Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hunted by the Clock in 'Risk of Rain'

Seems friendly
This week on PopMatters I gush about a game I wish I had played sooner: Risk of RainI mostly like its clock.

I really didn't know much about it, which is kind of hard to believe since it has almost everything I tend to gravitate towards in games: platforming, reflex-based skill challenges, permadeath, randomized items and enemies. It's basically catnip for yours truly.  The part of Risk of Rain I admire above all else is the time management.  

Yes, I realize how dorky that sounds.  But, as a general rule, I think clocks tend to improve all kinds of games.  A time limit speeds up dynamics that might otherwise get boring and adds a sense of urgency to all types of decisions.  I’d play way more boardgames if they had time limits.  I probably wouldn’t be nearly as interested in the Telltale-style adventure games if you could just stand around thinking about a decision during a dramatic moment.

Time precipitates interesting decisions.  Even the most skilled people are challenged to make mistakes when they’re rushed (like the clip from this past Superbowl I included in the column).  Risk of Rain bounds your abilities, level progression, and even the game’s overall difficulty to a timer.  When you pair this with potentially disastrous consequences, you get a game in which your opponent isn’t the only enemy.  You’re also fighting the clock.

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