In 2013, Hopoo Games released upon the world a peculiar action game called Risk of Rain. The premise was that you were the lone survivor (or one of four survivors should you decide to opt into the multiplayer function of the game) of a crashed delivery vessel trying to make your way through a series of alien worlds. You could choose from a variety of classes unlocked through challenges completed through your various runs, each set up with unique abilities and weapons to fight against the ever-coming swarm of blob monsters, crab-beasts and magical space jellyfish. Throughout all of this, the more enemies you killed, the more money they dropped, and you’d be able to purchase and unlock new items that added buffs and unique passive abilities to your arsenal.
As a whole, Risk of Rain sounds like a solid game, but perhaps not a very memorable one. That’s where the unique aesthetic and writing of the game came as a saving grace. Loot-based games are a dime a dozen these days. You have everything from your isometric Diablo-style games, to Destiny and The Division, to Borderlands and even Monster Hunter. However, what made Risk of Rain stand out from the crowd was a multitude of decisions made by its development team.
First and foremost: the game was entirely 2D with a tableau camera view that made the entire game appear as a profile cross section of the alien world and your character moving within a simple X/Y axis combination, all while done in a pixel art pastiche. Secondly, the music of Chris Chirstodoulou set minimalist pixel art against a background of electronic drumbeats and synthesizers that, when your close your eyes, makes you feel like you’re drifting through a melodic soundscape akin to Q Entertainment’s Child of Eden. Finally, the writers of Hopoo Games gave every enemy, every item, and every character a brief, simple bit of text ranging from a sentence to a page that injected humor and character and life into its world. Oh, that ukulele that you picked up that adds a 20% chance to fire chain lightning around you to damage your foes? Well the game includes a shipping manifest for that. It also includes one for every other item as well.
So why am I waxing on about a video game that came out five years ago? Because Hopoo Games has been hard at work on the successor to Risk of Rain, the aptly named Risk of Rain 2. And what’s so different about it, you may ask? I mean, sequels for games come out more often than not nowadays, and for loot-based games, that makes complete sense. Make some new levels, maybe a few new classes, and add dozens of new items and collectibles and you have yourself another hit, right? Well maybe, but Hopoo went with a very different route, one that was enough of a change from the previous formula that it took me by genuine surprise. You know what…I know that the purpose of words is to describe something, but sometimes a picture is just better. Here’s a comparison of Risk of Rain and Risk of Rain 2 side by side.
Now that’s quite the change. We went from a profile 2D sidescroller to a third-person 3D shooter. I mean, sure the items are still there, and the ability system is still in place. Even the timer and the difficulty counter remains, but the entire visual design of the game has been changed, top to bottom.
This screenshot comes from a video posted on the developer’s tumblr account as a one year check-in since announcing development on the game, and it certainly shows that the team has been hard at work producing something rather unique. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of other games (Warframe comes to mind), but aesthetically, it maintains the flat color palette and visual flair of its predecessor. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by the game at first. I wasn’t sure how the 2D action would translate into a 3D setting. However, as I watched the video, it grew less and less peculiar and more and more comforting, like the first time I had come back home from college only to see my former bedroom turned into a guest bedroom. Alright, so a few posters were moved out, and the furniture was rearranged, but the more I sat in there, the more the air of memories and comfort washed over me. Yeah, this might be a different Risk or Rain, but the aural barrage of various clinks and tings and bangs of bullets and lasers and electrical damage being dealt to the enemies reminded me that, despite the differences, it was still the world I enjoyed.