Who really needs only one apocalypse when you can have two?! Welcome to RAD, a 3D action rogue-like by Bandai Namco and Double Fine Productions. In RAD you will take on the role of a survivor after the 2nd apocalypse, where the Menders have failed to heal/repair the world. No one knows why the first or second apocalypses occurred and that is part of the charm for this surprising title. Armed with a technologically advanced bat (that will return to the haven when you die) the keeper sends you out into the world to explore and recover/activate machinery. These machines will allow your haven to continue to operate and sustain your fellow survivors. This is our RAD preview.
The story is told to you by a young female narrator. The history/lore of the world is given in parts, so the further you advance through each map the more you discover. At the same time you, the player, are learning how the game mechanics work and about the various abilities that survivors can acquire through random active and passive mutations. You will die a lot learning how to defeat the various creatures of RAD. But fear not, there is always a new survivor ready and willing to replace you!
Environments are wonderfully done and really do a good job at making the post-post-apocalyptic world come to life, literally. In the first two maps, the landscape is made of up of desolate wastes located on tall plateaus. Deep canyons separate each plateau, which players can easily fall into if they aren’t careful. With each step a trail of grass and flowers spring to life behind your survivor, giving a visual trail that indicates where you have already explored. The graphics of RAD are very stylized and when you gain a mutation each one has a unique visual. A useful pop-up tooltip also appears so that you are never left wondering what your new ability does.
Both the male and female voice-overs are well done. The various emotional tones used in the menus and during survivor death is amusing. I really liked that the in-game music changes track regularly instead of just having a single track playing over and over again.
The camera in the game is fixed, similar to the Diablo series. At times, because the view distance is not under the player’s control it can be a bit annoying while shifting in and out. The gameplay is fast and it is very easy to take damage repeatedly depending on a given situation. Try not to get overly frustrated if it happens though and treat it as part of the fun trying to survive in such a harsh world. For me at least, the game is very challenging. I do, however, like having a feeling of progression after each death as I continue to unlock story, characters, new bats, and randomly acquiring new mutations. This made dying so often a bit easier to bear and kept me coming back for more adventures in the wastes.
Speaking of mutations, this game is all about them. As you kill off the denizens in RAD, rejuvenate areas on the map, and export the underground you will gain different mutations. These active and passive abilities are random unless you purchase certain ones from random vendors that sell various goods throughout the maps. Mutations can include anything from wings that let you jump higher/glide through to a rather disgusting boomerang arm that can be thrown at your enemies. My favorite mutation so far is a growth on your back. This little friend who wears a baseball cap, let’s call him Bob, spits at your enemies automatically and can also be dropped as a turret when needed. Eventually, Bob will grow back… so ewww, but oh so useful. From my experience so far ranged mutations are king and can really improve your chances of survival against many different types of enemies… that is until you run into bosses that can dodge ranged attacks and run away (That is just cheating). One of the small things that most surprised me was how different objects in RAD can interact. For example, if I have meat drop and then the ground beneath it catches on fire, suddenly I had cooked meat that restored more health. This led to some interesting gameplay tactics on my part as I lured creatures that burst into flame at death to any raw meat that I found.
RAD’s interface is simple and clean. I didn’t have to search through multiple screens for anything. The displayed controls for keyboard, mouse, and gamepad were very clear. If you have access to a gamepad do yourself a favor and give it a try. This type of game plays great with a controller (this is coming from a mouse and keyboard guy). Audio sliders were well laid out and you could easily adjust them to your liking. The graphics settings were very basic, though, even under the advanced menu. The daily challenge is a nice for challenging yourself and I really liked the inclusion of a leaderboard and compendium under the extras.
One issue I did notice is the lack of a brief in-game basic combat tutorial or overlay. Anyone who is not familiar with rogue-like games may take some time to adapt/learn the ins and outs. The game does do a good job though of guiding you each time a new mutation ability is acquired. I found that at first, it felt like you were thrown in on the deep end and had to sink or swim, this could turn some players off quickly.
My experience with RAD so far has been excellent. The gameplay has been very smooth and I haven’t had any crashes so far during the closed beta. As a nice surprise the more I play RAD the smaller gameplay elements I notice. Combine that with the continual discovery of new mutations, and it has been a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing what else the game has to offer later this summer when it is released. From what I have experienced so far, I don’t think RAD is breaking much new ground as a game, but if you enjoy a well-polished and challenging action rogue-like game, I highly recommend giving it a try.