It is not often that players get to witness the development of a game, much less how a title is increasingly improved and solidified into an excellent offering. For Tahoe Games’ Rising Hell, the journey from an Early Access game into a full release on PC and consoles has been satisfying, but more importantly for players, resulting in a rewarding final product that highlights the strengths of roguelites, and action that is fun as hell.
Your mission is simple, escape hell and unleash the hurt on those standing in your way. In terms of narrative, that is as complicated as it would get in Rising Hell. However, when the gameplay experience is of great quality, that is all you need in this case.
Rising Hell approaches its genre roots in a slightly different manner, choosing for players to navigate vertically upwards instead of a more traditional side-scrolling adventure. Each procedurally generated level in the three worlds brings contrasting challenges in enemies, environmental dangers, and a visual look that is easy to differentiate.
Rather than overwhelm players with too much to manage, the action in Rising Hell is straightforward enough to keep the mission of survival as your top priority. You can attack, jump, and teleport to avoid danger. This moveset is quite standard for any action-adventure, but the game does up the ante with the addition of the Hellbreak mechanic.
The devastatingly powerful move that will kill most foes in a single hit can be activated simply by jumping into an enemy (you can configure it to activate with a button press). During the attack, you are also impervious to damage. At first glance, this might come off as giving the player too much power, but in the grand scheme of things, Hellbreak is a valuable survival technique.
Invincibility and instant kills are great, but knowing exactly when to perform a Hellbreak and positioning yourself for the next chaining attack is high-level play that will keep you from harm’s way. Add to that the teleport mechanic that can further transition into another Hellbreak, and you are in for an almost dance-like torrent of kills, movement, and utter satisfaction.
The constant ebb and flow as your proficiency in learning enemy patterns increases and your timing gets better never fails to contribute to the enjoyment of combat in Rising Hell. This intoxicating concoction of instant gratification is pure gameplay satisfaction.
Even when death is the only way out, the roguelite progression of Rising Hell twists the traditional format just a little to switch things up. Instead of easing the player experience by making you stronger, the currency of Blight accrued over runs and an overall experience level unlocks more talents and relics that you can use.
From filling out the roster with three unique characters, unearthing distinct talents that become available to purchase during your runs, to relics that players can pick from the start, the varying combinations give you more options to experience the goodness of Rising Hell until you find that sweet spot that suits your playstyle.
Variety Is The Spice Of Rising Hell
With more experience, each run does not necessarily get easier, but it does get different, and one would discover just how Arok, Zelos, and Sydna, the three characters, play to their strengths and weaknesses, just like how a player would be when faced with such a gameplay loop.
The talents that you purchase in your current run act as passive bonuses, allowing players to carve out a path for themselves while providing more of an incentive in playing a certain way, and further personalising any chosen protagonist from another.
It is this interesting manner in which Rising Hell is designed that impresses the most. There is an innate balance in which difficulty is met with solutions, albeit in teaching players the ropes more than strengthening them and allowing room for trial and error. Experimentation with such payoffs is what will engender that “one more run” mindset in players.
If players find themselves just lacking that bit of a cutting edge when it comes to the main mode of Rising Hell, the Gauntlet provides another avenue to hone the skills. Every challenge present in the Gauntlet is designed to test a specific aspect of the game.
Sharpening The Skills
Hellrisen will allow for the perfecting of Hellbreaks, where chaining together attacks is the only way to survive an instant and fatal fall. On the other hand, you have Godslayer, which tasks you to overcome the various bosses in the game without any talents or upgrades.
Alongside other challenges, these tasks will require your utmost attention and help you become a more efficient killing machine. In every sense, mastering the Gauntlet mode will make the main Conquest mode a breeze to get through.
The only downside to the Rising Hell experience has to do with one of the genre’s staples. Procedural generation of levels have always been meant to up the difficulty in such games, with randomness potentially throwing a monkey wrench into players’ plans.
Yet, much of the levels found in Rising Hell are largely identical, even if you have the choice of your next sub-destination within each world. Mid-world bosses are drawn from a random but small pool, and one cannot help but feel the creep of familiarity drawing closer the more time you spend in Rising Hell.
The only true random aspect of the game comes via the talent system, which can be disappointing if you are looking for a tough-as-nails escape through hell. Tahoe Games does try to amp it up with increasing Agony levels every time you complete a full run, but it does little to stimulate a skilled player in the long run, save for truly bad luck.
Nevertheless, as a roguelite experience that is all about the action, Rising Hell does extremely well in catering to genre veterans and also newcomers.
With less of an emphasis on randomness and more on training a player’s skills with the various systems, the bonus of the sprite-based gore and banging soundtrack will keep your interest levels rising as you attempt your next run. Suffice to say, Rising Hell is a bloody good time worth checking out even if you are not hardcore into roguelites.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Capturing the essence of the genre and adding its own twists, Rising Hell may not be the cream of the crop, but it sure is rising up fast.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10