2021 is the year of Rain World

On March 28, 2017, four years ago today, Videocult released their debut game, Rain World. In Rain World, you play as a little creature called a slugcat, desperately trying to survive the harsh world you were born into. It is a unique and challenging game unlike any other. Enigmatic, uncompromising, and beautiful.

2021 is the year of Rain World.
Why? I don’t know. But it is.

It released at first to very mixed reviews. As for major outlets, it received a 6.3/10 from IGN, and a 5/10 on Polygon. Most people agreed that the art and animation were stunning, but many found the game too difficult, punishing, and uncompromising to be enjoyable. Its mechanics are opaque and strange, and almost nothing is explained to the player. Janine Hawkins wrote in her review on Polygon:

In essence playing Rain World too often felt like trying to turn a screw with the wrong sized screwdriver — not just a challenge, but more as if I hadn’t been given the tools I needed for the task at hand.

I think a lot about it in the way Austin Walker has spoken about Far Cry 2. He refers to it as an “incoherent” game. It rejects and recontextualizes the structure of the first-person shooter. In this way, Rain World is an incoherent Metroidvania, and may be one of the most incoherent games I’ve ever played in my life. Its story, its structure, its controls, its world, they all seem to defy everything I know about games. (Austin, on the off-chance that you’re reading this, you should consider playing this game!)

Rain World is a game that broke me. I don’t know how else to explain it. It got under my skin, twisted my stomach. I think about games differently, about living differently. One day, I die to the same obstacle over and over again. The same mistake. The same death. I grit my teeth, I grip tight, I sweat and swear. I think about quitting. But I don’t.

So it’s impossible to recommend it without caveats. Rain World is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. The term “hard but fair” gets thrown around sometimes. Rain World is not fair. It is not kind. It is unforgiving and uncaring about all your plight and failure. This is going to turn many, if not most players off completely.

But underneath all that is a vast, beautiful, and albeit frightening world that enchants me endlessly. It is full of mystery and terror in vibrant shades. I don’t even want to elaborate; I dare not steal the wonder of discovery away from you. It constantly surprises me. I cannot stop thinking about Rain World. It’s in my bones now.

Here’s my review on Backloggd. I’ve spoilered the more thematic analysis in case people want to go in completely fresh.

“Destroy the darkness of delusion with the brightness of wisdom. The world is truly dangerous and unstable, without any durability. My present attainment of Nirvana is like being rid of a malignant sickness. The body is a false name, drowning in the great ocean of birth, sickness, old age and death. How can one who is wise not be happy when he gets rid of it?” - Gautama Buddha

Rain World is not a game about living. It’s not a game about dying. It’s a game about both. It’s about samsara. Why do so many yearn for annihilation, for silence? Why are we caught between quiet and din? What are we tied to? How do we remember the past? How permanent is history? What is it made out of? Is it in objects? Is it in something spiritual? Is it in technology? What are the driving forces of technology? Why do we make machines? What do they do when we are gone? How different is technology and nature? Is nature cruel? Is nature kind? What is the life of an animal? Why is it so painful? Why do we go on? What do we need? What do we want?

“Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in. Move in. Out of. Back into. No. No out. No back. Only in. Stay in. On in. Still. All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett

One of the best games ever made. Beautiful, fascinating, haunting, terrifying. But it’s hard to recommend. It’s one of the hardest and most grueling games I’ve ever played. It’s profoundly frustrating. But it’s a masterpiece. I feel it on a visceral level. Constantly on my mind.

You might be reading all this and feel certain you would hate Rain World. That’s okay. I totally understand why. It’s not a game for a lot of people. Most, I would wager. This year, some moderators have started streaming the game on the WaypointCommunity Twitch Channel, which might be a preferable way for some to experience the game. I’d be more than happy to offer tips and tricks, too. The game also has a vibrant mod community, which you can learn a bit more about on RainDB.net. Videocult is working on a new game, too, and I cannot wait!

It may not be for you, but I think it’s worth at least taking a gander at this incredibly singular experience.

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This has some light spoilers here if you’re interested in going in fresh, but the way animation and AI is handled in this game is fascinating. If you’ve seen clips of this game, you’ve probably seen these really incredible naturalistic animations for all these animals. The reason for this is Videocult’s design philosophy here: the AI is the animation. All of the movement the creatures make is procedural and based on their AI. The result is really erratic and lifelike animation, and it rules.

