How the Best Game You’ve Never Heard of Cured My Arachnophobia

Well, sort of. I’m talking about Rain World.

To address the title, I’m still not a fan of the eight-legged assassins, but after playing Rain World I certainly have a more sympathetic and understanding view of them. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will see my perspective, and you might even want to give Rain World a shot for yourself.

A beauty of a game as it may be (and now one of my all-time favorite games), Rain World’s charming visuals, dynamic gameplay, and adventurous motif has been given surprisingly little recognition for its achievements. Having launched in March 2017 after a whopping six years in development, the indie title by Adult Swim Games somehow didn’t appear on the radar of many gamers or indie fans.

It didn’t help that the brutal, punishing gameplay caused many game journalists to write off Rain World in their reviews, marking it as “astonishingly good-looking” but “absurdly cruel.” I would mostly agree that the game’s difficulty is daunting to many, but the game’s developers have addressed this in its most recent patch. Additionally, the difficulty is definitely palatable if you’ve got the patience and the will to traverse the world.

What I’m getting to, and my motivation for writing this article in the first place is that more people need to play Rain World.

What is Rain World?

The game’s premise is told nonverbally through cutscenes. You are a slugcat and have been separated from your family after a flood. The cutscene finishes and PLOP, you are in the game world all on your own. After a brief tutorial on controls and maneuvers the slugcat has in his arsenal, you are free to do… whatever the hell you want. You’ll quickly find out that there is only a certain amount of time in each game day, and if you don’t find shelter, torrential rains will tear you apart if you get caught in them and drown you to death if you’re anywhere else.

The game’s narrative is imaginative. The genre is science fiction, and one reason reviewers haven’t been raving about it is that it takes awhile for the story to begin, and to truly have some grasp of what’s going on in Rain World, you have to get through the game’s most difficult levels. I won’t spoil anything and I would advise you to NOT look anything up about the story if you end up playing it because it’s exciting to piece it all together on your own.

A spoiler-free glimpse into Rain World’s story.

The living, breathing realm of Rain World

As if the torrential rain and slow-to-start story weren’t enough of a burden on the player’s back, Rain World is teeming with life. Some of it’s friendly, some of it neutral, but most of it is just trying to eat you. The developers designed the game to have a world which represents a circle of life. For example, the player controls a slugcat, which is towards the bottom of the food chain compared to some of Rain World’s other monsters.

In general, you are trying to eat things smaller than you. All the while, everything bigger than you is trying to eat you. With that said, part of the charm of Rain World is that the slugcat isn’t the most competent or fearsome creature, but that opens doors to you being stealthy, preferring to avoid dangers if you can, and if worst comes to worst you can fight (and win if you know what you’re doing).

Just AI, or something more?

The AI in Rain World is spectacular and does an excellent job of convincing the player that everything is alive with a proclivity to act in certain ways. As you encounter more and more of these creatures, you’ll begin to notice they will act in predictable ways. You might be running from a predator and notice that another predator is running from it too. Or that some creatures respond well if you bow to them or give them gifts. Oftentimes they will remember you if you try to kill them, and that might make them act differently towards you.

It builds the idea that there is a hierarchy of creatures in Rain World beyond your humble slugcat. The game truly sold to me that everything in the gameworld played a part in something bigger. Obviously, Rain World is just a game, but I found myself thinking differently about animals or creatures I saw in real life.

Arachnophobia

This brings me to my spider anecdote.

I work at a vineyard. This past fall, an unusual thing happened where I would see wolf spiders every day inside the office (if you don’t know what they look like and are scared of spiders, you probably won’t want to Google them). Perhaps it was a time of year where they grew to maturity or something.

Whatever the reason, I killed nearly all of them I saw. But then I thought about Rain World, and how these spiders really weren’t trying to scare anyone — they were trying to find food and get back home before “the rain” of the real world came to kill them (metaphorically, I thought of “the rain” as humans, frogs, literal rain, etc.)

I stopped killing them and instead opted to let them live. I still don’t want them crawling anywhere near me or where I plan to be frequenting. Even so, I’ve acknowledged their right to exist.

And yet…

Make no mistake that I’ll still stomp or kill any that ARE anywhere near me. So maybe my arachnophobia isn’t completely gone, but for those few spiders that I spared, they can thank Rain World.

Final Points

Because I have to mention it, the stunning graphics of Rain World are beautiful to look at. There are 12 main regions in the game, each with gorgeous and unique visuals in their own right. On top of that, there are transition levels between some of the areas. These levels offer even more unique aesthetics to behold. I found that as the game progressed through the story, the environments only got more interesting and imaginative. It is truly a pleasure to be devoured by lizards and sea monsters in the game’s surreal world.

Through its immersive atmosphere and living environments, Rain World will remain a hidden gem for those who are patient enough to grind through its open-world. The satisfaction granted by completing a difficult section rivals the feeling I got playing games as a kid. While it’s no cakewalk to beat, Rain World is well-worth the struggle for $20.00, and who knows, maybe you too will learn a valuable lesson from the creatures of Rain World.

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