Risk of Rain 2 has been my most-played game for the past six months, and nothing else even comes close. It's not that it's the kind of game I sit down and play for hours on end, but it's so easy to pick up, and so consistently fun to play, that my friends and I wind up playing it a few nights almost every week. It's still in early access on all platforms, but Risk of Rain 2 is already an exemplar of co-op play and fun randomness, and its latest update amped all that up to 11.
Here's a quick crash course for the unfamiliar: Risk of Rain 2 is a third-person action game about killing waves of enemies in order to buy items that improve your abilities and grant new ones. There are dozens of inventive items, and paired with the huge roster of characters with cool and distinct play styles – from an acid-spitting alien dog to a four-legged flower robot – this gives the game huge replayability. The kicker is that Risk of Rain 2's difficulty ramps up over time, and since there's no final boss yet (that update is still a few months out), this turns each run into an endurance test. How long can you last? How many stages can you clear? What kind of build will you assemble this time? How many ukuleles are too many ukuleles? That last one's a trick question; there's no such thing as too many.
Risk of Rain 2 was pure magic from day one, and every update has brought me and my friends back for more. Developer Hopoo Games has added more characters and items to unlock, more stages to explore, and more enemies and bosses to annihilate. It's also brought the game to PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, ensuring everyone can play. Most recently, and most importantly, it added Artifacts, and these things have made co-op play exponentially more fun.
Artifacts are sort of like unlockable cheat codes that fundamentally change how you play the game, only most of them make the game way harder. One of them turns all enemies into tanky elites, one makes enemies spawn little ghost Wisps on death, and one gives enemies items over time. And those are on the tamer side. The best Artifacts directly affect co-op, and in huge ways.
My favorite Artifact so far adds friendly fire to your team and to enemies, and as you can imagine, this turns things into absolute chaos. If you pair this with the Artifact that wipes your whole team if just one member dies, you've got a recipe for trolling that can rival even that of Mario Kart. And if you want to take things even further – and hell, you may as well at this point – add in the Artifact that spawns hostile clones of every party member every 10 minutes. Now you can not only kill your friends, but you also have to kill copies of them every 10 minutes, and if you accidentally kill the real one, you'll end everyone's run.
This Artifact combination is a beautiful disaster that never gets old, and it totally flips on the game on its head. That's the best part about Artifacts; they've added entirely new modes to an already replayable game. You can randomize your Artifacts with the push of a button, too, turning every run into a new challenge. That's what my friends and I have started doing, and every randomly generated combination adds another wrinkle to the game. So if you're looking for a great game to play with your friends while you're all stuck at home, or you just love a good rogue-like with a compelling unlock system, you owe it to yourself to try Risk of Rain 2.