Hey gang. First off just let me say it’s really nice read your thoughts about Rain World in this thread. I feel like ever since I played it years ago I’ve been dying to talk to literally anyone about it but the critical conversation around it is very poor save for a few published pieces (including these excellent words by Chris Priestman for Waypoint right after it released). I love this strange atavistic game with all my heart and it’s lovely (dramatic understatement) to find people who feel the same.
I’m just going to spam quote all of you now so I can reply to things that I found thought provoking:
And yet a genuinely innovative game that is a somewhat opaque, but honestly not that mechanically demanding, and doesn’t traffic in power fantasies keeps getting the politely dismissive “I guess I’m glad there are people out there that like this” response.
I think RW is a uniquely abrasive experience for people who Play Games For A Living. Reading through the original Polygon review you can feel the time pressure on the reviewer and I totally get it. I can’t imagine having to play this thing blind, to a deadline, back before there was a wiki and before all the QoL improvements that came in the first few patches.
However I share your frustration that this is still the stock response by people who have overcome steeper learning curves elsewhere. Especially so many years after release when the game has garnered such a cult following so there is clearly something of value there for a lot of people. It reminds me of when Sekiro released and there were a lot of Souls fans who hated it because they weren’t immediately good at it, despite having pushed through the exact same discomfort when they initially got into the souls series. People have short memories.
It’s always a risk to try and find the value in something that doesn’t welcome you with open arms in case it turns out there wasn’t anything there at all, or that, even when you got over the hump, what was there wasn’t for you. I think Rain World means enough to enough people that it’s worth the risk to the kind of person who is reading this post.
I’ve never played either Tunic or Rain World, but from what I’ve heard discussed in podcasts it seems like both are operating in a (surface-level) similar space
I’ve already replied to this in more detail above about how I think they’re not actually that similar when you get down to it. But one mechanic RW did really well that I was happy to also find in Tunic was having to use items to find out what they did. Nothing as funny or joyful as throwing something you just picked up and discovering it explodes.
Also both games have really interesting and different approaches to encourage you to use finite consumables so you don’t just hoard them. Tunic by giving you a significant benefit when you use enough of them and Rain World by giving you severely limited inventory space and an abundant supply of low level pickups.
I think what it is more than anything is different in a way that disorients people, particularly those who have very specific expectations for how games operate from years of play. From a mechanics standpoint the game is really quite simple and doesn’t really hide any of the basics from you.
Sometimes all you need to get into a game is someone to tell you how to think when you play it. You’re totally right that the way Rain World wants you to play is completely different from any other game I can think of. Essentially asking you to roleplay as a creature in an ecosystem, to prove that you can consistently survive and thrive in the neighbourhood around your shelter in order to progress.
because the ways it seems to do difficulty (again, as someone who has never gotten very far into it) seem to be almost diametrically opposed to what one might call hardcore platformers, or Soulslikes, or roguelikes, or whatever genre gets described as “difficult” on a given day. Which is to say, I understand why it’s not uber-popular even as it seems like “difficult” games are uber-popular, because calling both these things “difficult” stretches that word to such a broad level that it’s just a meaningless descriptor.
Excellently put. Which makes me want to put a finger on exactly why RW’s approach to difficulty feels so different to the Modern Difficult Games pantheon of Souls, Hollow Knight, etc.
Ultimately I think it comes down to the lack of pattern recognition, both in enemy placement and attack patterns. In a Fromsoft game after you’ve played through once you know that giant skeleton in Tomb of the Giants is always waiting around that blind corner to kick you off the ledge. I can play through Dark Souls on autopilot now because I know exactly what is coming.
Similarly with combat. Enemies and especially bosses in all of these games are so transparently just finite state machines switching between ten or so attacks with distinct and readable windups. Once you have learned these questions and internalised the best answers there is very little interesting challenge beyond hitting the timings. This is also a weakness and point of divergence of a lot of the roguelikes that Rain World might be naturally compared to.
To me Rain World presents a much broader and holistic kind of difficulty and results in gameplay that is always fresh as it doesn’t suffer from pattern fatigue. @diglett noted that it made more sense to think of it as a survival game which is a genre I’d argue has a similar conception of difficulty that arises, not from learning patterns, but from the need to evaluate situations and systems: What are the creatures in play? What are their abilities and weaknesses? What is the topography of this room, and the rooms surrounding it? What resources do I have? What resources can I get from the environment? How long do I have until the rain washes everything away? Given the answers to these questions how do I survive and move through the world today?
Most of these points are made and expanded upon nicely by @robot’s post above.
Sorry for the wall of text. I just love this game and want to talk about it.