This really doesn’t seem to be the sort of territory Buried Treasure would be writing about! A super-popular rogue-lite shooter, with 1,500 overwhelmingly positive Steam reviews, and a whole bunch of YouTube coverage, and yet… Nothing on the major websites! What an odd business this is. And despite not having yet succeeded at beating the first boss, I’ve still spent a very pleasant day playing this.
I’m going to lazily place it somewhere between Risk Of Rain 2 and Void Bastards. The horribly named Gunfire Reborn is a super-slick, super-cartoony see-how-long-you-can-survive-for shooter, set in randomly generated levels, but with permanent progression as you unlock skills and weapons through persistent play.
Although none of this is without problems. Just out in Early Access, there’s obviously room for everything to improve, and I really hope the first thing is not stalling player progress at around level 8-10.
Things start off very well. In each run of the game, you begin with a single pop-gun weapon, but a decent one. As you play new weapons will drop, from a roster that grows based on your passing a litany of little achievements (kill 20 of that enemy type, blow up 10 of another with barrels, etc). You can hold up to two more of these, and they can then be improved via ‘vendors’ who stand in alcoves in some levels. There are five levels in the first mission, the fifth being the boss fight, and, well, each time I get a bit closer to beating him. Although my patience might be running out.
Fail and you’re back to a cosy bar, filled with the anthropomorphised animals that make up this world, where you’re bestowed with rewards for progress. You also gather ‘souls’ as you play that can be spent on levelling up your character’s skills, and indeed gain levels yourself as you do. Until you don’t. Because at around level 8, that all really slows down, with repeated runs often not making it possible to gather the 20 souls I’d need to level up anything else. I assume the game just assumes I should have beaten the boss by now and stop being so rubbish, but it’s a real shame it isn’t noticing things are otherwise.
With that incentive taken away, it’s to the game’s credit that I am still feeling that one-more-try pull – something that’s certainly helped by how differently the levels can play out each time. Sometimes you’ll get a collection of corridor shooting levels, other times things will be broken up with large rooms with attacks from multiple angles, other times still big arena rooms with multiple waves of enemies. There are then little portal-based side missions to complete for extra items and unlocks, scrolls and power-ups (of which the game has approximately nine billion), and while the bloody awful ball-rolling one needs to be scrapped immediately, these mix things up further.
Plus, I really like the shooting! It’s a very satisfying FPS game, with a great collection of enemy types, and weapons that are very definitely becoming favourites. There really is a lot of great balance already in place as I switch between rapid-fire blasters and one-shot rocket launchers, responding on the fly to the mix of enemies in any given area.
My worry is that the git-gud players, who will be breezing through this, will dominate development as the Early Access progresses – that’s too often the case with these super-tough shooters. It definitely needs that first boss made easier, as it’s ludicrously hard for softies like me, especially if you’ve not been fortunate enough to have received a powerful lightning-based weapon on the journey there.
It also needs to figure out a way to allow failing at the first boss to still let the player come away with a sense of progress. Just tweak those numbers so things still feel like you’re getting somewhere. I’m up to level 10 now, but still can’t defeat the damn boss, which restores its shields and health and pulls in other mobs and all those awful things that stop boss fights being any fun. It remains testament to how much I enjoy the rest of the game that I keep on trying.