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Thanks for a nice, interesting write up! I’ve known of this game and that it inspires a following, but never got around to playing it. I should fix that sometime.

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vehemently’s Rain World Primer

Rain World is a super daunting game, as I tried to explain. So I’ve collected an assortment of suggestions and tips here. I’ll put them behind spoilers.

The only tip I feel good about giving out without a spoiler is very broad, but very important: Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment. Be willing to learn from failure and success.

  1. So… what is this game? How do I win?

Rain World is a game about surviving. You evade predators, obstacles, and gobble up any food you can before the devastating rain begins to fall and you have to search for shelter. When you rest, you gain a level of Karma. When you die, you lose a level. This is important, because in order to traverse the world, you have to pass through Karma Gates, which only open for you when you are at their required karma level. Rain World is somewhat of a sandbox, but the little yellow friend will try to direct you towards the critical path.

  1. What’s the difference between these characters?

The survivor is the game as it was originally released. The monk is an easier mode, where you need less food to sleep and the world is less hostile. The hunter is only unlocked on finishing the game, and is a hard mode (read: absurdly difficult). There are story differences between all of these playthroughs.

  1. What’s up with this yellow flower?

The Karma flower (which the game tells you has a “strange energy”) is essentially a corpse-run mechanic. When you eat it, you will gain a “shield” around your karma, preventing loss when you die. When you die, it will sprout near where you met your end.

  1. What’s up with the map?

The map in Rain World is very weird. It has multiple levels, which you can switch between with the face buttons. It also will tell you a lot of other information, such as shelter locations, Karma gate levels, where the Karma flower is, batfly movement, and even more! The map is your friend. Be willing to check it often.

  1. I keep dying. Help?

That’s normal. The game is hard! As I said, be willing to explore and experiment. Try new things. If you keep struggling to advance through a specific route, try exploring different ways forward. Use your wits and resources to overcome obstacles. Remember: the point of combat is not to win, it’s to survive. Sometimes you won’t even need to fight an adversary to get past them. Keep at it; I believe in you.

  1. What’s this story you keep talking about?

The story to Rain World is more or less inaccessible until about halfway through the game. A ton of it is told through late-game encounters, and there’s some environmental storytelling here and there. Most of the lore, though, is hidden in these little pearls. They’re actually data storage. Most of them are corrupted, but the pearls that are special colors have unique information. You can’t read yourself, so you’ll need the help of a certain someone. I may make a lore write-up as my next post!

Assorted tips and tricks!
  • Do you keep drowning? The little light around slugcat tells you how much breath you have left. You can swim faster with the jump button but will use more oxygen. When you resurface, you may need to wait a moment to catch your breath. Also, there are certain bubble-like items in the environment that can give your more oxygen.

  • Want more inventory? You can swallow certain items and store them in your stomach by holding down the eat button. You can barf it up by holding that button down again.

  • Keep getting caught in the rain? The time can be seen in the lower-left corner as dots surrounding the karma symbol next to your hunger meter.

  • Noticing bars filling up at max Karma? These are little achievement points. When you fill one up, something cool will happen.

  • Want to know what Passage is? Passage is a limited use warp ability. You gain one use of Passage for every little achievement mentioned above. Use it wisely!

  • Want more out of animals? Many animals can be grabbed and you can hold onto them. Some of them will be very useful to advance through the game!

  • Still hungry when the rain comes? You can sleep without a full stomach, but be warned that this may have consequences.

  • Worried about food supplies? Food sources, like batflies and blue fruit, will respawn over the course of cycles, even if you keep dying. The karma flower also replenishes if you lose it.

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Oh, this is a lot!
I always meant to check out Rain World, but in the way I mean to get to a lot of games, I never got around to it. This might push me to give it a fair shot, because if anything, that game is gorgeous.

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I’m considering writing my own take on a lore explainer, but here’s a few resources for what’s going on within the story. Like I said above, the lore of Rain World is hidden in these pearls scattered throughout the game, so it can be very hard to find. Despite that, it’s truly some of my favorite lore in any game.

Huge spoilers ahead! Like, the entire game! All of it!

A youtuber named Israel Blargh! uploaded a video that gives a pretty thorough overview of the history and story of Rain World.

Here’s a video with all of the lore pearl translations from BSM.

Also, here’s a playlist of Echo encounters.all the

There’s also an explainer page on the wiki here, with transcripts of the above videos linked near the top.