When I first started playing Enter The Gungeon, I was pretty impressed. Here was a twin stick roguelike that seemed to have very similar mechanics to Binding of Isaac, a cool retro visual design with a lot of creative enemy and weapon designs, and a large amount of variety in its enemies, bosses, weapons, and items.
In theory, it seems like it has all the right ingredients to be a competitor to Binding of Isaac for me, and my first week or so of playing it had me believing it, but unfortunately, that’s not how it all turned out in the end.
While the combat and Zelda-like levels are fun enough at first, I eventually hit a point where I just stopped making any kind of progress and wasn’t able to get past this wall. Could I have gotten over this hurdle eventually with another few dozen hours of grinding away? Maybe, maybe not. I did manage to get to the end and beat the last boss once, though also like Binding of Isaac this is not even the real last boss. The boss itself was actually not that hard, but getting there was, very, very much so. I haven’t even been able to get back to level 5 again since then. Hell, I can barely manage to get back to level 4 most of the time.
To get the “real” ending for each character, you also have to get four secret items and bring each of them to the last level where a special gun can be crafted, which you use on the “last” boss. You don’t have to bring all four at once, but it’s still tough to get them all there, especially if you can’t even get back to the damn place at all.
This being a roguelike, it is unsurprisingly a very difficult game, but there are a few differences between this and Binding of Isaac that make it significantly harder. One thing is the inclusion of pseudo-bullet-hell mechanics. Certain enemy types and all of the bosses have a tendency to flood the screen with bullets that require extreme agility, and a bit of luck, to survive. It can get pretty nasty, especially if you get unlucky and find yourself in a bad situation like starting a room with enemies already in front of you before you can even get out of the doorway, sometimes leaving you with no way to dodge.
While there are times where the game feels a little cheap due to occasional situations that are so crowded that there’s no way to avoid taking damage, it still isn’t THAT difficult much of the time. Enemy patterns can be memorized and countered in most situations and the main areas of each level are challenging, but conquerable.
No, the real problems here are things like the level 3 and 4 bosses, the severe lack of item drops and health upgrades, and well, a lot of the guns just kind of suck. Whichever bosses you end up receiving at the end of levels 3 and 4, they’re going to be extremely nasty, and the majority of them love to shoot out massive spreads of bullets that are incredibly difficult to keep dodging successfully for the whole lengthy battle.
This problem alone could be conquered without as much hassle if not for the other two issues though. Health upgrades are extremely rare, so you’ll usually be stuck with your basic three hearts for your whole playthrough every time. If you’re lucky you’ll find one or two extra heart containers on a run, but that still leaves you with very low health, and healing items are extremely rare. You barely ever get health drops and they’re also very limited, and relatively expensive, in the shops. This means that you’re likely going to be entering the toughest boss fights without even having your pathetic few hearts full, and if that’s the case, well, you’re probably going to die.
Especially when you combine that with the other big problem, the unreliability of so many of the guns. Skill can, and has to, carry you a long way in this game, but if you don’t find any really good guns, you just aren’t going to be able to deal damage to the later bosses fast enough to survive, and the odds are infuriatingly high that you aren’t going to find any really good guns. It’s already hard enough to get guns as it is, with how low the drop rate for chest keys is, but even if you manage to get multiple gun chests the odds are still massively stacked against you. There are soooo many different guns in this game, and it’s so weird that so many of them are just worthless. Many guns have such short range, low damage, or slow speed that they’re completely ineffective against bosses, and in some cases just completely ineffective in general.
Basically, if you don’t find one or more of one of the rare powerful guns before the end of level 3 or 4, you’re probably not going to survive the level 3 or 4 boss. Hell, even then you probably still won’t make it, because these things have limited ammo and naturally, ammo drops are extremely rare too.
I only played Enter the Gungeon for around 20 hours, but it felt like much more. I spent the last week or so experiencing nothing but failure after failure, to the point where I realized I was having to force myself to keep playing because it stopped being fun a few hours back. I don’t like to give up on a game for reasons of difficulty, and I certainly don’t like to admit that a game is too hard for me, but this game beat me.
Maybe I could get through more of it eventually if I kept at it, but I feel like it’s just too much constant punishment with very little payoff, and it stopped being fun and became more of a burden. I have way too many other games to play to spend any more time on a game that just makes me mad, so I guess for once I just have to accept defeat.
Looking back, I think this game has kind of burnt me out on roguelikes too. I tried playing Steredenn after this and it was fun, but I just couldn’t take any more playing the same levels over and over and over again. Think I need a break from this genre for a while…