Risk Of Rain Returns Is So Much More Than A Remake

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Highlights

  • Risk of Rain Returns is not just a remaster or a remake, but a whole new game with sweeping improvements and changes.
  • The game features upgraded art with drop-dead gorgeous pixel art and overhauled background art.
  • Risk of Rain Returns introduces new survivors, items from Risk of Rain 2, alternative abilities, new artifacts, Providence trials mode, improved multiplayer, and new enemies and bosses.

Where exactly do we draw the line as far as remakes and remasters are concerned? I guess a remaster is pretty much just a graphical touch-up, but how far can you go before you’ve got a full-on remake on your hands?

Even more than that, how far can you go before the word ‘remake’ starts to feel like a misnomer, and you find yourself developing what might as well be a totally new game?


A Whole New Game?

As a huge fan of both the original Risk of Rain and its sequel, Risk of Rain 2, I was naturally very curious about Risk of Rain Returns, which was initially pitched as either a remaster, a remake, or a re-imagining of the first game. It was a little bit difficult to tell exactly what was going on. The Steam page described it as “carefully designed, beautifully remastered, and loaded with new ways to play”. I couldn’t tell if Risk of Rain Returns was supposed to be the original game with snazzier art, a ground-up rework, or some kind of pseudo-sequel. After having played a fair chunk of it, I’m both surprised and pleased to report that it isn’t really any of those things.

I assumed that Johnathan Cheetham (Hopoo Games community manager) was just talking marketing speak when he said:

“Risk of Rain Returns is a whole new game and an upgraded experience from the original Risk of Rain”

— Jonathan Cheetham, Hopoo Games Community Manager

It’s worth remembering that the original Risk of Rain was a very humble beginning. It was entirely developed by two students (Duncan Drummond and Paul Morse) and kind of came out of nowhere. Risk of Rain Returns feels like that original vision, but with the backing that only an established fan base and a major publisher can provide.

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I suppose technically, it is a remake, but the improvements and changes are so sweeping, and more importantly, so well implemented, that it almost feels like a disservice to call it that. It also clearly isn’t restrained by any need to be faithful to the original. This is the game Hopoo would have made if they’d had the resources and experience back in 2013. First and most obviously, the art is an enormous step up from the original, which was by no means an ugly game. The new HD pixel art is drop-dead gorgeous, and the new enemy designs and animations convey personality in a way they simply don’t in the original. There’s a real purpose, and malicious intent to how the Lemurians, Wisps, and Golems close in on you now. The background art has also been totally overhauled with rich detail and vibrant colours.

Risk-of-Rain-Returns-Level

That’s all set dressing though. Risk of Rain has always been about the survivors (classes, essentially), and how their unique abilities interact with the various items you gather on every run. Risk of Rain Returns brings in some exciting new faces too: the flying elemental wizard, Artificer, returns after making her debut in Risk of Rain 2, and she is joined by The Pilot and The Drifter. The former fights enemies from above with a variety of launching and airborne attacks, while the latter can collect and then convert scrap into powerful items.

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A Long Journey

All three new survivors bring something new to the table. That, plus the addition of items from Risk of Rain 2 that weren’t in the original adds massive variety and multiple new playstyles to master. The cherry on top, however, is that each survivor now has an unlockable alternative ability for each of their skill slots (another idea from Risk of Rain 2). That means more fun challenges to complete and a lot more experimentation to sink your teeth into. The alternative skills were a fantastic addition to the sequel, and it was definitely the right decision to bring them across for this game.

I can’t go over all the changes, but there are also new artifacts, which add special rules to a given run, a new Providence trials mode, new enemies and bosses, and the multiplayer has been significantly improved. Oh, and enemies can climb ropes now, so watch out.

Providence Risk of Rain

I think that might be why Risk of Rain Returns stands out to me. We’ve seen a lot of remakes over the last year, but none of them have felt like this. Risk of Rain Returns is the result of a developer returning to a project that they worked on when they were in a completely different situation, without the funds, experience, and resources that they have today.

Lessons have obviously been learned (especially during the development of Risk of Rain 2) over the last decade, and we now have that original vision, but given the treatment it has always deserved.

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If this is to be the last we see of Risk of Rain (under Hopoo’s direction anyway), then it’s a fitting swan song. Things have come full circle and I couldn’t be happier with how the game turned out. Whatever you want to call it, it’s just bloody brilliant.

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Risk of Rain Returns

Released
November 8, 2013

Developer(s)
Hopoo Games

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