If you’re going to play a challenging roguelike, you want a game that makes you want to keep coming back. Enter the Gungeon delivers on that promise by creating a sense of unknown possibilities amongst the variety of options it provides.
In Enter the Gungeon, you play one of four protagonists: The Marine, the Pilot, the Hunter, and the Convict. They don’t differ from each other too much, but playing them offers unique passive item abilities and a few other perks.
Regardless of which of the four you choose, Gungeon gameplay comes down to pointing and shooting. You need to be a precise dodge roller to avoid Ammo Kin who are trying to stop your advance. In addition to each character’s basic weapons, you can carry two active items and a limitless supply of passive items – both of these provide some sort of extra edge in your Gungeon fights. Every randomly generated level is made up of an assortment of rooms teeming with enemies, some of which contain chests and loot, providing opportunities to acquire better weapons and gear. But there’s also a shop room guaranteed on each floor, where you can exchange currency earned from battle and exchange it for whatever the shopkeeper has on sale.
Having played each of the four main characters extensively, I came to the conclusion that the Pilot’s lockpick was the most useful tool–making him my favorite character. There are a wide variety of chests in the dungeon, and a very limited number of keys to go around. Even though there’s a chance for your lockpick to fail, it was still handy to have the option if no keys are available. The Marine has a set of armor, and the Hunter has a dog, but they just didn’t match up to the usefulness of the Pilot.
The Breach is the hub where you can access the Gungeon. It serves as the meeting place of the four protagonists, as well as the home of any people you rescue from within the Gungeon. Tinker’s express elevator provides a sense of possible permanent progression in this roguelike experience by enabling fast travel to any dungeon floor you want. Each level of the Gungeon requires you to clear out rooms full of enemies and find the boss room deep within. There are environment hazards like mine carts, spikes, fire, and bottomless pits. The developers made it easy to backtrack by including teleportation portals in most rooms, allowing you to jump around key checkpoints in a level. Being randomly generated, it’s hard to create memorable rooms individually, but it also provides for a much more unpredictable and fresh experience each time you delve back inside.
The biggest reason to do so, besides wanting to get to the end, is to acquire new guns and play with them. The design of the Enter the Gungeon’s arsenal is the highlight of the game. There are the standard RPGs and M16 weapon types, but the more creative guns like a barrel that shoots fish or a giant ant that shoots oil out its rear end and lights it on fire are the highlight of any Gungeoneeering experience. The game changes up what type of gun the Gungeon will give you each time you go in. So sometimes you’ll find a sniper rifle, or a bazooka, but there’s always the chance you’ll get a glacier gun or a pea shooter instead. Ammo replenishment is a rarity. You can tell how much power a weapon has by looking at how much ammo capacity it comes with. Each of the characters has a basic backup sidearm with infinite bullets that you can fall back on, but the firepower of that weapon is considerably weaker than anything else you’ll find.
The boss battles of Enter the Gungeon are the cherry on top that wraps the rest of the game together. Every Gungeon floor has several possible bosses, so you can’t expect to face the same foe every run. All of them are masters of bullet hellology though, making them tough no matter what. For defeating a floor’s boss, you get a new weapon and other restorative item pick-ups guaranteed. But if you beat a boss without getting hit you get a Master Round item that gives you an extra heart container, providing you with an advantage in the challenges ahead. This encourages the player to push for perfection when they play, rewarding them for their skill. The Hegemony Credits you get for beating bosses can be spent on new weapons in the Breach up top.
The Ammonomicon is an in-game codex that helps you keep track of everything you come across. You can read backstories of all the Bullet Kin types you fight, and get a close up to appreciate what they actually look like. In a roguelike, you really don’t get the time to understand the backstory at your own pace. But Enter the Gungeon allows you to take all the time you want to learn about the adorable creatures trying to kill you. If you want a general synopsis, every name is most likely a gun pun. With an occasional grenade thrown in for good measure.
Easter eggs and pop culture references encompass every aspect of Enter the Gungeon. It would take a whole separate article to go over all of them. But there’s also situations where real world logic applies. To stop fire damage, you stop, drop, and roll until it disappears. Item drops that aren’t picked up when you leave a room get stolen by scavenger rats and looters. The shopkeeper gets angry when you fire your gun in his store, going as far as to refuse to sell anything to you for the rest of that run.
The underlying intent of Enter the Gungeon is to take the roguelike formula and force us to look at it on a grander scale. Is the game fun? After sixty hours of playtime, I didn’t get bored of what I was doing. Too many game elements being left up to pure chance can feel demoralizing, however. Your gun potential is so broad in range, the odds of what power-ups you find in the dungeon rooms, makes it seem like skill and prowess at Enter the Gungeon is impossible. But it’s not. It takes a lot of play-time, and you’ll begin to understand the precise timing that’s needed to make a successful Gungeon run.
But even a failed Gungeon run is still a good one. It’s a game that might not please everyone, but for fans of roguelike experiences, there’s something new to keep your attention. You’ll be drawn in by the sense of mystery and secrets hidden in the Gungeon, but you’ll stay for the action and fun.
Enter the Gungeon was developed by Dodge Roll Games and published by Devolver Digital. It will be released on April 5, 2016 for PC and PS4. A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.