Risk of Rain 2 changes the game by changing perspective [Early Access Preview]

There are two types of games that head into Early Access. Some releases need time to flesh out their ideas. They often need polish but want to get the community involved in forging mechanics and are drastically different upon release. Other games emerge fully formed onto the service with a clear vision and an established gameplay loop. For them, Early Access is all about expanding content and implementing quality of life before hitting version 1.0. To the joy of just about everyone who’s played it, Risk of Rain 2 is definitively in the second camp. Despite a radical shift in gameplay, this roguelike retains everything fans loved about the original while making things more accessible for everyone else. This is how you do it.

Risk of Rain 2 Preview | Charting your arrival

Risk of Rain 2

For the uninitiated, Risk of Rain 2 is basically a remake of the original but in 3D. Think of the jump many games made between the SNES and the N64 and you have something approximating what’s on display here. You’re still controlling one of several space explorers who’ve crash-landed on an alien world. You have to shoot your way through a host of alien creatures to get to a string of teleporters. All the while, you’re collecting power-boosting items and relics. Enemies get more ferocious as time goes on, eventually jumping to Impossible difficulty. This encourages you to either upgrade fast or keep moving as quickly as possible.

Despite the radical shift into a third-person shooter, there’s isn’t a lot of new stuff in Risk of Rain 2. Veterans of the original will remember a lot of the items and enemies returning, just in higher fidelity. This has been a difficult transition for some titles in the past, especially that initial wave in the ’90s. Even though we’re long past those days, it’s impressive what Hoppo Games pulled off here. The 3D models have their own style, but they’re still instantly recognizable and work just as well. Returning items retain their effects with the added benefit of visually upgrading your character as you horde them. Everything that transfers over does so seamlessly, and Risk of Rain 2 feels firmly in line with what came before.

What differences there are feel like improvements rather than compromises. While there are sure to be fans that prefer the 2D action, Risk of Rain 2‘s brand of shooting is a straight upgrade. Creatures can swarm all around you, forcing you to use all your abilities to their full advantage. From the tracking shots and dodge rolls of the commando to the healing turrets of the engineer, these are distinctly different styles. Each character’s quirks and powers shine brightly in this redefined environment.

Risk of Rain 2 Preview | Better with friends

Risk of Rain 2

Perhaps the biggest upgrade from the previous game is the addition of good multiplayer features. The original Risk of Rain was notorious for requiring IP addresses for getting games together. That was fine back in the Quake days, but it’s not exactly welcoming to your average Joe. Thankfully, this release has no such issues. It was easy to jump in with several of my peers and play a few rounds with no trouble at all. There was one minor quirk where the level only spawned in the exit portal for one of the two players, but progressing through obvious bugs is all part of the Early Access experience.

Even here, Risk of Rain 2 isn’t just content with fixing the mistakes of what came before. Hoppo Games has the advantage of releasing soon after the Apex Legends phenomenon, so it has integrated a callouts system for co-op. It’s no surprise that it works just as well here as it does in Respawn’s battle royale. Locating the teleporter location and making sure teammates get the loot they need is easy and useful. It just goes to further prove that this is going to be an expected standard feature for all forms of multiplayer going forward.

Risk of Rain 2 Preview | Trust falls

Risk of Rain 2

Walking up to a boss fight initiated by your teammates truly captures the chaos of the combat system. Enemies never stop coming, and characters never stop randomly shooting off missiles or lighting effects. Despite its small team and the limited scope of the original release, moments like this make Risk of Rain 2 feel like more than just another indie game. Few procedural experiences capture this kind of moment to moment action. Hoppo Games has done it seemingly without breaking a sweat.

The design of the randomized levels also adds to the scale. Verticality is a huge deal, with your character often traversing thin bridges over enormous pits. Few games can trigger my real-life fear of heights. I’m able to jetpack through waterfalls in Anthem and swing through New York as Spidey with no problems. Perhaps it’s my character’s frailty, perhaps it’s just how small you feel, but Risk of Rain 2 drew me in and left me terrified of sinking into the abyss. Even after I stopped worrying about the minimal fall damage, I still held my breath whenever I needed to leap into the unknown.

Risk of Rain 2 Preview | Mission accepted

Risk of Rain 2 Preview

It should be clear by now that Risk of Rain 2 already feels like a polished experience that’s ready to go. However, if you’re not up for following a game through constant updates, you may want to wait a while. One of the only issues with this release currently is how limited the item pool feels for a game of this type. There are also only a handful of worlds to visit before you begin to start looping. Your little space guy never reaches any sort of final boss fight or satisfying conclusion. The developers plan on adding things constantly over the next 12 months and if all goes well, this shouldn’t be a problem in the long haul.

Even with the limitations of Early Access in mind, Risk of Rain 2 stands as one of 2019’s most impressive releases to date. It takes a low-fi pixelated classic and brings it forward brilliantly. It keeps what worked, like the incredible sci-fi score and the constant character progression, and iterates on what didn’t. Accessibility is at the heart of every change, but none of it damages the great game at the core of this franchise. This is what a sequel should be, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming as development continues.

GameRevolution previewed Risk of Rain 2 on PC via Steam Early Access with a copy provided by the publisher.