Hello all! Last week, I wrote about a pulpy Western that was better than it really should be.

This week brings us an indie roguelike—one that manages to set itself apart from the crowd.

Risk of Rain, developed by Hopoo Games and published by Chucklefish (publishers of the excellent Stardew Valley) is a roguelike—that kind of game everyone either likes or hates (sometimes both). Marooned on an alien planet, your goal is to find a teleporter (and thus defeat a boss) in each randomly generated level in order to escape. There’s enemies and treasure to be found, but as in any roguelike, once you die, you gotta start the whole thing over fresh.

Risk isn’t an RPG like most games of this ilk. It’s a side-scrolling action game with little in the way of character customization—you pick a class and go. Initially, you start with just the light, mobile Commando class, but you can unlock a bunch of characters to play, from the tank-like Enforcer, to the Huntress, to the Bandit (basically McCree from Overwatch). Each class has four moves, and they play radically different from each other. I’m a little annoyed that they all have to be unlocked, as the requirements can be pretty strict.

The game goes from this...

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That’s mainly because of the difficulty. Risk has selectable difficulty levels, yet (in the game’s defining feature) the difficulty rises every five minutes, measured by a meter in the top right. It’s a cool risk/reward mechanic; do you run straight to the teleporter, defeating the boss while it’s still easy? Or do you scour the environment, killing enemies to level up and hunting down items, all the while facing the ticking clock? It keeps you on your toes, and forces you to make decisions.

I, personally, say go for the items. Risk has a ton of different items to find, locked away in treasure chests that cost money to open (enemies drop cash, and you can find more in smaller chests). Literally every item you find is beneficial, and you can carry all of them. The items are what make you truly powerful; they can turn your puny normal attack into a devastating electric-fireball-bleed-inducing thing that also heals you. You need to find as many as possible to stand a chance in the game.

I like Risk of Rain because of its challenge—it’s tough but fair. The levels are randomly generated, but constructed in such a way to prevent you from getting stuck, and generally, when you die, it’s something you could’ve avoided. You’ll get swarmed, die, and realize you could’ve jumped across a ledge to avoid damage, or you’ll realize you should’ve activated a teleporter sooner. Every time I die in Risk, I go over it in my head, and it makes me do better next time.

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...to this madness.

I also like it for the sheer mayhem I can cause, running through a level with over a dozen items going at once, feeling unstoppable. Like a lot of roguelikes and RPGs, a lot of the fun comes from not only defeating a tough enemy or boss, but building yourself up to a point where you devastate them. There’s a certain joy in it, like you’ve somehow become stronger than the game meant for you to be. Of course, that’s all thrown in your face when you end up getting killed anyway, thanks to Risk of Rain’s constantly rising difficulty. The game keeps things balanced no matter how out of control it feels, and that, to me, is brilliant design.

It’s also worth noting how great this game sounds. The music is awesome; play this one with the speakers way up.

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I didn’t know much about Risk of Rain when I got it; it was part of a Humble Bundle I bought to get something else. I’m glad I tried it out, though, and I’m happy I got back into it. It’s damn near genius in its design, and it pushes you to do better each time. It’s a perfect (though always increasing) level of challenge. It’s a must-play if you’re into this admittedly specific mash-up of genres.

Thanks for reading! I have a Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me!

Next week’s game is a classic PC shooter. There’s only two of these, and there’s always gonna be two.

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This Game of the Week post is dedicated to a friend who always retweets these, and got me back into Risk of Rain. Thanks, Norbie :)