Any attempt at explaining precisely what Risk of Rain 2 is will fail to hit the mark. That’s not to say the game is especially complicated, or it’s mechanics obtuse. The game has depth, to be certain, but not to the extent that one would call it a complex affair.
I think the best approach to reviewing a game as unique as Risk of Rain 2 is to simply tell you what the game does well, what it does poorly – then slap a deeply subjective value statement on the end.
Risk of Rain 2 is, first and foremost, a fantastically-paced unlockathon. There are hundreds of unlockables, each requiring a condition to be met or a challenge to be overcome in order to add them to your repertoire; once unlocked, the items (which are divided into various rarities and categories) become eligible to be found in chests or (under certain conditions) dropped by enemies.
There are also nine characters to be unlocked, each of which has a genuinely unique skill set and playstyle that dramatically alters the way the game is played – especially at higher difficulties. Other unlockables include artifacts (difficulty/gameplay modifiers that can be toggled before runs) and lore entries that can be read from menus in order to add flavor and context to the proceedings.
You can unlock most of the items in the game over the course of 20-30 hours, but the last handful will require you to really focus on what you’re trying to accomplish and play with skill. There are myriad options for multiplayer that are exponentially increased by mods – I chose to spend my 200+ hours with the game sans-mods, but I appreciate the value add.
Whether you’re playing with mouse + keyboard or controller, Risk of Rain 2 handles perfectly. Each character has movement and mobility that varies at least slightly from the others, but they’re all easy to control. Some of the characters’ skills are more useful than others, but they all serve a well-defined purpose. Some kits revolve around cooldown management, while others are more straightforward. All-in-all, Risk of Rain 2 feels absolutely fantastic to play – something fewer and fewer developers seem to prioritize lately.
Speaking of things that aren’t trending in the game industry, Hopoo Games deserves high praise for releasing a game that is – as far as I can tell – unbelievably well-optimized and completely devoid of obtrusive or meaningful bugs. In fact, I have not noticed a single bug in my nearly two-dozen hours of play – visual or otherwise. I have experienced no crashes, no quirkiness, nothing. Also, the game has virtually no load times; a transition from menu to game is effortless. This is a masterfully crafted game by any standards.
The soundtrack deserves high praise, and anyone who played the first game will be happy to know that the darkly quirky vibe has made the transition fully intact. Sound design is also very well done; one of the first things I noticed when playing the game is that every enemy has a subtle-yet-distinct spawn sound, so you always have a good idea as to how much chaos is occurring off-screen. Every enemy telegraphs attacks visually and audibly, and loot drops make a very distinct noise as well – especially helpful for those of us who can’t stand the feeling that the monster we killed with a damage-over-time effect may have dropped something behind us.
Risk of Rain 2 has a story that is on the verge of uselessness. Beyond opening and closing cutscenes, the only exposition you’ll find are lore entries and verbose item descriptions. Personally, I appreciate this. While I can certainly appreciate a great story in a great game, I don’t need impetus beyond gameplay mechanics in order to get invested – but I know many gamers do, so I feel it’s worth mentioning.
I feel as if I should reiterate this as it really does seem to be a big source of frustration for many: Risk of Rain 2 has virtually no story. There is no meaningful ending to the game. There is some really interesting and fun flavor text if you want to go off and write some fanfic or whatever, but this game is not going to scratch your itch for dialogue or allegory.
Another thing that will frustrate many, myself included to a small extent, is the multiplayer structure. While the game provides oodles of parameters by which you can search in order to find like-minded gamers, only the most hardcore or those coming from other games with similar mechanics will appreciate the fact that Risk of Rain 2 does not have instanced loot. This means that any loot that drops is up for grabs – first come, first serve. I’m sure this leads to a lot of fun scenarios – I really enjoyed playing arpgs of yesteryear with good friends – but pubs are an absolute nightmare for anyone hoping to RoR2 + chill. There are mods that allow for instanced loot, but most gamers won’t even learn of this before giving up on the multiplayer experience.
In My Honest Opinion
Risk of Rain 2 is a game that doesn’t do anything wrong in my opinion. The things about it that I or others may not appreciate are clearly design decisions that were made thoughtfully. If you enjoy action/rpg, looter shooters or just unique experiences, I can’t recommend RIsk of Rain 2 more strongly.
Risk of Rain 2 is not art, but it is a work of art.