Risk of Rain 2 is already everything it ever needed to be. It’s a pillar for modern roguelikes, one of the best co-op games around, and – most importantly – a longtime mainstay of my friend group’s game night. But with Risk of Rain 2: Survivors of the Void, Hopoo Games will demonstrate what else it could be.
Survivors of the Void is Risk of Rain 2’s first proper DLC. The $15 expansion is out March 1 on Steam, and it dwarfs all of the game’s previous updates. It’s packing two new survivors, a whole mess of items and enemies, and new stages to host them. There’s a new alternate final level and boss, a wave-based mode called the Simulacrum, and a whole other tier of items. It sounds like everything fans want, and it’s everything that Hopoo wanted to make. No urgent fixes, no wheels reinvented – just “more of the good stuff,” as studio co-founder Duncan Drummond puts it.
Building on one of the best co-op games of all time
The origins of Risk of Rain 2: Survivors of the Void can be traced back to March 2021, when Hopoo Games was considering where it could take its roguelike after the Anniversary Update. Key to this process, Drummond says, was figuring out what longtime players would want to see and do next. They considered more radical story beats or game modes, but ultimately returned to what they do best.
“With Survivors of the Void, we decided to stick to what people knew and what people loved about Risk of Rain 2 – content and enemies and bosses and levels and more of the good stuff that was already in the game,” Drummond says. “Everything that we want to have in there should go in, and it should be as big as possible; [Survivors of the Void] should be everything that we’ve wanted to do in Risk 2, so we poured all the designs that we have into that.”
Drummond admits that Survivors of the Void “started kind of as a joke” as the small team at Hopoo Games considered what all it could pack into a single release. “What if we just did so much stuff,” laughs Drummond. “That’ll be funny. And then we had to make it and we were like, ‘Oh wait, this is gonna be pretty big…'” But Survivors of the Void is about more than volume. As Hopoo co-founder Paul Morse explains, this expansion also gave the Risk of Rain 2 team a chance to flex its creative muscles after making it through the challenges of Early Access.
“While we were in Early Access, there wasn’t a ton of room for creativity just because the timeline we made for ourselves was so tight. But if we could really sit down and think, if we had a much longer time to work on the content, what would we do if we had a year to really design something cool? This is what came from that,” says Morse. He explains that once the team settled on the main idea behind Survivors of the Void, they quickly realized that exploring the theme properly “was only possible with this kind of update.”
All of the new enemies, stages, and items will change what your average Risk of Rain 2 run looks like, but Survivors of the Void has also paid special attention to the extremes that the game can throw at you. You aren’t getting all this new stuff for a power trip; you’re gonna need it. The new final boss, for instance, was explicitly built to be “really hard.” Where the base game was balanced with zero items in mind – simply because Hopoo couldn’t assume what items you’d have when you reached the end – this new finale demands a degree of power and versatility.
“We are assuming you have a certain amount of power when fighting the new final boss, and without revealing anything, we’d definitely say it’s really hard,” Drummond teases. “The expectation is that some of these more advanced players will still experience a challenge because this content is designed with the expectation that you are a real Risk of Rain 2 character. You’re flying around, there’s missiles shooting everywhere, all that kind of stuff. It’s based around that.”
The same can be said for the new wave-based Simulacrum mode, which Morse describes as one of the favorites in the studio’s testing. “A lot of the upper-end gameplay has been tested through that, in terms of it still feeling challenging, it still feels rewarding to make it very far into a run,” he says. “Is it still challenging or is it actually getting easier? That’s something we’ve been keeping an eye on during the development of Risk of Rain 2, making sure that you have to maintain and understand that, as a player, you’re getting stronger so it should get more difficult. We’ve looked at that quite a bit in this DLC.”
Meet Risk of Rain 2’s Railgunner
After the Anniversary Update, Hopoo had time to look back on Risk of Rain 2’s development and revisit the ideas it left on the cutting room floor. Drummond says that “a lot of the content in this update is stuff we talked about during development that we hadn’t had time to really fully flesh out or explore.” Some of these ideas are only possible now thanks to recent advancements in the game’s systems and engine. One of the new survivors, the Railgunner, is a key example here.
The Railgunner is the spiritual successor to the Sniper from the original Risk of Rain. When the sequel entered production, Hopoo found that the Sniper’s playstyle raised too many questions and challenges in three dimensions for the team to solve within its already demanding development schedule – many of her abilities were tailor-made for 2D play and didn’t translate as cleanly as other Survivors. And so, the sniper was shelved. But now that Hopoo has had more room to breathe and experiment, the Railgunner has turned up to blast clean through those design challenges with a supercharged sniper rifle.
Like the Loader, the Railgunner completely changes how Risk of Rain 2 is played. For starters, she’s got a high-zoom, first-person, piercing sniper rifle which reveals enemy weak points when you scope in. Hitting these weak points is the only way to deal critical hits with the Railgunner, so any items that would give crit chance instead boost her crit damage. You can increase your shot damage further through perfectly timed reloads which also shorten your reload animation. This was always one of the most satisfying parts of the Sniper’s kit, and I’m thrilled to see it come back.
The Railgunner’s abilities are rounded out by a weak, short-range machine gun which is useful for finishing off nearby enemies, plus throwable concussive devices that push enemies away and enable honest-to-god rocket jumping. Her strongest ability, Supercharge, dramatically increases the damage of her next shot after a brief charge-up, at the cost of a five-second cooldown that leaves her unable to attack. A Supercharged critical hit can one-shot high-level bosses or annihilate a horde of enemies, but you’re completely vulnerable afterward and missing even a single shot is devastating. To borrow Morse’s words of advice: “Aim good.”
Drummond and Morse say they’ve experimented with a few Railgunner play styles internally, building for the strongest shots possible at times and stacking AoE to support her linear kit at others. You can use attack speed buffs to reduce the cooldown on her Supercharge, for instance, and turn crit items like the Shatterspleen into weapons of mass destruction. As a devout Loader main and a former Sniper main, the Railgunner is exactly what I wanted to see: a Survivor with a high skill ceiling who offers a bespoke experience. I love my mid-range fighters, especially the Huntress, but I’ve always found high-risk, high-reward Survivors with calculated play styles more fun in the long run.
Survivors of the Void is notably labeled “Expansion #1” on Risk of Rain 2’s 2022 forecast, and while Hopoo isn’t talking about what could follow it, I would wager that we’ll see more from the game in the year, or years, ahead. At this point, I think Hopoo just can’t help itself. To hear Drummond tell it, the studio made Survivors of the Void “significantly larger just because we wanted to challenge our team.” Which is great news for fans, because with every increasingly ambitious and inventive update, every end-game nuance and unique play style, Risk of Rain 2 becomes even more the sort of game that I could play forever.
Risk of Rain 2: Survivors of the Void is set to release on PC on March 1, with a PS4, Xbox, and Switch version not far behind.