Risk of Rain Returns – Review: The one that started it all!

Not for you if:

  • You hate being one-shot.
  • You're not a big fan of pixel art.
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How much do you guys know about the Risk of Rain franchise? At this point, everyone knows that Risk of Rain 2 was one of the flagstones that shaped the Roguelite genre. But what are the origins of this IP that is almost equivalent to hard opioids when it comes to its addictive gameplay? Let’s take a dive back while reviewing Risk of Rain Returns. But first, where did Risk of Rain come from?

The first game was released by two Wisconsinite college students who messed around a bit too much with the Gamemaker engine. After a successful Kickstarter campaign (I know, shocking!), the first game was released in November 2013 from the newly created studio Hopoo Games. After that, the world was never the same.

Multiple bosses in a teleporter phase

My question to you is, how can a game made by two almost penniless students in a game engine that was 13 years old at the time become one of the most genre-defining releases in the history of video games? And how, most of all, did they develop one of the best gameplay loops of all time? Simple; passion, and love for the medium. Here, we’ll be talking about Risk of Rain Returns, the remake of the original Risk of Rain, and, as the title suggests, the one that started it all.

Risk of Rain Returns – Review TL;DR

Risk of Rain Returns is the remake of our beloved firstborn that started it all. Visually, it has received an amazing touch-up and revels in its own distinct artistic style. The sound is serviceable, but by far, the music elevates all the combined elements of the game to another level. With all the additional gameplay content that you also receive, I am still wondering why you are not buying the game right now.

If you want to go for another rogulike then check out Endless Dungeon Review from Alex Kivitz.

Risk of Rain returns boss fight

Risk of Rain Returns- Story: Escape! … or something like that

I must confess that I’m a bit embarrassed about this part of the review. You see, I don’t really know the story of Risk of Rain Returns, even though I’ve already played it for around 80 hours. Truth be told, there was never any reason for me to do so. Risk of Rain Returns has an actual lore universe with complete world-building and snippets of information to be learned by observing the environment and reading monster descriptions in the in-game encyclopedia. In this aspect, the game is not unlike some Darksouls games. Nothing is explicitly said to you, and all the information you get comes out of your own deductions.

If you like being a lore hunter, go right ahead; the game allows that. But if you are like me (numbers going up make you happy), then you need to understand that the risk of rain returns is a dopamine drip straight into your brain, and everything else is optional. If you really need all the vital information to get an accurate grip on the lore of the game, here you are. Your spaceship gets attacked, you fall on the planet, and you need to escape said planet. Now go down to the surface and do a five-hour run until your high-end processor cannot handle computing numbers with dozens of digits, overheats, and then crashes the game.

Risk of Rain returns boss fight

Visuals: A clear upgrade

As I mentioned before, Risk of Rain Returns is a remake of the original Risk of Rain and, in my opinion, a clear upgrade too. Although the perspective is in 2D, a lot of work was put into the visual remake of the whole game. All the enemies and characters were given more detailed animations and more pixels to work with. The blurry pixel art of the old game is nowhere to be seen, and in its place, we have wonderful distinct silhouettes of fully redesigned character sprites.

Enviromental-wise, the biomes have been touched up, with more visible traversal lines and even wonderful backgrounds that keep the visual landscape refreshing and not feeling like an actual nail penetrating your eye after half an hour of playing. Even the UI and item effects got a visual overhaul. Nothing feels out of place, and for a game that feels like visual surrealism in the long run, I can comfortably say that all the information the player needs can be optically provided with the help of the new visual design.

Risk of Rain Returns- Gameplay: Why mess with perfection?

If you need a summary of what Risk of Rain gameplay loop looks like, it is this: kill, open chest, pick up item, kill, open chest, pick up item… rinse and repeat until you activate the teleporter, kill the boss and pick up the boss item. After that, you can either continue the rotation of the biomes, getting more items and bigger numbers until your computer explodes, or you can choose to fight the final boss and end the run. An epileptic roller coaster of infinite damage numbers that, if you choose, never ends.

In Risk of Rain Returns, we see a lot of gameplay improvements compared to the original release. These are functions that were tested in Risk of Rain 2, and since then, all the veteran players have not been able to live without them. One of them specifically that I commend to hell and back is that now you do not have to kill every enemy on the map to be able to teleport to the next biome, just the boss. Just writing this sentence brought a tear to my eye as a Risk of Rain oldie. You kids have no idea how well you have it.

The new changes have been dubbed modern mode and look like this:

Game mode select

Other than that, you can enjoy the return of some of our favorite survivors and the inclusion of some coming from the sequel, as well as our new backpacking boy, the Drifter, who is exclusive to Risk of Rain Returns. All of them have completely different play styles and offer an insane amount of gameplay variation. Long-range, melee, ability-based, and even a dude that smacks monsters using a huge backpack. Risk of Rain Returns rally has it all.

Sound: Atmospheric to the extreme

The game offers a very competent soundscape when it comes to sound. All the auditory interactions that the player has with the environment and the enemies offer an impactful satisfaction to the overall experience of the gameplay loop itself.

Where Risk of Rain Returns shines, however, is in its music composition. Chris Christodoulou surprised us by giving a small indie game back in 2013 a soundtrack that had no right being this good. The first complete collection, called “The Sea Will Claim Everything, Risk of Rain”, still sits as one of my favorite videogame soundtracks of all time. At the end of the day, as all RoR veterans will tell you, we came for the gameplay, but goddammit did we not stay for the soundtrack. 

Risk of Rain returns boss fight

Conclusion: Remake? More like Replay this right now!

Risk of Rain Returns is a farewell from a studio that loved its IP and wants everyone to have good memories of how everything started. It is a remake in name and soul without losing the creative spirit that made all of us like the original in the first place. At its core, it’s Hopoo’s attempt to relive their first love and make sure that this time, everything would go just perfectly. An attempt that succeeded. Buy it, play it, and wonder if you can go for another run before your computer overheats and melts down.

I want to thank DLGamer.com for the copy of the game. Give them some love.

Jason Dimitratos

Posts published: 28

Teacher and a videogame masochist. Will probably be found dead after playing Monster Hunter for 21 consecutive days. Has realized that for creative output, in the absence of passion, vitriol is an entirely viable replacement.