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Enter the Gungeon (PC) artwork

Enter the Gungeon (PC) review


"Breaking News: Water is Wet and Reviewer Claims Game is Too Hard"


When it comes to reviewing games, I make it a personal policy to reach the endgame and/or complete a title. This guideline is vital for any critique on narrative, gameplay pacing and/or gameplay concepts. While itís not something I believe every reviewer needs to adhere to uphold, Iím always worried to give up on a title and mislead others. Unfortunately, with roguelikes and roguelites, these genres have made me accept an uncomfortable ultimatum: You can enjoy a game as well as being unable to complete it.

Whether itís from the reliance on RNG and/or from the requirements of skill demanded from the player, these core problems always make it hard to recommend these games without a steep discount. In the case of Enter the Gungeon, however, itís its overreliance on player skill that hampers the experience, yet itís not a journey I regret.

Breaking News: Water is Wet and Reviewer Claims Game is Too Hard

Although this review is walking into the proverbial minefield of Git Gud, allow me to explain the issues from a game thatís fun to play, but not to complete. My experience has been divided amongst eight hours of the original release and another eight hours divided between the Supply Drop update and the Advanced Gungeons and Draguns expansion. In that time, the closest I ever came to completion was reaching the fourth floor out of five four times across fifty playthroughs--technically six total if you count the epilogue--which showcases Enter the Gungeonís problem of repetition. Unfortunately, the newest update could have made the grind more bearable if the game also properly explained some vital details that are the most damnable offenses, the skill-barrier and its obfuscation.

These problems are taken as innate truths of roguelites, but they become far greater here than other games from how skill-orientated Enter the Gungeon is and how it structures the process of becoming better. You will only progress is if you become more aware of the game through rigorous playing as well as being able to get through floors with little damage, then perfecting your runs with enough familiarity. Itís nowhere near as punishing to make you restart from one hit, and each update has increased the drop-rates of items. However, with certain characters like the Pilot, if you donít have a decent gun before the boss your dinky pistol increases the odds you will take more damage. (Honestly, clearing every room with rewards also discourages any desire to invest into elevators.) This outcome is more likely with unskilled players, yet the absolute repetition of fighting the same three bosses each floor is bound to regress any progress when players become exhausted.

Exhaustion is the best word to describe Enter the Gungeon, and it really did not have to be if it explained core mechanics in more detail. Now there are some aspects that are best left to discover such as using invincibility frames with dodge-rolling. What cannot be learned without a tutorial, a lot of experimentation or the wiki are details such as treasure chest spawns, the availability of blanks refilling every floor that extend your life, and the shop items that give you important upgrades to extend the limited inventory of the Gungeon. Each of these aspects increases the odds you will succeed, especially when you use Blanks to substitute hits, which is normally common in bullethells, but not roguelites. The lack of any major RNG is perhaps the gameís greatest double-edge sword as it displays the drawbacks when flipping the table with these games as it exposes how often unskilled players relied on the RNG for fun.

Not as Rogue or as (Bullet)Hell as You Expect

In comparison to other roguelites, Enter the Gungeon mostly nails what is needed for a successful adaptation with its 2D shooter and bullethell influences. As you might expect, the game also becomes diluted from the fact that it is a merger of these ideas without reaching their full potentials. Instead, it creates a unique experience. Although the description may sound full of ideas, the gameplay is a surface level appearance living out the John Woo fantasies in a satirical game celebrating the colorful absurdism with videogame violence.

Rogue-styled games are hailed mainly for their variety of approaches; randomized level, enemy and encounter designs; and the overall sandbox between the player and the world. Enter the Gungeon largely ignores everything by simplifying the process as perhaps one of the weakest entries available. Rooms are cleared on a room-by-room basis without the ability to leave an area, essentially shuffling the same encounter of rushing in over tables and past walls to clear out enemies as an action movie scene. Previewing rooms or escaping them are not possible, and you are essentially repeating the same tactics no matter what flavor of gun you choose as there are no classes. Different playstyles exist with the Pilot, the Marine, the Hunter, the Criminal, the Robot and the Bullet, but you are essentially playing the same character with different arsenals. This problem also extends to floors and bosses as they rotate between three variants on each floor in a set order unlike the Binding of Isaac which rotates its floors and its boss encounters with different variants of the same boss. What saves an otherwise homogenous experience for a roguelite is its overall creativity with its encounters and weaponry, which is more to say than its other aspects.

As someone unfamiliar to bullethells, itís difficult to find fault with Enter the Gungeon except for notable deviations in the gameplay. Bullethells and games inspired by them like the Binding of Isaac pride themselves on the fact that every attack can be avoided and that they can be completed in one life. Enter the Gungeon breaks these rules on its reliance on blanks as enemy attacks can sometimes be unavoidable due to the arrangement of the room or the positioning of the player, which is why the game refills your stocks to cast the blame on you. In addition, blanks are encouraged because if you can finish a boss without taking any damage you can earn twice as many items while at the same time the bosses drop health items. (Thankfully, the inclusion of the Save for Later mechanic helps make these rewards useful in the future.) These qualities make Enter the Gungeon perhaps more difficult than the punishing games it is inspired by, although with each new update the difficulty spikes have decreased into more manageable problems--and itís often the accumulation of your errors common to all rogue-inspired titles that will get you killed. Although until you replay the floors enough to become familiar with all the attacks, you really canít tell when an attack is truly unavoidable.

ĒI Know What Youíre Thinking: Did I Fire Five Puns or Six? Well, Do You Feel Lucky, Pun-K?Ē

Speaking of shooting blanks to save oneís self, let me get the praise out of the way from what I do enjoy out of the Gungeon despite its shortcomings. Gameplay lives out any Max Payne or Jon MacLaine scene loaded full of references from movies, video-games and other media. The variety of guns and gun-mechanics are the most unsurprisingly detail about the gameplay as even the joke weapons feel useful and inventive like the Mailbox gun that shoots letters until the final bullet packages a punch, and the creativity behind every weapon always makes me desire unlocking more to use. The thematic usage of puns and guns throughout its visuals and its gameplay elements--or the apundance of its humor--really makes an entertaining romp that celebrates videogame history from the most obvious to the most obscure references. In its style, its presentation and its core elements as a game, Enter the Gungeon is a flawed gem that when the chamber clicks just right youíre bound to have a good time if nothing else

4/5

Brian's avatar
Community review by Brian (April 01, 2020)

Current interests: Strategy/Turn-Based Games, CRPGs, Immersive Sims, Survival Solo Games, etc.

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