PAX East 2019: Rad – First Impressions

The latest offering from DoubleFine caught our eye immediately—Rad is a top-down hack-and-slash roguelike with an apocalyptic setting; according to the lore of the game, it takes place after two apocalypses (apocalypsi?) which occurred in the 1980s, and players are tasked with protecting a rare, un-radiated town via the exploration of the surrounding wasteland.

The game demo started a little rough and felt pretty standard to begin with. Combat buttons, movement, and a special ability here and there were familiar ground, and while that was good, it wasn’t great—until the mutations began. Once the game’s primary mechanic showed up, everything changed.

As you progress through the wasteland and defeat enemies, your character’s mutation bar (or whatever it’s called, we weren’t told) fills up until a new mutation is activated. Your character receives a mutation of some variety—which changed each time we played the demo, so we’re still not quite certain how this part works—that entirely changes how you play the game.

One mutation we unlocked was a detachable arm that could be tossed like a boomerang for ranged attacks. Another mutation was the ability to fly. Still another was an ability to spit poison on enemies. Your avatar changes with each mutation, making the combat interesting to watch as well, since you’re not just seeing the same thing happen on-screen when you fight, over and over again.

The setting in our demos also changed, with underground bunkers (sometimes rather maze-like) and above-ground areas in the wasteland—but even the wasteland changes as you play. When your character explores, a trail of grass and flowers blooms behind them. It’s very helpful for knowing where you’ve already been and where you haven’t explored, and it provides a visually pleasing contrast to the brown, dry wasteland areas on-screen.

Although there were many games at PAX East to try out, Rad was the only game we returned to demo multiple times, and none of our play experiences were the same. There’s massive potential here, and the mutation mechanic is exciting, fun, and challenging, since it means changing up your gameplay on the fly—and sometimes the mutation is so weird or cool that you can’t help but laugh.

Rad is coming to consoles later this summer.

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Dave
Author: Dave View all posts by
Dave will tell you that he likes to play video games, this is in fact a lie. What he really likes to do is buy games, and leaving them sitting unopened on his shelf. He is a monster.

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