Enter the Gungeon Reviews

Official Site Review

By Kelly Packard, 2 years ago
Progression is one of the most powerful elements that keeps us gamers indulged in our favorite titles. Whether we're upping our prestige level in Call of Duty, defeating the final boss in BioShock, reaching 5,000 MMR in Dota 2, or even just getting to the next level of Candy Crush, there's not a whole lot of reason to play if we don't feel like we're getting anywhere.

Progression is also something Enter the Gungeon nails. In Dodge Roll Games' "bullet hell mechanics [mixed] with the rogue-lite dungeon crawler genre" — in their words — there is always something to shoot for. You're dropped off a dark place called the Breach with little to no idea what's going on. A strange, ghostly man named Manuel will talk you through the basics, after which you'll enter the Gungeon on your own. There will be enemies. You'll shoot at them. They'll shoot back at you. You might get killed a few rooms in or perhaps by the first boss, after which you'll feel like a complete failure once you realize there are five floors to the Gungeon. But after a little exploration, you'll realize there is a lot more at play here.


While things seem rough at first, you're always making progress, even if that first boss showed you who's, well, boss. You'll get a good sense of development from noticing your own improvements — for example, making it to floor two or floor three for the first time — as well as within the game. Defeating a boss will earn you "hegemony credits," currency that carries through death, and it can be used to unlock new guns and items from the Black Market. Once you unlock a new gun or item, it has the possibility to show up during your run. Better guns and items equals the potential for a better run and getting further than ever before. So even though that second boss killed you, it wasn't a total loss because you still earned some cash from the first boss that can be used to unlock more goodies.

Not to mention Enter the Gungeon is a rogue-lite, so the environments and items are randomly generated and different every time. There are NPCs to rescue, mini games that will randomly show up, shrines at which to pray, chests to unlock, and more. In fact, your objectives will often be counter-intuitive to actually "beating the game," which makes it varied and more interesting. Helping out the elevator man will have you hoarding your keys and money, when normally you'd be using these items to open chests or purchase the best weaponry from the shop. Even if you get killed on the fourth floor, you may call it a successful run if you unlocked a new item, rescued an NPC along the way or won big at the shooting range.

Hope you're not afraid of a few bulletsHope you're not afraid of a few bullets

As far as the other elements of a rogue-lite, that's all intact too. The most important feature is the huge variety of guns, items, and weapon modifiers. As you might guess from the game's name, guns are the big theme here. At the beginning of each run you'll start with your character's starting gun, but will slowly start to pack a bigger punch thanks to the weapons that will be dropped from chests and bosses or purchased at the store. The weapons are all different and make each drop exciting — you may carry yourself through one run with explosives, the next with lasers, or how about a banana that doubles as a weapon? Things will get even spicier when you pick up some Angry Bullets or Bouncing Bullets. Even after 30 hours, you'll have yet to see every weapon the game has to offer, and the game's arsenal has a multitude of surprises in store.

Gungeon has also employed a handful of features that stand out from others in the genre. Instead of backtracking through dozens of rooms to collect a health pack you didn't need earlier but now do, there is a teleporter every few rooms that can be accessed from the map. All you need to do to unlock the teleporter is void the room of enemies. This makes traversing a large map less of a hassle, as there's no point backtracking through empty rooms after all. Your character is also able to reload while dodge rolling — this part of the game is so integral the developers even named their studio after it — a small touch, but Gungeon would be an entirely different game without it. Lastly, all the money dropped from fallen enemies is automatically collected once the room clears, a convenient touch that lets you run through rooms at the speed at which you can clear them.

It's dangerous to go alone. Take this banana.It's dangerous to go alone. Take this banana.

There is also a fair amount of skill and a learning curve involved in Enter the Gungeon. To compare it to what has become probably the most popular rogue-lite, The Binding of Isaac, it is easily plausible in Isaac to get lucky with items and drops, make yourself overpowered and mow through every enemy and boss with ease, completing a run with no effort whatsoever. This is far less likely to happen in Gungeon — the bosses are still tanky even with your beefed-up weapons. You're not going to be one-shotting anybody here. They'll also spit out bullets encompassing your entire screen and it will take some time to learn the dodge patterns. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it might be a turnoff to some players. There will be moments where you feel like you've hit a brick wall with the game and it can take a while to get into the swing of things.

While the list of praiseworthy elements from Gungeon could go on, where it fails is the quality of the Xbox One port. The game is plagued by serious performance issues that only seem to get worse the further into the Gungeon you go, meaning that the more successful your run, the worse the technical issues will be. The frame rate is prone to dropping multiple times per room. It does this for some noticeable reasons — when new enemies spawn or an explosion goes off — but can also take a turn for the worst with no obvious cause. While these issues aren't as prevalent on the first couple floors, though they are present, they're rampant anywhere from the third floor and beyond. While gamers can sometime forgive performance issues, this isn't a Telltale point-and-click. This is a game where you're dancing around dozens or even hundreds of bullets at any given time and the smallest mistake will cost you your life, of which you only get one.


In the above clip, after finishing up the first room, the game nearly halts for a moment upon entering the second room, which is filled with enemies. This caused a bullet to hit that otherwise would have been simple to evade. After getting behind cover near the top of the room just a moment later, there is another noticeable dip when the circular enemy burst into flames. That was just a 30-second clip of one room; the entire game is plagued by this same problem. While performance issues often get a pass in otherwise enjoyable games, this hinders the core gameplay of Enter the Gungeon too much for this to be acceptable. After a little research, it's easy to see this isn't present in other versions of the game. This is a bad port.

As for the achievements, don't expect to be getting many without a serious time commitment. Enter the Gungeon is a classic example of a game you'll dump hours into in one sitting but come up empty-handed on gamerscore. None of the gamers who have completed it have less than 80 hours played, with some having upwards of 100 or even more. There are a lot of hard achievements, considering you only have one life per run, but solutions recommend abusing the save system for a simpler method to get these, if you're so inclined. There can also be a bit of frustration due to the trademark randomness of rogue-lites — it's a little hard to ace Winchester's mini game three times if you haven't seen him for 20 runs.

Feel the wrath of my turtle shell!Feel the wrath of my turtle shell!


Summary

Enter the Gungeon's excellent concept gets bogged down by serious performance issues. There is a lot to like here: the armory of unique and fun weapons and items, a variety of objectives to work toward, and convenient features like teleportation, automatic money collection, and the ability to reload while dive rolling. Every run can be worthwhile, which is a good feeling in a genre that is often so punishing. Unfortunately, the poor performance hinders the core gameplay too much for the Xbox One edition to be anything more than the worst version of an otherwise great game.
3.5 / 5
Enter the Gungeon
Positives
  • Huge arsenal of varied guns, items, companions and more
  • Always something to work toward or improve on
  • Handy features like teleport and credit collection
  • Failed runs are still worthwhile
Negatives
  • Inexcusable performance issues
  • Can take a long time to feel like you're really getting somewhere compared to other games in the genre
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 30 hours in Enter the Gungeon's dungeon. The time was spent uncovering secrets, dodging -- or dodging into -- bullets and toying with the vast arsenal of weaponry. 15 achievements were won for 250 gamerscore. While the game can be played on Xbox One or Windows 10 with Play Anywhere capabilities, for this review the Xbox One version was played exclusively. A code was provided by the ID@Xbox team.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
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