Risk of Rain Vanilla Commando

Risk of Rain is a cool game I've intended to do write-ups about for a while, but even though I knew what some of the key points I was impressed over were I struggled to really convey what kind of game Risk of Rain was fundamentally.

So eventually I decided to record runs of the game.

Behold! A 2D rogue-like-ish game that is full of chaotic action, a constant time pressure in the form of continuously rising difficulty, and a lot of varied and interesting gameplay!

I do have critical things to say about the game, but the only fairly core such critique is the complete lack of something like a save-and-quit option at Teleporters. As this run illustrates, it can easily take an in-game hour -longer in real time if your computer fails to consistently maintain sixty frames a second- to complete a run, and even a fast run is probably about half an hour. More irritatingly, the game actually has a mechanic where after five hours in a run, a super-class of enemies will start being applied to bosses in addition to regular enemies. A save-and-quit option would make that a bit more accessible in general, instead of demanding you set aside pretty much an entire day for trying to glimpse them... or go watch someone else do it.

Outside the save issue, though, Risk of Rain is an incredibly well-made game that does a very good job on a number of things games routinely botch in fairly significant ways. Item balance is shockingly good, which is important since by default what items you'll get in a run is heavily random; the only item that I think qualifies as a bit of a 'super-item' is the Infusion, which causes each kill you land to permanently increase your maximum HP by 1.

On the flipside, there's only a handful of items that are genuinely junk, and since the vast majority of items stack with themselves only Use items consistently suffer from the 'the game has given me five copies of this, when I can only benefit from one' issue so common to games with similar random item generation.

The self-stacking effect also has the really cool consequence of serving to make different runs play genuinely differently. One run might get a whole bunch of items that cause damage to enemies nearby you, leading to deliberately dancing among them to kill them quickly. Another run might get a bunch of Will-O-The-Wisps and so angle to corral enemies into groups in an attempt to set off a chain reaction of explosions, ideally including getting bosses in the middle of such messes. Yet another run might end up with an impressive array of items for healing even in the middle of combat, and so be willing to take risks other runs can't afford in pursuit of increased damage, or a chest, or whatever. It's all very interesting stuff!

As far as this run itself, I started off with a Commando because that's the only class you start with on a fresh game. I'm calling this a 'vanilla' run, primarily in allusion to the fact that I don't have any Artifacts on and am playing on the default difficulty. If you didn't pause the video toward the start to read the screen yourself, the Commando's four moves are:

Double Tap: Fires two shots per tap, which do 60% of base damage apiece. These shots travel at hitscan speed in a straight horizontal line from the Commando, and are blocked by enemies and terrain. No cooldown.

Full Metal Jacket: Fires a single hitscan shot that inflicts knockback and travels through enemies, but not terrain, doing 230% of base damage. 3 second cooldown.

Tactical Dive: Rolls at high speed in whatever direction the Commando is facing, with invulnerability throughout the dive. 4 second cooldown.

Suppressive Fire: Fires six hitscan shots per use, which do 60% of base damage apiece. Enemies are Stunned (Cease moving and attacking and are more easily knocked around) and pushed back slightly if hit, but otherwise functions pretty much as Double Tap. 5 second cooldown.

And since I got the Ancient Scepter in this run, it turns Suppressive Fire into...

Suppressive Barrage: As per Suppressive Fire, but fires 10 shots instead of 6.

It's worth noting that both Suppressive Fire and Suppressive Barrage have a bit of scatter to them. You won't see it until you're firing moderately far out, but it's a thing.

The Commando, as it happens, is both a really good and a completely awful introduction to the game. A key flaw of the Commando's is that he has extreme difficulty engaging enemies in safety in spite of being a ranged class -against tall enemies, he can stand on higher ground to hit them, and against enemies that lack a ranged attack of their own he can potentially arrange to stand across a gap of some kind to hit them in safety, but outside of those situations he's stuck hopping down to where literally anything can reach him and from there trying to kill them quickly, stall them with Full Metal Jacket and Suppressive Fire, and Tactical Diving through them when they get on top of him. 'Try to kill them quickly' is hampered by his fairly poor damage, and he struggles against

-Groups of enemies, as Full Metal Jacket is his only form of splash damage and it doesn't hit that hard given its cooldown and so on

-Flying enemies of any kind, as they're immune to stun and knockback, generally fail to conveniently line up for Full Metal Jacket, and are often slow to get to a position where the Commando even can hit them

-Bosses, which are almost all immune to stun and knockback while being so extremely durable the Commando's sad damage output becomes very obviously a problem

These qualities all serve to ground a player's understanding of how Risk of Rain operates fairly quickly: unlike many other 2D platforming action games where 'combat' centers heavily on identifying how a given enemy's limited behavior can be exploited, in Risk of Rain the default is to not be safe. Even if you can potentially exploit the environment+an enemy's limitations, by default more enemies will be spawning in and your 'safe zone' will soon be an unsafe zone. So you shouldn't be looking for such exploitive options, generally speaking, especially since exploitive behavior is often slow and in Risk of Rain taking longer leads to more enemies spawning in and enemies having higher HP and doing more damage. And bosses, flying enemies, and groups of enemies are always dangerous for any character, with an important skill being the ability to make a judgment call about when to fight a given such problem and when to disengage to try to come back with more items or after some other element making the problem worse has been dealt with. (eg come back to fight a boss after the flying enemies are all dead)

On the other hand, the Commando is, in a vanilla run, terrible. They're probably the second-worst class in the game if you don't get lucky, with a limited strike zone, poor damage output (And in particular poor per-hit damage: enemies can and will suffer knockback for ripping off something like 10~% of their HP at a time and the Commando's moves are slanted toward weak-per-shot effects), and only one significant advantage; they fire many shots in a short period of time, with only a couple of classes in competition when it comes to basic attack speed. A rapid rate of fire lends itself to leaning heavily on items that trigger per hit; the ATG Missile, for example, goes a long way to helping with the Commando's flaws by allowing him to lob shots at what he can reach on his own and hoping he'll trigger enough missiles to deal with eg threats on a floor above him... but you have limited control over your item drops, so it's quite easy for the Commando to just end up dead before he gets what he needs.

This particular run got very lucky, with tons of good items that are particularly good for the Commando right out the gate. Poor damage but a high rate of fire? The Telescopic Scope has got your back, with a low percent chance of dishing out what amounts to an instant kill on most enemies! Poor area of effect? The Brilliant Behemoth tossing in splash damage on all your attacks solves that problem! And so on. It ended up being surprisingly fun.

Which is good, because this is actually a re-recording, as technical difficulties ate my original Commando recording and I didn't discover this until a while after I'd made it. As such, there's actually an item in this video you'll see me unlock in a later video. It also led to me forgetting to keep the recording going through the credits and so on. I'll get that handled eventually...


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