There was a specific satisfaction in Risk of Rain that I could never get in its fantastic sequel: putting my back to the wall as the riot cop-esque Enforcer, planting my shield in the ground and tanking an endless stream of enemies for my entire co-op squad. That just didn't work in 3D, which is maybe why the Enforcer was one of the few characters not to reappear in the sequel. When I played a short demo of Risk of Rain Returns this week I immediately picked Enforcer and slammed my shield to the earth.
Lord forgive me, but it's time to go back to tha old me.
Playing 20 minutes of Risk of Rain Returns told me everything I needed to know about it. Really, it told me more than I needed to know: I'd buy Risk of Rain again if it was the exact same game I played a decade ago but with working Steam netplay rather than the original's obtuse online code. (I am a little nostalgic for the Hamachi server I used to play co-op Risk of Rain, but not so nostalgic I'd choose it over right-clicking my Steam friends list and tapping "invite to game.") Returns is far more than that, though: it's a fully rebuilt game, with characters, items and abilities from the sequel backported in.
The gist is just as it always was: walk around the 2D levels, killing enemies and grabbing item chests until you find the teleporter you need to warp to the next stage. The longer you live, the more shit the game throws at you, until you beat the final stage or succumb to a screen full of hellfire. There are some generous tweaks, like the ability to take control of a helpful little drone when you die, instead of sitting out for the rest of the round. It's kind of like becoming a ghost in co-op Spelunky: you can't do much, but it's better than nothing. Players can also choose difficulty levels independently now, which affects damage scaling for their individual characters.
Some items have been rebalanced. There are new ways to get them. Two new survivors are coming, though I didn't get to play as either. There's a new challenge mode, called Providence Trials, meant to test out your skills with each character. Like in Risk of Rain 2, characters now have unlockable alternate skills to choose from, too. It's just more of the stuff that's already been proven to work well in this endlessly replayable roguelike vessel.
While playing Returns I learned that this remake is largely developed by modders who've been loyally adding things to the original game for much of the last decade. I can't think of a better way to handle bringing RoR back. Once it's out, you'll really only need to know one thing: do you prefer 2D or 3D? Either way, there's going to be a Risk of Rain for you to dump a few hundred hours into.