You Should Be Playing: Enter the Gungeon

After spending hours readying my body for Enter the Gungeon by playing Nuclear Throne on repeat the night before release day, I had sent my expectations and overall hype into the stratosphere. The idea of playing yet another dungeon crawling, bullet hell, top-down shooting gunfest had started to grind me down, but after re-watching the trailer at E3 I realised that Gungeon is a wonderful concoction of my favourite games: it takes the map style of The Binding of Isaac and throws in some Nuclear Throne difficulty to beat my ego down just when I think I'm getting good at the game. Despite my countless deaths within the first few hours of playing, I’ll be damned if it isn't easily the most rounded and addictive game I’ve played in a long time.

Enter the Gungeon is, as I said, a rogue-like, dungeon crawling, murder simulator. If you like games that don’t hold you by the hand and instead throw you into the deep end with bricks tied to your feet, then you’re in luck. Once you've finished the tutorial and you've chosen one of the four ‘Gungeoneers’ to try your luck with you’re allowed to explore The Breach, a starting area that you can fill up with NPCs you save from The Gungeon. There are several NPCs that you can save which then open up shops in The Breach. They sell items and weapon unlocks at the cost of ‘Hegemony Credits’, a currency which you receive at the end of each chamber. There are other NPCs that come with more useful bonuses, such as an elevator to skip chambers or unlocking you some new items to use. Having multiple NPCs to save in order to populate The Breach gave the game’s replay-ability some purpose, as if it needed any.
Once you’re finished with all of that you can climb the stairs and, uh, enter the Gungeon.

Everything inside the Gungeon is a homage to all things gun related. All the mobs you encounter in the game are part of the ‘Cult of the Gundead’, a group of disciples that worship ‘The Gun’, a powerful artefact known throughout the universe as a weapon that can shoot into the past and change the future. They must defend their temple from anyone who wants to get their grubby mitts on the gun; which is you... you bastard.
Not only are these guys adorable as anything, but each mob has its own unique and hilarious style. The majority of the disciples are bullets, ranging in calibre from pistol shells, to shotgun pellets, to sniper bullets, and each has their own different attack style based on what type of bullet they embody. Most of Gundead come at you with guns blazing, which is slightly disturbing if you imagine the bullets they’re shooting being its younger brother or something, but others will use their spells, or melee attacks, or even their own bodies in order to stop you. It only gets more ridiculous the further down you make it, which turns each chamber into a treat as you try to conjure up an image of what kind of monstrosity will kill you this time.
Each floor, or chamber, is procedurally generated and increases in difficulty with each chamber cleared. The rooms do retain a certain structure, so you can implement tactics from previous runs and eventually work out a plan for each type of room layout. You must explore the Gungeon by clearing out each room and killing the enemies holed up inside. There is no linear pathway to take, so you must keep clearing rooms until you find the boss room, clearing that room will grant you access to the next chamber. One of my favourite things that Gungeon has implemented is the ability to quickly warp to different rooms in the chamber, cutting out the tediousness of constantly having to slowly walk to the other side of the chamber because you hit a dead end and the boss room must be all the way over there.

At the beginning of the first chamber you are equipped only with your starting weapons and a few ‘blanks’, these are consumable bullet-shells that wipe off all enemy bullets on the screen and also prevents them from firing for a few seconds. These, alongside your health bar, can be replenished through loot from enemies or purchased at the shopkeeper. At the end of every chamber is a boss battle that tests your mettle and won’t go easy on you even if this is the furthest you've gotten in twenty lives.

Each boss is randomly chosen from a pool of pre-determined bosses for whichever chamber you are in. For example, on the second floor of the Gungeon I encountered the Beholster, a Beholder from D&D that thought its death ray was a bit unfair and picked up several guns instead. After you defeat each boss you are given a reward alongside some health, but if you manage to clear the boss without taking any damage then you are awarded with one of the five ‘master rounds’, a pick-up item that can be traded to an NPC for bonuses.

The dodge roll mechanic will become one of your best friends if you want any chance of getting to the final chamber. It grants you half a second of invincibility whilst you roll, but you become vulnerable again just before you land. I found it easier to think of it as a tumbling roll, where you jump over the bullets, instead of just rolling through them. You can also reload as you roll, which buffs up the pace of the game substantially by keeping the ball rolling as you glide around the room.

Each chamber is full to the brim with objects you can interact with, and one of the more glorious methods of defence is table flipping, where you flip a table onto its side and use it as cover from enemy fire. The table only has enough durability to protect you from a handful of bullets, but it provides you with an advantage and has saved my ass plenty of times. There doesn’t seem to be any use for all the other objects, though. Just smash them if you’re feeling down and want to break some stuff.

Now, it wouldn't be a dungeon-crawling game without hundreds of items to memorize and learn the difference between the trash-tier and the useful, and Gungeon has hundreds of items, weapons, accessories, and pick-ups for you to learn about. This isn't a negative point in the slightest, as each unique weapon can be utilised by each character in different ways, so testing out which item is a must-have for which character is worth knowing. Of course, you could be extremely unlucky and get absolutely nothing from all the loot drops, forcing you to try your luck with your starter weapon and pray that luck grants you a good weapon or a quick death so you can try again.

One of the main ways to get your fix of weapons and pick-up items in this game is from loot chests. There are a few found in each chamber, some of which are locked, that once opened will grant you either a weapon or an item. As I mentioned, the consistency of useful items and weapons to bad seems to be completely luck based, but you are able to clear a chamber with just your starting weapon, but don’t expect to clear it quickly.

The amount of crazy weapons, mob designs, pick-up items, and level layouts are something that keep me hooked on this game. Gungeon puts itself above the rest with its fast-paced gameplay, humour, and its unique boss fights that keep you on the edge of your seat as you desperately try to get a perfect run. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm feeling extra confident about my next run.

Enter the Gungeon is available now on Steam and the Playstation Store for £10.99.

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