Risk of Rain 2 Review – Officially Out and Officially Awesome

    Title: Risk of Rain 2
    Developer: Hopoo Games
    Release Date: August 11, 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
    Genre: Roguelike

The quality of a roguelike ultimately boils down to how much it fuels your desire to do one more run. There is a tricky balance between presenting satisfying power progression while also making the game feel enjoyably challenging. If the game is too difficult without providing sufficient goals or rewards there will come a point where subsequent runs become a chore, and the game ends up feeling empty. I’ll be honest, I was eager to review Hopoo Games’ sci-fi roguelike Risk of Rain 2, which first released in Early Access in early 2019 and has now officially launched in the tail-end of 2020. Through its Early Access development, it has grown a lot and the final result is a well-polished experience for new and old roguelike fans. 

The core gameplay loop of Risk of Rain 2 is similar to its predecessor. You fight through various levels acquiring currency to buff your character with items and drones until you eventually locate a shrine that takes you to the next stage after slaying the shrine’s boss. This is a fairly straightforward loop that allows players to jump right into the game without having to think too much. However, Risk of Rain 2 enhances this with additional features that reward players for continued play, which yields more each corresponding run.

Characters are the most substantial reason to continue playing Risk of Rain 2 as there are quite a few to unlock and some can only be acquired by completing certain objectives that range from the straightforward to the more obscure. Each character has their own unique playstyle and benefits from different itemization approaches to fully utilize their skill sets. When I played the starter commander character I would have to itemize to do more damage myself as opposed to the Engineer class where I would focus on making my turrets stronger and let them do most of the work.

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Risk of Rain 2’s items also add a lot to the experience of each run and are one of the main reasons I keep finding myself with the urge to play. You’ll find numerous items with their own unique effects. Some are more standard such as increasing boss damage while others can completely replace one of your character’s skills with a brand new ability. There are also equipment items that take up their own slot and offers a powerful ability with its own cooldown.

Since itemization plays such an important role, there are mechanics put in place to give the player more agency in getting a good build. There are altars where you can sacrifice your current HP in exchange for money to buy more items. There are also 3D printers that allow you to randomly exchange one of your items for the item it has, which allows you to stack multiples of an item you really want. Interestingly, altars can be found that can add more bosses to the level for greater item rewards when you clear the stage. 

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Finding the right combination of items really makes you feel powerful and Risk of Rain 2 is not afraid of letting your character scale up to that level because the game’s difficulty also spikes rather dramatically. This causes things to become a race against the clock as you are trying to become more powerful before the game’s difficulty consumes you. I enjoyed this because it made each run exciting and even when I felt overpowerful there was still a challenge ahead that kept me engaged. 

One gripe that I have is that the boss shrines on each map can sometimes take a long time to locate to the point where it becomes boring and frustrating. There are times where I feel like I’ve explored every inch of the map, but couldn’t seem to find the shrine simply because I kept passing a semi-hidden valley or path. This didn’t happen too often and could be attributed to my own bad sense of direction and map awareness, but those runs, in particular, took away from a lot of the fun I was having.

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Multiplayer is another aspect of Risk of Rain 2 that I was able to spend a good amount of time. However, it’s not without its own issues as I found it to be more hit-or-miss than the game’s single-player offering. Risk of Rain 2 supports up to three-player multiplayer, and more if you use a mod. Multiplayer adds another layer of depth to the game by allowing different characters or multiples of the same character with their own skills and itemization.

It is fun to see what you and your teammates can pull off by working together to stack all of a certain item on one player or running something like an all engineering team with turrets everywhere. However, there are a couple of downsides to multiplayer that kind of slow things down such as if one of your teammates dies, they have to wait until you complete the stage before they are revived again, which can take a really long time depending on when they die.

This causes a couple of issues for the players who die. Not only do they have to watch the rest of their friends have fun playing the game, but once they resurrect in the next stage, they are sufficiently underpowered since they missed out on a lot of items. The teammates then have to sacrifice their time and money to bring those players back up to speed which hinders them from becoming more powerful themselves. While I understand that dying needs to have consequences, I think having something more interactive for the dead players to do would greatly improve the overall enjoyment for all players in the party. 

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Risk of Rain 2 has a lot to offer and despite some downsides to the multiplayer side of things, the game is still really well put together. There is a lot to explore and unlock, but most importantly, it’s really fun to play. The core gameloop of Risk of Rain 2 makes it accessible while the additional features and mechanics make it tough to put down. I highly recommend this game to both roguelike veterans and those who are interested in diving into the genre. 

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brian Lee

Production Editor and Co-host of the Noisy Pixel Podcast - Professional goof and overall video game junkie. Brian [at] noisypixel [dot] net