10 min read

My history with this game, RIVE, is sort of like a love story. I first laid my eyes on the game during PAX East 2015 and once I had a chance to check out the game, well I was pretty much smitten. It was a cross between a SHMUP and a platforming title, combining the best of both genres. It was witty, it had a sort of personality and I very much wanted to get to know her.. er it, better. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Fast forward a few months when I finally got access to the closed beta for the game and I’ve been playing those and even providing feedback for the title. It’s been a long ride, but we’re finally here, RIVE has officially gone retail.

Game Name: RIVE
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Publisher(s): Two Tribes
Developer(s): Two Tribes
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Price: $19.99

In RIVE, you play the role of a wisecracking, no non-sense character named Roughshot, who also just happens to be a scavenger of sorts. Who just happens to stumble upon a massive, yet deserted spacecraft – Galaxian Service Vessel #6, and promptly ends up fighting for his life as this ship is trying to have him for lunch. Though, Roughshot, isn’t defenseless in the least bit as he has what I feel is the most innovative vehicles in a long time, a Spider tank. Utilizing either a keyboard or a dual analog gamepad, you’ll be able to blast and navigate your way with 360-degree freedom.  As long as there is an enemy anywhere near you, you can blast it, same goes for movement. 

Remember when I mentioned this game is part SHMUP and part platformer? Well, the two genres have been blended together so perfectly, it’s really hard to understand why this really hasn’t been done in the past. The game is broken down into acts and in each act, you’ll find yourself navigating through the vessel you’re trapped on. During your stay, you’ll be assisted by multiple allies in the form of little drones. These drones will provide certain perks such as providing health when damaged. You also have access to upgrades that provide extra armor or secondary attacks. Sadly you aren’t able to upgrade your default weapon, which I feel is a miss. That’s basically SHMUP 101, upgrade your main weapon. And while that isn’t a possibility, the secondary weapons do fill the void.

rive-review-screenshot-02-retreat

The gameplay in RIVE is second to none. The pacing is perfect, with just the right amount of action, exploration, and battles that will make you appreciate the game. The boss fights also require some thought, especially when the wrong step or a miscalculation will result in your untimely demise. The controls are tight and responsive, which let you pull off some really impressive dodging. This is useful when the action hits the fan and you’re frantically trying to get out of harms’ way. Sometimes when I played, I swore my hands had a mind of their own, as I didn’t believe I was performing all those moves while managing to stay alive with just a sliver of health. Be forewarned, your palms will get sweaty while playing this game. It’s worth mention that you’ll be able to play using both keyboard + mouse or using a gamepad. However, if I had to suggest which one to use, it would be the gamepad.

Speaking of health, you’re going to lose a lot of it. You see, there’s no easy or normal difficulty selections to be found. Nope, it’s hard mode or nothing – a harken back to the days of the 8-bit/16-bit/32-bit eras when games didn’t hold your hands. I certainly enjoyed it, though I suspect that not everyone will appreciate this the same way as I did. It may even be a tad too challenging for some. With just 12 missions, RIVE isn’t very long and most gamers will finish RIVE within 5-6 hours during their first play through. Thankfully, when you do manage to complete the game, several new options open up; Single-credit mode, where you attempt to beat the game without dying and a Speed Run mode, which merely adds a timer during your gameplay. In addition, you can go back and attempt to claim a higher score / performance in any level you’ve beaten. And that’s to the included online leaderboards, I can see many of people doing just that, people love competition.

 rive-review-screenshot-01

Finally, RIVE is such a beauty in action. The game felt fluid, both at 1080p60 and 1440p60. I never noticed a frame drop or slow down, which is remarkable due to how much is going on into the game and across the screen. I can’t speak highly enough about the game’s performance, so I’ll just leave it at, it’s good.

There are still a few minor issues with the game, however. As with games similar to this, you either had access to multiple lives or had a health bar. When you took damage, you either lost a life or you lost health, however, during that health loss, you had a few seconds of invincibility. This helped get past sections that would normally cause players some grief.  Only, there’s no such thing in this game and while that can be considered a “Git Gud” mechanic, it also can spell your doom. I’ve had many instances where I was bombarded by enemies and I was constantly knocked into one direction, either dying or short of it. This happens throughout the game and while it doesn’t really do anything to stop the pace of the game, it does get frustrating at times. The difficulty is another issue, which is something I mentioned previously. RIVE, walks a fine line in which some gamers will enjoy the difficulty, where others will liken it similarly to being punched repeatedly in the face. And while I understand why Two Tribes didn’t want to add an easy or normal mode, I think the game would have benefitted from some sort of gradual difficulty ramp-up. You do good, it gets harder. You start to die a lot, it lowers the challenge.

*This game was provided to The Outerhaven Productions for review purposes. You can find additional information about our review policy here.

  • A fitting swan song for Two Tribes

Sadly, it seems that Two Tribes' has long last crafted the game they were longing to make all along. Though, this also serves to be their last game, as they have confirmed multiple times that once RIVE was completed, the studio would cease to be. That said if Two Tribes' plan was to go out with a loud and glorious bang, they have succeeded in doing just that. Gamers would enjoy platforming games with some SHMUP elements will be right at home with RIVE. Sadly, the ride is over just when you're getting into the groove. Thankfully the game does include several modes that will provide a few extra hours of gameplay.  It just stinks that this is the last title we'll see from Two Tribes, especially after this outing. I wanted to see what else they had in the tank, but that simply wasn't meant to be.

Pros:

  • Controls great
  • Fun, fast and frantic gameplay 
  • Has a unique charm

Con:

  • Wish the game was longer
  • The challenge may put off some gamers
  • Not able to upgrade your main weapon
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About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven Productions and a huge mecha nut. I started the site back in 2011 and it's been a blur ever since. I do it all, and then some. You can find me on Twitter at keithdmitchell & theouterhaven.