Rain World wants you to feel bad for killing its hungry enemies

By Marshall Lemon

It’s incredibly hard for me to find the one thing I love about Rain World. Between its persistent open world, survival-focused gameplay, lovingly-rendered 16-bit graphics, and unique approach to enemy NPCs, Rain World is already impressively original. Throw in the fact that you’re a cute little slugcat trying to find your slugcat family, and it's quickly rocketed to the position of one of my most anticipated games from PAX East.

Rain World takes place in a post-apocalyptic city whose former inhabitants are seemingly extinct. Various creatures now live among its ruins, fighting each other or banding into tribes to scavenge food and survive its deadly rains. You are a nomadic slugcat, separated from its family and left alone in a world of hostile predators. To find them, you'll need to explore Rain World’s regions and find food sources and shelters that will keep you alive long enough to be reunited. Which is to say nothing of surviving the predators interested in succulent slugcat flesh. 

Open world games aren’t usually something we associate with platformers, but it’s hard to describe Rain World any differently. Each playthrough generates 1400 rooms spread across twelve different regions, and your slugcat is completely free to explore everything once the game begins. By the same token, the gameplay is designed to be open-ended as well, letting players advance the story and engage enemies however they wish.

“There’s a bunch of different narrative paths you can take,” Rain World’s James Primate explained. “We’ve tried really hard to make it so that it doesn’t force you into any sort of behaviors … If you just want to stay in a region and farm, that’s fine. If you want to go find your family, that’s fine as well. If you want to join a tribe of other animals, you can do that as well.” 

These other animals, meanwhile, could be Rain World’s most unique trait. Instead of simply spawning enemies as you enter room, each individual creature persists in the game world and acts on its own agency. In many ways, these creatures operate on an equal level to the player by exploring rooms, gathering food, and getting into territorial squabbles with rivals. What’s more, animals remember events - if you behave aggressively towards them, for example, they’ll remember that and respond in kind. The system gets even more complex when dealing with tribes and races, which have a collective memory that spreads across their entire communities.

To Primate, this is one of Rain World’s most significant features. “I’ve always disliked the idea of creatures as enemies, just ‘here’s an enemy to kill’”, he explained. “These creatures aren’t really enemies to kill, they’re hungry creatures, just trying to survive in the same way you are. It gives you empathy for your situation but … still has that same element of risk. You’re in danger because other things are hungry like you are hungry.” 

Combined, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to in Rain World, and Primate warns you’ll want to set aside some time for it. It seems attempting a fast playthrough where you only locate your family takes about ten hours, but there are still twelve main endings and even more sub-endings for players to experience. “Plus all the New Game Plus stuff,” he adds. “It could be indefinite.”

Rain World is expected to launch for PC and PlayStation 4 sometime this year. 

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