The dichotomy is baffling.
Risk of Rain accomplished something that I have, until now, thought impossible of roguelike indie games: challenging but reasonable difficulty. None of that Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, rage-mode bullshit that deters casual gamers from getting involved with interesting new titles, no sir. It’s true that Risk of Rain has you hit the ground running, but it’s not a terribly difficult task to get into the swing of things before you’ve unlocked the 50 deaths achievement.
Best to get the basics out of the way first, I think. Action platformer entails high mobility, position-oriented rakka dakka mob combat. You start off with one class to play, but there are ten classes total, some more difficult to unlock than others. More on that later. Each class has four abilities, typically two offensive, one evasive, and one REALLY offensive. I can tell you right here and now that some classes (sniper, engineer) were not meant for casual solo play.
Each session has five stages. The first three stages have two possible areas which are chosen at random, and the third of those areas has a secret area contained within. Each run is different, eh? There is a timer on the upper right hand side of your screen that displays the difficulty. Difficulty rises over time, advancing a level every five minutes or so, meaning things get harder the longer you take. That poses a dilemma: Do you wait on a single level and get lots of money and experience with which to handle the higher difficulties, or do you bomb rush and hope the lower difficult spares your life?
My advice to newcomers to the genre and/or game is pretty simple. Lern 2 mobil. Your evasive skills are your lifeline, and your knockback skills are critical in keeping enemies off of you. There are no invincibility frames after getting slapped. Sure, there’s no knockback for player characters, but that means standing in one place can kill you if you’re being swarmed.
Oh, right, characters. I’ll lump items in to this explanation, because both are locked in the achievement system. Do special things, get more rewards. It’s quite like Binding of Isaac, item-wise, as you receive random powerups each run, and unlocking achievements grants more powerups to find. Characters are unlocked like the ships are in FTL; do a certain thing, get a special someone. For example, beating the first three bosses earns you the tanky Enforcer, and collecting 15 monster logs earns you the extremely mobile Huntress. See the in-game achievement list for more information on how to unlock people.
Cameron Woolsey of GameSpot mentioned “wiping the sweat from his brow” after beating the final boss. I was in the same boat. THAT was a final boss. That’s what I’m talking about. I play the game just so I can get to that guy and fight him, I tells ya. Oh, right, so, forgot to mention you can roll with up to four players online or on LAN. Here’s the alt review for your reading pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play more Risk of Rain: http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/risk-of-rain-review/1900-6415566/