Roguelite Excellence: "Risk of Rain 2" Review
Risk of Rain 2 is the sequel to Risk of Rain developed by Hopoo Games. It is a third-person shooter roguelite where you play as one of currently ten characters looking to escape an alien planet that they have crash-landed on. The game takes everything that made the first game great and transitions it into 3D. Risk of Rain was an excellent roguelite, but does its sequel hold up?
Transitioning the art style from the pixelated Risk of Rain to the 3D cartoonish style of its sequel must have been a big feat, but I am confident in saying that it has been done perfectly. If you have played the first game, all of the enemies, characters, items, and bosses will all be instantly recognizable. I don’t think Hopoo Games could have done a better job even if they tried. It is very appealing to look at. Each enemy is very unique, they can all be differentiated from each other in the heat of combat. The designs of the playable characters are all very memorable and reflect their abilities quite well. All the items fit into the world and don’t feel out of place. All the different designs are bundled tightly into a very cohesive package that is unique yet familiar to the first game.
The music in Risk of Rain 2 is quite catchy and fits thematically in the world. It is a pleasant mix of synths, electric guitars, and rock drums that fit very nicely in the sci-fi setting. The music quite often switches between mellow rhythmic beats to the wailing electric guitar that really emphasizes the chaotic nature of the combat. The sound effects are also quite good. They make the onslaught of enemies easier to navigate as they all have unique spawning and attacking sounds. Very often I would find myself whipping around my camera to quickly kill an enemy that I just heard spawn, which is where the unique audio really comes in handy. The sound effects of the characters are nice as well, making each character’s attacks and abilities unique from each other.
The gameplay of Risk of Rain 2 is very similar to its predecessor. You arrive on a stage, kill enemies to collect money, spend that money on chests and other things that give you items, activate the end teleporter, fight the boss of the stage while powering the teleporter, then continue onto the next stage, then repeat. This is a fairly standard roguelite gameplay. However, Risk of Rain 2 has a unique mechanic where the difficulty of the game will slowly ramp up over time. This creates a balancing act where you must balance how much time you spend getting items. If you take too long the game will quickly outpace you, making it difficult to survive the increasingly strong enemies. There are different tiers of difficulty that the game progresses you through, which is always displayed. This allows you to manage your time correctly and plan out how long you will collect items.
The main problem I had with the first games was that it felt too difficult too quickly. Very often even weak enemies would take a few seconds of shooting before they came down. This is something that I do not have a problem within the second game. The weak enemies stay fairly weak as the difficulty progresses. As the difficulties progress, however, there are stronger variants of these enemies that will be introduced with a modifier picked from a small pool. Some can electrocute you, some will leave behind an ice bomb when they die that will freeze you, and some will leave a trail of fire wherever they walk. They each have their own precautions you must take while fighting them that makes managing them difficult.
Enemy management is a very key skill to learn in Risk of Rain 2. A lot of the combat will be spent weaving in between the literal hordes of enemies that game will throw out at you. I feel this really helps the game not rely on artificial difficulty. Obviously, there are still enemies that are hard to take down because of high health or damage, but there are some that are hard simply because they are deadly in combination with another enemy. For example, the lesser wisps are very weak enemies and can usually be put down in one shot. However, they fly, spawn in packs, and are hard to dodge. This makes them hard to fight when you are distracted by a ground enemy that is attacking you as well.
The hordes of different enemies that are thrown at you can be dealt with in different ways by the ten different characters. Each character is very unique in their gameplay and aesthetic. They all have three abilities, usually two attacks and a movement ability. There is also a split between the characters, with some being ranged and some being melee. You start off with The Commando, who is a fairly standard character, and unlock the other nine characters by completing certain tasks. Each character is fun to play and each has specific roles they can play in a multiplayer game. However, one of my main gripes with the game is the balancing of these characters. The Commando is very clearly the worst character in the game. He is fun to play, but compared to the others he just does not hold up. The melee characters, which I think are the most fun, have a naturally hard time dealing with flying enemies. They all have different tools to deal with them, but sometimes it can be frustrating to try to reach a certain flying enemy that is giving you trouble.
Each character also lends themselves to certain items, which are the lifeblood of this game. The game has over 100 items, all varying in rarity. The items range from simple stat bonuses to very unique effects that change the way you play the game. There are both passive items and usable items, with the passive items being able to be stacked with each other. The active items can help fill in weaknesses of certain characters or can even dictate which passive items you try and get. There is a wide variety and each item has an application in all sorts of builds. The characters also have unlockable alternate skills that add variety to your runs.
The game has four stages that you progress through, with a fifth one being dedicated to the final boss. Each stage has two different maps that are chosen at random. Each map also has unique enemies and secrets which can aid you in your run. There are also secret stages that can be accessed by doing certain things in the main stages. The stages can also change from run to run, with some areas being closed off and other areas being made available. The stages generally have an aspect of verticality that is fun but can also be frustrating if you are playing a character without a good movement ability. This is especially apparent when looking for the teleporter. Trying to navigate the levels where the teleporter can be hard to spot is made even more difficult if you don’t have a movement ability. I would love to see more stages added to the game. All of the current ones are great, but I would love more to spice up runs a bit.
There are also unlockable artifacts in the game that can give you access to special modifiers that you can apply to your run. Adding different combinations to these, along with the three different difficulties and various characters, can make for some really unique runs that keep the game fresh.
I have played a lot of roguelites, some of them are even all-time favorites of mine. Risk of Rain 2 is not only an excellent roguelite but an excellent game altogether. It adds unique spins on the genre while also being very familiar and incredibly fun to play. There is very rarely a dull moment in the game. With the different characters, items, enemies, modifiers, and skills, the game absolutely delivers on the replayability aspect that can be hard to come by in roguelites. There is also modding support for the game, so if you don’t like something or want more content, there are mods out there for it. There are some gripes I have with the game, but these are mostly minor. Even then I can confidently say that Risk of Rain 2 is hands down one of the best roguelites out there. It delivers on all of the things that make the genre great, and then some. I cannot wait to see where the game goes next.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10