Risk of Rain Vanilla Sniper


The Sniper is unlocked by simple virtue of beating the game one time. They can easily be one of your later unlocks, actually, though they can't be your last one.

The Sniper can be usefully thought of as another variant on the Commando, except for the tiny little detail that trying to play the Sniper like a Commando is going to get you killed. Over. And over. And over again.

It's still kind of accurate, inasmuch as the Sniper is a ranged attacker who can punch through multiple targets in one shot, has a dodge roll, and can only fire in a straight horizontal line and not through walls. A lot of the same principles do apply. Just... modified a bit.

The Sniper's four moves are...

Snipe: Fires a single bullet into a single target for 250% base damage. After firing, Snipe is replaced with a reload action that produces a swingy bar; ideally you arrange to press the button when the bar is in the white zone. Successfully doing so causes your next shot -whether with Snipe or with Steady Aim- to do strongly increased damage. (60~%?) Landing in the purple zone still provides a damage bonus on your next attack, just a much smaller one. (20~%?) No cooldown, technically.

Steady Aim: Once the button is pressed, assuming it's held down, the Sniper immediately stops moving -if in midair, their momentum will be killed entirely, only the pull of gravity continuing to move them- and a laser sight appears as well as a charge bar. (Said laser sight will stop at the first enemy or piece of terrain it intersects with, illustrating what Steady Aim will hit) As the button is held down, this bar is filled up. Once either the bar reaches maximum (At 3 seconds after initial press) or the button is let go, fires a shot that does potentially up to 2000% base damage to the first target it hits, then half that to the next, then half to the next, and so on. Firing a Steady Aim shot forces Snipe into its reload mode. 4 second cooldown.

Military Training: The Sniper rolls backwards, and is completely invulnerable for the duration of the roll. 7 second cooldown.

Spotter: SCAN: Orders the Sniper's drone to track a target; it has a fixed priority list that eg places bosses above regular enemies, elites above non-elites, and hierarchically places regular enemies in a threat order. Until either the button is pushed again to recall the drone or the target is dead, the target's name and exact HP (Current and max) are displayed and shots taken against the target will automatically crit. If no target is in range when attempting to initiate this skill, no cooldown is initiated. 10 second cooldown, starting from the drone being recalled.

And since I again got the Ancient Scepter, it turns Spotter: SCAN into...

Spotter: ISOLATE: As per Spotter: SCAN, except the targeted enemy is additionally slowed down.

The Sniper is an odd class who seems like they should be straightforward, but in actuality various technical oddities mean that using the class effectively really involves making sure to trawl a wiki or something like this post ahead of time so you know what makes sense and what doesn't in actual play.

First of all, the Sniper is unique in that attack rate enhancers are more or less automatically a bad thing. Those Soldier Syringes I collected in the video? I shouldn't have been picking them up, and in fact kept remembering about a half second too late to avoid them. They negatively affect Steady Aim; they reduce how long it takes to fill the bar, which you'd expect to be a good thing, but Steady Aim's damage bonus isn't dictated by how full the bar is, it's dictated by how long you were in the Steady Aim state.

So attack rate improvements are actually reducing Steady Aim's potential damage output.

They also make the reload bar move faster, which can throw off an acquired rhythm, and the effect on your actual fire/reload speed is not necessarily worth it if you've gotten the rhythm for perfect reloads down pat and suddenly you keep botching your reloads, lowering your actual damage per hit.

A further oddity that actually applies to, as far as I'm aware, all straight-line punch-through attack effects (eg the Commando's Full Metal Jacket), but is particularly relevant to the Sniper is that the game rolls crit and on-hit attack-modifying effects only on the first enemy you hit. You can see quite clearly in this video that late in the run a Steady Aim shot either freezes every enemy it hits through or none of them. This makers Spotter: SCAN's forced crit a lot more important than you might expect, as ideally you arrange to Steady Aim into a scanned target so everything is being hit for critical damage. It also, annoyingly enough, means the ISOLATE version is actually negatively impacting one of SCAN's major uses, since slower enemies will fall behind the rest of the herd and thus not end up letting you spread that forced-crit down the line.

Another oddity of the game of particular relevance to the Sniper is how it handles damage calculation in general. I keep referring to the damage on individual moves as a percentage of base damage; every class has both a base attack value and a per-level gain, and basically everything that does damage on your behalf looks at that damage number, modifies it by some percentage, then checks enemy armor and then deals the damage. This includes all item effects, as well as offensive Drones of any kind. Most classes have a base of 12 attack and gain 3 more per level; the Sniper has a base of 15 and gains 4 per level. While there are other classes that have higher-than-average base damage and/or level gains, none of them match the Sniper -the closest is the Bandit, who has the usual base of 12 but gains 4 per level just like the Sniper- and so the Sniper is the best abuser of Drones, Disposable Missile Launchers, etc.

This is good, because it's genuinely difficult to rely on the Sniper's core moves to get through the game. Risk of Rain is not a game in which standing still for an extended period is a good idea, and since Steady Aim fires in a straight horizontal line the Sniper has no concept of a 'sniper nest' like they would in an FPS. Like the Commando, the only relatively safe spots to perch are spots that are across gaps of some kind. And while Snipe hits quite hard per shot, its actual attack rate is iffy, especially if you're insisting on perfect reloads and aren't able to reliably get them on the first pass.

