Even so: I can’t help but marvel at the scope and imagination with which Creative Assembly has brought Warhammer’s fantasy world to life. And maybe I can forgive Immortal Empires for occasionally not working properly because it’s so packed with factions that already bend the rules by design. There are leaders whose army buffs I haven’t even touched, and parts of the world I haven’t yet set foot in. But if my past few campaigns have taught me anything, it’s that there are trees falling everywhere, and they’re making quite a lot of noise.
I’ll always have those moments on the battlefield where Triangle Strategy is willing to meet me halfway — just like it did when it sent me Narve, the wandering mage, who showed up at my encampment the night before a pitched battle, plucky and sincere, to offer his services. His elemental spells were weak, but he had potential. In the morning, I put him next to Rudolph, the bandit whose skill with a bow and affinity for bear traps made him a staunch protector. Narve struggled against a few elite enemies, but Rudolph watched over him. They both emerged unscathed, and became fast friends.
Death Stranding is replete with questions of whether any of this is worth it - the solidarity and togetherness of it all. If catastrophes will keep piling up, and humans will continue to isolate, and communities will continue to fracture, then what's the point of ever coming together? For all of its preaching, the game doesn't end with tidy answers. To tie a bow on these questions in a final cutscene would undercut all of the work its gameplay has already done more elegantly than its thousands of words.
One particular mission ended in a robot boss that was resistant to the types of weapons I had spent all of my upgrade materials on thus far. OK, I told myself, that's on me. I should have been prepared. The problem then became finding the requisite components to upgrade an energy weapon I had neglected. In order to do so, I had to slog back through previous environments and take on side quests that ran the gamut of quality: One sent me on a prolonged fetch quest in search of a suitcase, while another tasked me with gathering testicles from slain enemies. One hour and countless frustrations later, I was ready to once again take on that robot boss.
Has Risk of Rain 2 had as much of an impact as Mario 64? Of course not. Its scope is decidedly narrow and its ambitions are confined to a small world focused on frantic combat in a straightforward, never-ending gameplay loop. But did Risk of Rain 2 reframe a game that I still consider close to perfection? Absolutely. Should Hopoo ever make a Risk of Rain 3, I’m hard-pressed to imagine what it will look like — my imagination swims at the thought of universes the studio hasn’t shown me yet.