Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “To Live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” This quote is a very fitting one for adventure survival game Rain World. There is beauty not only in the artistic presentation, but in the story, that comes with it. However, the suffering to find that meaning unfortunately is arguably too much of a hassle to survive.
Rainworld has you taking control of a young Slugcat who gets separated from their family in a storm and ends up falling into an unknown dangerous world. From that point forward the story is told pretty much entirely through visual cues and details, however, in spite of that, Rain World produces a meaningful and deeply interesting story worthy of thought and discussion.
The game deals with themes of environmentalism, belonging, morality, and loss among a number of other things. The journey you will experience is one of discovery in both self and the world around you that will, no matter how your journey ends; leave you feeling a deeper sense of what this game is meant to do. There are a number of standout moments in the game which I won’t spoil, but show maybe you aren’t as alone as it seems. To find the beauty this game offers you will have to jump through some pretty massive and rather aggravating hoops.
The gameplay experience of Rain World is a survival adventure game, with the latter portion heavily influenced by your ability in the former.
As slug cat, your main goal from day to day is explore the HUGE area of which you are lost in, find and eat enough food to hibernate for a cycle, avoid or fight the other hungry beasts, and make sure to find safety before the rain that will kill everything in its wake. The game has a number different things that all want to eat your small furry body including but not limited, to rope climbing lizards, giant plants that look like climbable poles, and even giant fish. Just about every enemy in the game can kill you in one hit, so there isn’t much room for error. This is unfortunately where some negatives begin to show.
The first thing is this game is unforgivingly brutal to you. There is no trial and error, there is pass or failure. A big reason for this is the fact the game’s map and its creatures are living and are doing something no matter where you are in comparison to them in the map. This means when you go out you may find food and a passage way without any issue, it may also mean (as I experienced on numerous occasion) walking for about a minute for a giant lizard to fall out of the sky essentially and eat you. This compounded by a system in the game that is directly affected by your survivability.
Karma points are something you gain for every consecutive cycle you survive and hibernate. The higher your karma rating the more things in the game you unlock to do. The system is pretty cool at first until things hit the fan since you lose a point every time you die. I found it was rather common to get stuck in a cycle where you would go out and either find no resources to hibernate, or get trapped in a spot where there was no possible way for you to get past it alive.
This can become mind numbingly aggravating as, while I do enjoy a challenge especially in survival games, you find yourself completely unable to move forward in the game which is hugely unfortunate given the game’s excellent story. It also unfortunately takes away from something I would call one of the most intense things in a game: The Rain. Essentially every cycle has a sort of clock that as it nears zero begins to warn you. Once the clock runs out it begins to pour down rain that will annihilate you if you cannot find shelter. This tense and well-made feature unfortunately is rarely seen as you will often either die or be ready for hibernation before it becomes a threat.
From a control aspect, it does well in most scenarios. The controls are fittingly loose requiring you to pay attention to your surroundings and position in them. Whether it’s jumping from pole to pole, throwing a spear at an angry lizard, or simply knocking down a berry, it’s done fluidly. In fact, I would dare to say this is one of the smoothest games available today.
From an artistic stand point this game is top quality. Visually the pixel art style is stunning and makes for some of the pretties environments and models I’ve ever seen. Monsters are properly scary, while small details in the environment are interesting and will have you admiring the game a number of times. The animations are almost unnaturally fluid in an amazing way; in fact, just about any part of the game involving water often feel more like you are watching an animated film than playing a game. From a sound side Rain World is mostly quiet eerily in fact. The few noises include things like Slugcat moving around and the growls and buzzes of wild life. It is all very fitting and helps to emphasize the importance of paying attention to your environment.
However, the one thing that stands out above everything else is the often unseen rain. When it begins to rain you will experience possibly one of the most visually and audible intense and memorable moments in gaming. When the rain begins to come down it is like a flood of angry noise blinding rage. There are few things that can truly compare to when you trying to escape it.
In the end Rain World is a tale of two sides: artistically this game is stellar in both appearance and story. From a game play side it’s often much more frustrating than it is rewarding, which makes it hard to truly enjoy the game’s successes. But you have to see the forest for the trees. It can be unfairly aggravating, but if you can see past that, Rain World’s story may just be perfect for a dive.