The overall result is that the Sniper has one of the most strongly skewed item preferences in the entire game. On-hit effects aren't bad, but you're not rolling enough metaphorical dice for them to be particularly great either. You want reliable offensive effects to maximally leverage your high base attack. You should outright shun attack rate improvements and possibly also the Ancient Scepter. Unusually, you might actually appreciate The Ol' Lopper, which is otherwise an incredibly bad item; an auto-crit on a weakened target is usually completely redundant, but since Steady Aim will carry the crit forward that can actually be quite nice. Drones are hugely valuable, especially since your overall playstyle tends to avoid them taking unnecessary hits, far more so than literally any other class. The Crowbar, which increases damage by 50% if the target has most of its HP, goes from a minor bonus to potentially horrifically lethal with Steady Aim.

The whole thing makes for a surprisingly steep learning curve, as at first glance the Sniper seems rather like the Commando but with a switch from rapid fire to infrequent-but-powerful shots, and that's not exactly wrong but it's easy to underestimate how much of a difference there is between the two classes in practice.

Personally, I'm not that good with the Sniper. I was genuinely startled when I happened to get the 20 perfect reloads unlock during recording -I'd resigned myself to either never getting that unlock or to someday just sitting down after having cleared out a level and manually grinding it out. I'd never expected to get competent enough to do so incidentally. In general the Sniper is a really cool idea that I want to like, but between how they are a somewhat poor fit to Risk of Rain's overall philosophy -at least the Sniper's current implementation is, and as far as I'm aware the developers have moved on- and my personally shaky skills with them, I tend to end up a bit frustrated.

And honestly? While the Sniper is satisfying to play the way they're built to play, I think they're actually underpowered. Steady Aim is cool, but there is no other case of a splash damage attack that suffers damage drop-off per target. 2000% -or 3200%, assuming a perfect reload- is impressive against a single target, but when you're firing at a blob of enemies, what you actually get is... well, say it's a blob of 10 enemies. That's...

3200%+1600%+800%+400%+200%+100%+50%+25%+12.5%+6.25%=6,393.75%

That's impressive-sounding!

But let's compare it to the Commando using Full Metal Jacket.

First of all, notice that past the fourth target, the damage slides increasingly toward Full Metal Jacket -it just adds another 230 to its number, while Steady Aim adds smaller and smaller numbers.

So at ten targets, Full Metal Jacket hits for a straightforward 2300%. Less than half Steady Aim's total, to be sure, though it bears noting even at this step that in real terms there will be damage inefficiencies -against a blob of regular enemies, Steady Aim probably wasted a lot of damage on overkill against the first target, and possibly the second too.

More importantly, though, Full Metal Jacket has a cooldown of 3 seconds. Steady Aim has a cooldown of 4 seconds and requires 3 seconds of charging for a full hit. In actuality, our comparison with ten targets puts Full Metal Jacket at 4600% over six seconds to Steady Aim doing less than 50% better over 7 seconds. And of course it instantly gets worse if we add another ten targets: suddenly Full Metal Jacket is doing 9200% over six seconds, and Steady Aim has gained not even 100 points over its previous impressive number.

Steady Aim can achieve monstrous values against lone targets if you arrange things properly -for one thing, I'm being slightly unfair by discounting the part where the Sniper can force a crit to double all these damage numbers, but since each step halves the numbers that just means everything past the fifth target is biasing the comparison toward Full Metal Jacket- but against swarms of enemies it actually doesn't do that well. And it doesn't take that long for 10+ enemies appearing in under ten seconds to be a routine result from activating a teleporter, and eventually just a thing you have to live with constantly.

And multiple other classes can easily come alarmingly close to Steady Aim's theoretical damage output against single targets with little or no preparation whatsoever. Without suffering monstrous damage drop-off against groups.

I really feel like Steady Aim either shouldn't have had the damage drop-off effect, or it should've been a more favorable number (Drops to 80% of the previous value?), or the logic should've been completely different. Imagine if Steady Aim had an even more monstrous damage value, but it was sanity-checked by making the bullet deliver damage to a target, if the target dies carry on the remainder to the next, and so on -so eg it will always do at maximum 10,000% total damage, but against mobs of relatively fragile enemies it doesn't waste literally half of its damage on overkilling the first enemy.

Still, I do like the idea behind the Sniper, and as it happens they're the best class at leveraging Drones and passive damage sources like Barbed Wire simply due to their innate advantage in damage, so they're not remotely unusable. Though... the Bandit is only barely behind them past the earliest portion of the game...

I made something of an effort to show off various enemy names via scans, including some enemies that don't have monster log entries. I was a bit amused to discover that Providence's worms end up scanning as Magma Worms, even though that's clearly not what they're intended to be. I suspect it had to do with the scan latching onto back parts, personally. Though it's also worth noting that the wiki says that you can get a Monster Log drop from them, and it'll just be a Magma Worm, so that might be related.

This particular run also happened to run into the Sniper's worst enemy: Cremator.

Cremator is always a bit of a pain to deal with, though thankfully it's only found in the Magma Barracks and since it must spawn in lava its position is fairly predictable once you know the possible layouts. But its ability to lob rocks at you no matter where you go puts tremendous pressure on you to keep moving -especially if you're playing on Monsoon difficulty, as the warning bubbles are not present on Monsoon- and while most bosses have some ability to pressure you, Cremator is unusually lethal and your options for a response are somewhat poor. The Toxic Beast's summons can be killed before they get a chance to do anything to you, and they can't spawn everywhere. Cremator's shots are not equivalently manageable. Worse yet, if you happen to be standing atop Cremator when it fires? You probably instantly die. This makes it particularly nerve-wracking to fight it with melee-oriented classes, but even classes like the Sniper who have ranged attacks but only on a straight horizontal line can easily end up dead if you're not very, very careful.

I'm genuinely a bit amazed it didn't kill me, and this was actually my first take!

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