Coming from a longtime fan of the original, Risk of Rain Returns is a masterful and faithful remake of the 2013 version. The main attractions besides the beautifully overhauled models would be the new characters and items, fixes for old ones, and multiplayer-centric skills for survivors.
Yet, as a passionate fan, I have to wonder whether taking the project back to its roots is better than continuing with RoR2’s ideas. The answer might be tedious, but it’s incredibly simple. The fact that the 2D system of Returns is here in all its remastered glory doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t be getting a continuation of the third-person gameplay. It’ll just take a bit more time.
I feel like Hopoo’s goal was simply to ensure the original was up to RoR2’s standards before continuing with the new formula. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the many aspects Returns does right.
Risk of Rain Returns Review: Panic at Petrichor V
This might be a strange way to start a review but do you remember Binding of Isaac Rebirth? It was a vast overhaul to the base roguelite experience while sticking to its roots. That’s what Returns represents for the original Risk of Rain. But such a tactic can be a double-edged sword. A developer can build an excellent remake of a game but fail to include innovative and exciting ideas that bring new life for returning players. So, has Returns managed to do that?
The short answer is mostly yes. I say mostly since I did expect just a little bit more original content for those who played in 2013. But to be fair, there’s plenty of innovative stuff to play around with. It makes Returns feel like a visually improved refreshment of the original, but, at the same time, it builds upon itself with bonus items, bosses, and survivors alongside smoother movement, mechanics, and gunplay.
All of this is wrapped up in a customizable difficulty package, and even Providence has some extra abilities to surprise veterans in the final boss fight. The new Lynx Totem boss isn’t just another bullet sponge but actively reshapes the terrain as you play. Areas are the same, but they’ve been redesigned to promote additional exploration, secret walls, hidden collectibles, and more mobility options. Speaking of, Returns adds exciting survivors like the air movement-focused Pilot or the support-focused Drifter while adding new movement skills and fixing many of the issues that plagued old survivors.
For example, I’ve always loved the fantasy of playing as the Enforcer in the original. Wielding a massive shield and repelling enemies with a shotgun feels great at first until you realize that his lack of mobility shuts you down in certain situations. Now you can unlock extra movement abilities for him, like the Shield Charge. Furthermore, the Miner was interesting but lacked that extra “oomph” of the higher-tier survivors. Returns introduces the Scorched meter for him that boosts his basic attacks and resets his dash cooldowns, fueling that fiery berserker theme.
One of the biggest features that aids in this are the Providence Trials. These entertaining mini-games allow you to unlock new skills and items for your survivors, thus customizing them further. Where Risk of Rain 2 has skills locked behind achievements, Returns allows you to jump into streamlined bite-sized challenges and “easily” unlock new moves.
I think I like this Returns dynamic more. You just pop into Trials, play a few mini-games, unlock new abilities, and then go to character selection and test them out in new combinations and custom loadouts. Even the color schemes are fully unlocked right from the start, which is a cherry on top.
Speaking of alternate abilities, Returns introduces many more team-based skills to promote its new overhauled multiplayer mode. The Drifter can spawn items for his team; the Bandit can spawn an AoE protection field for his allies; the Engineer’s supportive abilities return from RoR2, etc.
I have to say, gone are the days of bad netcoding, as multiplayer in Returns feels much smoother with the new Steam quick-invite system. You can start a 4-player game in a minute or less. One element I would like to see in the future is console support and crossplay. I’ve tested the game both on a PS5 and Xbox gamepad, and the controls feel great, so a console version seems natural. The increased cross-platform player base will work wonders for RoR’s longevity.
As for the story, RoR2’s storytelling was a bit better organized but Returns adds tons of new story entries and beautiful art in the Logs section to revitalize the narrative from the original game. Moreover, the new environmental and enemy visuals along with sound design are captivatingly immersive. Of course, Chris Christodoulou is back on his lightning ukulele for a glorious OST. It also helps that the game is a whopping 350 megabytes and runs superbly even on lower-end machines.
Risk of Rain Review — The Bottom Line
- Crisp visual overhaul for levels, enemies, and bosses with new unlockable art.
- Bonus items, interactables, boss abilities, and genuinely fun new survivors.
- Easily accessible alternate skills through the Providence Trials mini-games.
- Improved multiplayer hosting and new team-oriented abilities for survivors.
- Numerous rebalancing and gameplay improvements.
- Chris Christodoulou OST.
- Not enough original features to constitute a brand-new game; it’s essentially a remake.
- No PlayStation/Xbox version and no crossplay as of yet.
- The story, levels, and final boss, though improved, remain essentially the same.
All in all, this title is strictly a superior version of the original — visually, mechanically, and in terms of a stable multiplayer mode. It has a better codebase for future DLCs and a decent amount of new goodies to experiment with. I just would’ve liked to see a bit more when it comes to new content for veterans of the original.
That said, Hopoo’s overall passionate reputation, the improved codebase, and eventual seamless updates give me hope. The biggest compliment I can give Returns is that it made the original on par with Risk of Rain 2. It’s just a matter of preference between 2D and 3D combat. While it’s an improved blast from the past for solo play, Returns truly shines for those who want to experience a better 2013 version with up to four friends. It’s a superbly redesigned original with excellent online multiplayer content akin to RoR2.
[Note: Hopoo Games provided the PC copy of Risk of Rain Returns used for this review.]
Risk of Rain Returns Review — Panic at Petrichor V
A faithful remaster full of neat tweaks and new goodies best enjoyed in co-op.What Our Ratings Mean