Rise of the Ravager (80 MSP) represents an interesting approach to shooters. It’s not the mythology and ‘End of Days’ theme, though a plot is always welcome in an otherwise storyless genre. Stationary Turrets are nothing new either, ditto the bullet-matching gameplay (the face buttons correspond to enemy weaknesses). Rather it’s the addition of upgrades to your turrets, the scarcity of points to use, those gifts that you giveth and taketh away, that elevates it beyond a typical shooter.
Despite each monster / alien / bug falling into one of four color categories, there are multiple enemy types (dive bombers to bullet sponges) and flight patterns, patterns that get harder to follow as the number of targets onscreen increases with each level. Initially, you’ll have one turret at your disposal. You’re able to withstand three direct hits on the ground your turrets cover, and given a rechargeable shield. More than enough, you say, though the stages accelerate the pace and drop speed quickly. Mercy isn’t in its vocabulary.
Thankfully, Rise of the Ravager has seen fit to allow you some turret customization. Upgrade points are awarded after the level, with further points to be had for flawless runs (shield damage is okay, but no direct hits) and / or hitting color-coded spy ships. Given how many points you’ll have to sink into the higher upgrade tiers, nailing these optional objectives early will prove vital later. Upgrades run from your standard gains to fire rate and shield repair, to more tangible goods like screen-clearing bombs or extra turrets (all but required for single players).
Much like March to the Moon did before it, the idea of buying and resetting upgrades between each level becomes more than a matter of preference. Instead, it’s a necessary talent you’ll need to hone in order to survive. A setup that works in one stage might not hold up in the next, as the levels themselves can be unpredictable, throwing hundreds of bug fodder your way of varying order and speed. There’s also the multi-form bosses that will have you swapping bullet palettes every other second. They’re chaotic and nerve-wracking, like any good boss battle should be.
Though the biggest surprise to the game is also my lone critique; it’s really fucking hard. The game is clearly balanced with local multiplayer (up to four) in mind. That’s always an odd decision when it comes to indies, considering most of its prospective audience will be playing alone. Some households will have two controllers, but the four the game is hoping you have, with the warm bodies to back them up? Probably a rarer occurrence. This is where the ability to swap turret powers in and out at will becomes essential, as you’ll most likely need to make boosting the number of guns and / or purchasing an auto-sentry your top priority after the first few levels. Even then, you’ll have to mentally adapt to faster and more complicated enemy waves just to stand a chance.
In the end, though, the various skill combinations (and option to refund), multiple levels, and New Game+ (ha, more like Difficulty+) make it easy to recommend as a shooter. Just be forewarned that Rise of the Ravager’s slick presentation masks a hardcore attention to detail that may turn off some looking to tackle it solo. But, if you find you’re up to that challenge and love a good ‘end of the world’ prophecy, this game will reward skilled hands and quick-thinkers.