2016's Enter the Gungeon took the internet by storm. With an immediately understandable premise, players the world over were breaking their way into a dungeon filled with guns. Understanding their goal and carrying it out was a different matter. In a masochistic fashion, this game starts difficult and only gets harder. It's up to the player to understand the mechanics and patterns to force themselves to get better. Exit the Gungeon, the direct sequel, takes these base ideas and shakes things up to try to give new and returning players a fresh experience.
Exit the Gungeon picks up right after the True ending of Enter the Gungeon. The Lich is defeated and the player has shot themselves through time. These distortions leave the Gungeon falling to pieces. Now it's the job of the Gungeoneers to make their way out of the Gungeon before it collapses. It's a great idea to pick up exactly where the last one ended.
While new players might be clamoring for some context, the idea of needing to leave a collapsing dungeon isn't too foreign. For returning players, it delivers a sense of satisfaction at your own accomplishments. There are other nods to a semblance of a story as these characters all try to make their way out but you'll need to dig for it through item descriptions. The plot is quite inconsequential and instead simply a means for the gameplay.
What is the goal in Exit the Gungeon?
To escape, the different Gungeoneers will need to ride a series of elevators to get them back up to the surface. Unlike the original title, Exit the Gungeon is no longer a top-down dungeon crawling game but instead a sidescrolling/platformer. The controls are still twin-stick shooter-esque but you're now shooting side on as you use your newly discovered ability to jump. Each elevator section operates as an auto-scroller where waves of enemies spawn around you. With limited health and few opportunities to regain it, players get pushed to learn enemy patterns and strategies if they want to survive. Even in the first elevator's difficulty curve will take players a while to get used to. If you're someone who gets dissuaded if you're not actively progressing, Exit the Gungeon may be a real hurdle.
The game isn't entirely one long elevator segment. For variety's sake, some areas in-between are single-screen encounters. While there's a set number of room layouts much like on the elevators, the enemy spawns are random. Upon entering, players immediately have to assess the situation and respond accordingly. Each stage concludes with a fight against a randomized boss that Enter the Gungeon will likely remember. You'll spend the first three or so times you encounter each boss learning their patterns and dying in the process. Once you have that strategy down, it's all about execution, making sure that you can precisely follow your own plan. The designs of the bosses themselves are fantastic. Each is extremely unique not only in look but the attacks you can expect from them.
What Roguelite elements does Exit the Gungeon have?
With the levels transitioning to unchanging platforms, the weapon selection has the opposite problem. Instead of picking up weapons from enemies or chests, your gun magically rotates as you play. This is an extremely frustrating mechanic that can help you out in tight moments or completely kill your run. While many guns have a strong automatic firing rate with differences in speed, spray, and stats, there are also plenty of... unconventional weapons. Some of the more unique ones include a charged shot that fires an Anvil or a giant purple tentacle. Needless to say, scenarios where you transition from a normal gun to a tentacle can really shake up your strategy.
Unlike the original there's no 'finding what you like', you've got to take what's given and deal with it. It's a rough hand to get dealt and while there are some players that see this as a challenge to overcome the random nature might also push players away. Players can't settle into their playstyle sweet spot and have to become a jack of all trades instead. The only way to try to give yourself a better chance at a weapon is by raising your combo. Each wave on enemies cleared without getting hit means you have better chances of getting better weapons. This number doesn't guarantee a powerful weapon but an extra reward for playing well is a cherry on top.
How is each character's path different in Exit the Gungeon?
The biggest changes across each run come character choice. Returning from the original game is the Soldier, Hunter, Pilot, and Convict. Each of them has their own ability such as the Hunters dog who collects items and that the Pilot gets discounts at shops. These abilities change up the game slightly but the bigger change that each pushes is that their elevator paths are different.
For each character, there are stages that overlap; no matter who you're playing as the first level will always be the same type of elevator. The second level is wildly different depending on who you select. The soldier's second elevator has five smaller rooms attached with enemies to kill. If you're playing as the pilot the second lift has controls to navigate left and right in a chasm instead of stuck in a shaft. At first, this serves to break up the repetition of consistent attack, but once you're handily reaching these later levels, they too become stale. It's nice to get some predictability, but when you're restricted to those few locations you begin to yearn for something a bit different.
While you'll mainly get preoccupied with the gameplay loop of exiting and dying, there is some gradual progression. As a reward for completing runs and defeating bosses you'll earn currency you can use in the Underbreach. This is spent purchasing more items and weapons. Items you purchase joins the current pool so that you might experience them in later runs. You will still need to come across them in the Gungeon for them to actually be of any use. Even if you get a chance to use that great weapon in the dungeon, you'll only spend fleeting moments with it.
Early on, you can also rescue trapped characters from the original game that you come across. With each character rescued, you might encounter them in the dungeon for a reward, or they'll be in the Underbreach providing a service. They might sell you useful items, or even cosmetic hats. This progression is really really slow and not particularly rewarding. Getting one random weapon every five runs doesn't even feel like you're progressing. True progress in Exit the Gungeon comes from how far you can make it in the game. It's closer to say the better you are, the more fun you'll have, but it's more accurate to say if you want to have fun with Exit The Gungeon, you need to be good. If the controls aren't for you, or you don't want to invest the time in the learning curve then you're going to be putting this one down pretty fast.
Is Exit the Gungeon going to keep you playing?
While there are so many elements that got added to Exit the Gungeon each playthrough feels like a smaller experience than Enter the Gungeon. The enemies have remained random, but the environments are static and cluttered. This ramps up the pressure but you lose some variety with these changes. You can definitely tell from this condensed feeling that Exit the Gungeon had its beginnings as a mobile title. For short burst play sessions between tasks or when you have time to kill it will work to pass the time.
Exit the Gungeon took most of what Enter the Gungeon does so well and attempts to refresh it unsuccessfully. Core elements return like bullet hell scenarios and purchasing upgrades for a random pool. The biggest change is the shift from top-down to sidescroller. While it takes getting used to, it is enough to entice a Gungeon fan wanting to take another trip to the Gungeon. Where Exit the Gungeon falls flat is in the lack of uniqueness in each play session. Rounds bleed together as the world looks the same, and no runs have any outstanding elements. Overall, it's going to be a game that Gungeon fans will likely want to try, but will find a smaller experience than expected. If you're not the type of gamer that enjoys repeating the same thing over and over again then you're likely going to get bored pretty fast.
TechRaptor reviewed Exit the Gungeon on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Interesting 2D Gameplay
- Forces Player Commitment
- Small Gameplay Loop
- Obnoxious Rotating Weapons
- Small Locations Clutter Fast
- No Feeling of Progression