. Survive, and charge the teleporter fully, and then it is off to the next stage. It is a smooth enough gameplay loop that anyone who played the first title will be familiar with. All the different characters have their own playstyles. The Engineer has powerful turrets and mines to lay waste to enemies, while the Huntress is more focused on quick movement and concentrated DPS output. The Mercenary allows for some up close and personal action with his Lazer Sword, while MUL-T is a battle robot who can alter the nature of his damage output. All the Survivors, except one, are unlocked by performing certain feats in the game, so it can take a little while to get them all. This is fine though, as it allows you to spend some time with each one to get to know them.
Why is that important? Well, the key to success in Risk of Rain 2 is often generosity. The game can be played as a single player experience, in private lobbies with friends, or through matchmaking with strangers. Sometimes you will come across an item that simply doesn't suit your character, but it might make sense to let someone else have it. The endlessly moving Huntress will not benefit from an item that heals her and surrounding Survivors if she sits still for 2 seconds, but the Engineer has two turrets that don't move at all. If he has the item, the turrets become little healing stations for everyone on the team.
As you get later into the game, and those item stacks begin to build up, you start to see the real power of the Survivor you are playing. As the screen fills with enemies, all desperate to tear you apart, it becomes very obvious what Risk of Rain 2 is all about. That is to say, massive hordes of weird aliens, and destroying them. It feels great to throw out some damage at a huge mob, and watch it all evaporate as your shots cause lighting to arc between the aliens, slowing them, setting them on fire, and eventually causing them to explode and take out their neighbors.
Love In Three Dimensions
There are two mains elements you can look at in an Early Access game to try and decide if it will make it all the way to the a final build, because many of them don't. The first is the gameplay loop. Risk of Rain 2 has a smooth and simple one. Kill, loot, boss fight, next stage. It also has plenty of secrets and small mechanics built in to add some interest. The game is dotted with Shrines that have various effects, from taking health to give you gold, to making the boss fight harder. Secret boss fights are hidden on some maps, while others contain secret areas. You can collect Lunar Coins from some enemies that open up new secrets, and can even get you a new character.
All in all, I love the focused nature of the game, but it boils down to exactly how long you find shooting hordes of enemies to be enjoyable. The most fun I have had in Risk of Rain 2 is playing with friends. It can start off slow, allowing you to chat happily, and when the difficulty ramps up enough to demand focus it becomes a more tense affair. Getting wiped out then resets the loop, allowing you time to relax before really needing to focus again.
The second important factor is to compare the build we have with the developers projected time in Early Access. Hopoo has said they expect the game to be in Early Access for a year. I have had zero problems with the game at the moment. No crashes, no stuttering, no FPS issues. It seems stable, and sturdy, which would appear to validate their projection about how long it will take to complete. By the time it releases, Hopoo want to have added 4 new characters, 6 new areas, and 6 new bosses. Depending on the amount of work already done in the background, this seems pretty reasonable, even for such a small team. At the end of the day, when reviewing an Early Access game, we are not just reviewing the game as it stands, but also trying to come to conclusions about the game's overall potential, and the developers ability to deliver the goods.
Fair Is Fair
There is another, important factor to discuss here, and that is price. Risk of Rain 2 currently costs $20, and this will get you the game, and a free copy for a friend. This appears to be working well for the game, as yesterday on Steam it had an active player account of about seventy thousand players. Pretty impressive for a fresh out of the blocks Early Access game. If you are sitting there wondering if Risk of Rain 2 is worth buying into right now, I would have to say that it certainly feels that way to me. I, and the rest of the Gamepur crew, have had a lot of fun with it. My friends have all had plenty of fun with it. I haven't heard of any major problems with the game, and the developers seem all about trying to solve the issues that have been cropping up for people. I would have to say, if you are the kind of person who doesn't mind buying into Early Access products, you could do far worse than Risk of Rain 2 at the moment.