Surviving the harshness of Rain World

My time with Rain World has been a series of ups and downs. The early hours were rife with frustration as I stumbled around, struggling to gain any sort of understanding of what I should be doing and where I should be going. Every path I took seemingly led to death. I’d explored the entirety of the Outskirts – the first area – and felt no closer to making any kind of progress than I had when I began. Felt like I wasted my time. Hours spent trying to explore every nook and cranny only to have nothing to show for it.

As a survival game, I knew going in that Rain World would be difficult. But I didn’t expect it to be so obtuse. For the first couple of hours, I was enjoying what the game had to offer. The world is fascinating – an industrial wasteland that’s constantly beset by torrential storms and inhabited by an odd assortment of creatures. Exploring it is a constant treat, prompting plenty of questions about its history and how it came to be in such a decrepit state. I expect Rain World provides no answers, as the story seems to stick to following the slugcat’s journey home after being separated from their family than delve into the world itself. Still; hard not to wonder.

The general structure of Rain World revolves around heading out on excursions to find food so you can hibernate again before the rain sets in. Predators complicate that by prowling around at all times. One area that was previously free of any danger could suddenly have a bunch of lizards fighting each other, just as somewhere once rife with predators could be clear. It ensures that you’re never truly safe. Any time you head out into the world, you have to be prepared to meet your end, because death is swift and sudden. You can fend off predators by throwing spears and rocks at them, but doing so often means putting yourself in danger, so you’re better off just avoiding them as much as you can.

Rain World closely mimics most survival games in that way. Only instead of slowly becoming stronger and building up a base of operations, you’re always moving forward, never growing powerful enough to fight back. You’re always scraping by, never able to count on anything being a constant. It makes for a tough experience, but one that emphasizes how fragile you are, how dangerous the world is. You’re meant to feel small and vulnerable, helpless and afraid. What few moments of comfort you find are fleeting, never providing more than a minute of respite before you’re forced to brave the wastes once more.

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It’s effective at communicating the struggles of survival, justifying its obtuse and challenging nature. But the challenge takes its toll eventually. After spending a couple hours trying to figure out how to progress, I was getting frustrated. Everywhere I went, it was either dead ends or too dangerous to even think about passing through. The game’s built in guide, a yellow holographic creature, didn’t prove to be much help either. That it directed me toward food and shelter was appreciated, but I wasn’t able to decipher what to do whenever it took me to where I assumed was the way forward. Felt like I was stuck and I didn’t know why.

Then I figured out what I was missing. There are certain rooms that act as gates in each zone. I found two of them in the Outskirts. Neither of them did anything upon my initial encounter. Strange symbols were inscribed on the walls, but I didn’t know what they meant or what they were supposed to be. I knew they had to be important, but I couldn’t figure out how to use them. Later, after looking it up, I found those symbols corresponded to how many days you managed to survive, only opening once you’ve stayed alive for a certain number of days.

By the time I figured that out, however, I wasn’t in much of a position to advance time. I may have explored the entirety of the Outskirts, but I died a ton of times along the way and eaten most of the food I could easily find. Getting enough food to hibernate while still making my way to the next shelter before the next rain storm arrived was quickly becoming unfeasible. Plus, with how awful my luck had been recently in regards to dealing with predators, I wasn’t feeling up to making another run only to be killed by a surprise attack by a lizard for the umpteenth time.

So I started over. Wasn’t happy about it, but it felt like that was the only solution. Turns out the game agreed, as my map wasn’t erased upon starting over. Maybe the idea is to explore on the first pass in each new area and then, once you’ve hit a wall, start over and make a beeline for each new zone. Anyway. Things have been going more smoothly since. I made it through the starting zone swiftly and got to the Industrial Complex. Airborne foes and lizards that could blend into the background made traversal more challenging, but I was making progress again. Been pretty smooth sailing since then.

Right now I’m in the Garbage Wastes. Got pretty deep during my last run, but eventually met my end due to drowning while trying to avoid one of those lizards. I can also head into the Drainage System, but the last couple times I did, I was pulled underwater by leeches (I think; hard to tell). Things aren’t looking great right now, but it still feels salvageable. Hoping I can get out of there soon and continue to press onward, because I really want to keep going.

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