Let me tell you how to get us hyped here at Level Down Games over a brand new game announcement. Start off with a retrowave feel to the vibe, mixing in the neon purples and blues we’ve come to expect from anything taking inspiration from the 1980’s. Follow that up with some gameplay that looks crazy fun, and then layer on top those sweet, sweet synthwave beats. Doing just those three things is sure to get us talking about whatever the game is, regardless of genre! RAD is the latest entry in the roguelike department from Double Fine Productions, and while it doesn’t redefine the standard or do anything particular amazing, it’s a very solid entry with an addictive mentality that keeps people wanting to come back for more.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Double Fine
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Game Provided By Bandai Namco for the Purpose of This Review
The easiest comparison for me to make about what to expect from RAD can be drawn by looking at one of our favorite games from 2018 here at LDG, Dead Cells. Much like Motion Twin’s spectacular release last year, RAD follows a gameplay cycle of runs. You start out with next to nothing, and it’s up to you to guide your character through different maps and areas, continuously getting stronger so that you can get further and further into the game for better loot, better equipment, and better rewards.
Citizens that populate the post-post-apocalyptic world of RAD live in the now, for they don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. A good amount of the NPC’s you see in the makeshift villages and out in the world are able to be interacted with, though there isn’t a deep level of communication. However, there are ten playable characters to choose from, each one looking drastically different from the next, so there’s sure to be one or two that really fit the mold for the type of look you want to go for. Five of the ten characters are unlocked from the beginning, with the remaining five needing to be unlocked through actual gameplay means.
Because the areas in RAD are procedurally generated, each run is going to be different from the last. Certain aspects will remain the same and areas will look very similar, but the layout is always going to be different, with enemies in various spots. What makes each run also rather unique is that after killing a certain amount of enemies and building up the pool of radiation your character absorbs, they will begin to undergo mutations. Mutations can have all sorts of benefits, like passive buffs such as being able to move around the map faster or sense enemies that are nearby. The more important mutations are the ones that transform your character physically, causing them to do new and better attacks and abilities. This will open up even more of the game to you, because enemies no longer stomp you dead after just a few hits. You actually have a fighting chance, and the game becomes just a little bit more satisfying with each run.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case though. As mentioned, RAD is procedurally generated. There could be runs where an amazing mutation occurs or a specific item drops that benefits your preferred playstyle and you go on this incredibly long run and upgrade your character multiple times. On the other side of the coin, there could easily be a run where a mutation occurs that doesn’t gel at all with the way you like to play, which will in fact hinder your progress and keep you from even making it out of the first or second area.
If this occurs, these runs are best chalked up to being exploration runs to keep filling in your Tome of the Ancients notebook, or being a farm run to strictly gather materials for the next one. Speaking of the Tome of the Ancients, this is where all of your discoveries, enemies, items, and mutations will be tracked. By progressing throughout the game and unlocking new abilities and areas, you also have the chance to unlock new mutations through the Tome which will then become available for use in the game.
As you move around the areas, exploration is definitely key. In order to get a better understanding of where you’ve been, your character will leave a trail of freshly planted grass and flowers as they move around. This helps in being able to easily identify where you’ve been and where you still need to check out. There are also plant life and objects you can interact with which will cause an enormous amount of greenery to bloom in that particular area. It’s all about bringing some life back to this desolate wasteland, right? The shrines you interact with to progress out of an area and into the next will also cause the surrounding areas to bloom full of trees, flowers, and other various plants. It was actually quite beautiful to see mixed in with all the other different aesthetics RAD had going for it.
The soundtrack, as mentioned, is a combination of retrowave and synthwave beats infused on top of catchy rock and pop beats. Composer David Earl, who has worked with Double Fine on several of their releases in the past, really captured the magic of the 1980’s and was able to whisk us away to a much simpler (and let’s be honest, better) time solely through the music found within the game. I also thought it was insanely cool that Jordan Rudess, famous for being a member of the popular band Dream Theater, was responsible for a lot of the synthesizers we hear in the soundtrack.
RAD is a well thought out and put together roguelike that will keep fans of the genre coming back for more. The procedurally generated levels mean that no two runs will ever be the same, and the sheer amount of customization that can go in to a run with all the different mutations will be sure to please fans that want something to just pick up and play from time to time. If you were a fan of Dead Cells last year and are looking for something somewhat similar in 2019, give this one a chance. I’m definitely glad I did!