Perhaps unsurprisingly, in Rift Keeper you play as the keeper of rifts in a 2D, side-scrolling, rogue-lite platformer. The action is extreme. You must kill enough enemies to open rifts for your escape. You go in, kill lots of bad guys, then exit. Each time you spawn, you’re in a town that allows you to buy weapons and equipment. As you progress, enemies will get a little bit harder but you’ll have the necessary gear to dispose of them. Hopefully. When you die, you start over but with the ability to upgrade the character and buy items with leftover gold. I don’t know the story, but it’s fine when you enjoy the action so much.
Here’s what I liked:
Good Kind of Roguelite — Normally, the genre is just not for me. I hate starting over and things getting more difficult as I play. At first, I thought this would be true. But as I died, I was able to carry over money which allowed me to purchase things right at the start. It was random, so you can get lucky and get the most powerful weapons as you start. This allowed a head start and as you grew in knowledge of the enemies, you could tear through levels easier. I completed the game without even realizing there was an upgrade system with permanent stat increases. I wasn’t aware the fountain could be interacted with. In any case, I didn’t mind dying, even on the last boss. It just made me even more determined. After beating the boss you continue through increasingly difficult dungeons. It seems fair starting over since the dungeons are all kind of the same anyway.
Smooth Operator — Controls are accurate and slick. Mastering them becomes easy, and you really feel like you’re becoming better even without good weapons. Levels start becoming easier, especially after you battled every enemy and know how to dispose of them. As you get epic gear, you feel unstoppable. All you have to do is play enough to learn attack patterns of enemies. After completing the story, you’ll be in an endless mode. (I think it’s endless). You can continue fighting and will likely eventually fail due to bad luck or getting stuck between two enemies. Start over? Yep, let’s see how much farther we can get!
Variety — Weapons have different tiers, and there are a few playstyles. You can run around with a sword and shield for blocking, or use an ax and rely on dodging. There are also ranged attacks, using either a bow or magic. Beyond those, different tiers will allow more damage. You can purchase them or exchange them for collectibles (random prize). No dungeon seems the same, as the enemies within them alternate. Also, the farther you progress you start facing more difficult varieties. Your stats can be affected at alters, in the form of a blessing or a curse. I’ve been unlucky enough to get eight curses in a row! Even after dying and restarting, your path is different based on enemies you encounter as well as the weapons you obtain through luck. I also really liked the different monsters you face. Some can be more annoying than others or intimidating, such as the slow but ultra-powerful lizard.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Few Bosses — There are a few boss battles, but a few more would have helped levitate some difficulty. After mastering the combat system, you’ll have no problems flying through dungeons like a pro. The moments you get in a fight with a new boss cause an uneasy nervousness. They have new attack patterns and you know if you die, you’ll be starting from the beginning again. Because of the lack of these, you won’t get to experience the difficulty spike the game deserves.
Lack of Obstacles — The dungeons are a little lackluster in traps. There is only one really memorable one, which is a swinging blade in an area with ladders. I saw it twice through multiple playthroughs. They could have added a little challenge with having other traps ready to hinder your movement. I think more danger would help give your fluid runs more thought and needed precision.
Starting over never felt like an issue. It was pure fun growing in skill and developing your knowledge of the monsters. The combat system worked near flawlessly, and even though you were doing the same thing every dungeon it didn’t feel tedious. It was a challenge you wanted to complete. There could be some added bosses and traps, or even some kind of challenge mode. The lack of story didn’t prove an issue, as it didn’t even feel needed. If you’re into roguelite games or hate them, I suggest giving this a try.
Score: Highly Recommended
Rift Keeper was published by Sometimes You and developed by Frymore on Xbox One. It was released on December 10, 2019, for $9.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.