RIVE is a hard game. At times, a very hard game. One that relies on precision movements, shooting and timing. Over the six or so hours, Two Tribes’ platforming, shoot-‘em-up rarely subsides from its over the top, chaotic, explosive-filled action. This is the final game the Dutch developer will ever make; they have not shied away, looking to leave the gaming scene out the back door so no one can see. Instead, they have thrown everything into the mix and have left with, if my deaths are anything to go by, hundreds of bangs.
There isn’t too much to be said for the story. You play as a no-named salvager whose sometimes funny, mostly off the mark, witticism plays at the forefront of the game’s dialogue. Entombed in your trusty spider robotic machine, you begin your journey on what looks to be a simple loot raid on a huge, decrepit starship, but, of course, all is not what it seems, and you are soon doing everything you can to try to escape and preserve your sanity.
As you explore the vessel, you are constantly on the edge of your seat, literally speaking for me, as the game challenges you with drones and bots, and various locales, all with the objective of taking you down with no room for mercy. Certain robots are able to be hacked and used at your disposal, many a time I needed split-second thinking to hack an incoming bot, otherwise I would have been blown to smithereens. The combat is fluid and fast, and the game’s performance was impressive given all the craziness going on onscreen; I saw no framerate drops or any other technical problems.
With all the fantastic shooting to be had, unfortunately, there are very few upgrades or customisations for your spider robotic machine; you can add rockets to your arsenal and improve your armour, among a few other things, but the machine gun which you use from the get-go cannot be upgraded or changed in any way, which makes for a wasted opportunity.
As you explore each area, you are given beautifully bright and vibrant animations to enjoy. RIVE has avoided the trap of recycling its levels, instead the various levels that you take on all have their own individual identities. Two Tribes have clearly spent a lot of time on the smaller environmental effects too, from the water ripples when you shoot them to the cockroaches crawling along the wall trying to avoid the stomp of your mechanical feet; all these help to bring together a living, breathing world.
The world design itself is relatively linear, yet perhaps this is a blessing in disguise; already you are tasked with killing hoards of enemies whilst perfectly timing your jumps to dodge their perilous attacks, not to mention spinning lasers and other hazards the environments impose upon you.
There are times when the game can be too overwhelming and too frustrating. An example that comes to mind is a level where you have to evade lava (yes, in a spaceship) that is rising incredibly quickly, each jump needs to be flawless, and you have the extra task of bots coming out of the sides and exploding into you. I died an embarrassing number of times on this level; it was one of the few where I felt the game was unfairly harsh to the extent that it just wasn’t fun. What’s more, throughout my time with RIVE, there were no rewards and little sense of achievement for killing a boss or getting through a very hard level. The best thing you can hope for is a lame: “Phew, that was tough”, type of comment by our hardened looter.
To combat the inevitable frustrations deemed to be had from such a hard game, RIVE has zero loading times from dying or even from the main menu. Most of you will die a lot, but each time you fail, you are thrown right back into the action, and the checkpoints are usually forgiving. Because I died so often, and due to the instant turn-around of being dead and being alive, I rarely felt the same emotions from dying that I would normally have suffered from other games. Strangely, it made me think of Joseph Stalin’s quote: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes Publishing
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 13th September 2016