In a time of disillusionment with AAA dungeon crawling, Risk of Rain 2 offers a simple, easy to pick up but hard to master experience that is already tonnes of fun in its’ Early Access phase.
The 3D sequel to the 2D roguelite classic burst onto Steam unexpectedly this weekend with a buy-one-get-one-free offer and is enjoying overwhelmingly positive reviews alongside a bustling playerbase. Within 48 hours it has taken a place in the top 10 games by current players on Steam, competing with the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, FromSoftware’s new souls-like game Sekiro and free-to-play online multiplayer grindfest Warframe.
It is heartening to see a good indie dev team rewarded for their lovingy-crafted work at the same time AAA studios published by million-dollar companies fail to wow despite all the marketing magic they can polish turds like Destiny 2 and Anthem with.
Risk of Rain 2’s charm lies in its simplicity. The gameplay boils down to endless dungeon-running that increases dramatically in difficulty over time, on a scale from “Very Easy” to “HAHAHAHAH” (The difficulty continues to scale past this level but there are no more named difficulty levels). Like most games in the roguelike and roguelite genres, players spend their time fending off enemies while collecting randomised chests with items that offer modifiers such as faster attack speed, bleed damage, and rarer items that offer new abilities like a ground pound.
With an average game lasting around 20 to 30 minutes, it’s just the right length for pick-up-and-play. It doesn’t demand the often frustrating level of investment lost on death in roguelikes such as Don’t Starve.
It’s difficult to put into words what exactly is so great about Risk of Rain 2; there is simply a certain kind of magic you can feel when playing someone else’s lovingly crafted passion project. The dev team have made themselves very accessible, running a community discord where you can give feedback, read the dev team’s “brain dump”, look for people to play with, or post pics of your pets.
Fans of the pixel aesthetic of the original – almost part and parcel for roguelites at this point – might miss it, but the new, smooth 3D aesthetic is bright and attractive, despite the landscapes being just a tad mundane. The comic-book-cartoon inheritance from Borderlands publisher Gearbox is noticeable, and welcome.
The original packed up to 10 unlockable characters, and the sequel looks set to have the same on full release, with 6 unlockable at the moment. The current menu also promises many additional items to come.
RoR2 reminds me a lot of the chaotic fun I had with 2016’s Enter the Gungeon. Grab your (no-doubt retired) Destiny fireteam and jump right in.