Infusion and Hopoo Feather

I realize nobody wants to read my nitpick-y pontifications on Risk of Rain. But I am burning with the need to pontificate in a nitpick-y way, so this is what you’re stuck with.

Risk of Rain is a game about finding items. The more items you find, the more powerful you are, until you eventually have so many items that the game crashes. Veteran Risk players, such as myself, consider a game crash to be a legit win state. I have “won” this game many, many times, and I can state without reservation that the two most powerful items in the game are Infusion and Hopoo Feather.

Infusion, the best item in the game, grants a permanent +1 increase to your maximum health for every monster you kill. In Risk of Rain, you kill dozens and dozens of monsters on every level. If you find Infusion and can manage to survive with it for a little while, you’ll eventually have more health than any one monster can reasonably dish out. You’re never completely invincible in this game, but sitting at the 9999 health cap only misses it by an inch.

Hopoo Feather, the second best item in the game, grants your character a double jump, and each subsequent Feather you find grants another jump beyond that. If you have seven Hopoo Feathers, you have seven jumps. Mobility in Risk is extremely important. Most enemies can only damage you if you’re on the ground, so minimizing the amount of time you spend there is a pretty good way to extend your lifespan.

Even if you aren’t familiar with Risk, you can see how powerful combining these two items can be. So here’s the controversial opinion I disagree with: many Risk players feel these items are too powerful for Tier Two, and should be Tier Three instead.

Let me untangle that jargon for you. There are three tiers of items in Risk, which are generated randomly around the level for you to find. Tier One items are outlined in white, are the most common, and least expensive. These items form the basis of your character’s abilities, and their effects are sometimes so subtle you won’t notice them until you’re very familiar with the game. In a single run of the game you’re likely to find several of these in each stage.

Tier Two items are outlined in green, are more powerful on average than Tier One items, and are therefore rarer and more expensive. These are kind of your character’s “bread and butter”. Your gameplan for survival is going to be determined largely by which Tier Two items you find, and how early. In a single run you’ll probably find one Tier Two per stage; two if you’re lucky. Infusion and Hopoo Feather are both Tier Two.

Tier Three items are outlined in red, and are incredibly — sometimes game-breakingly — powerful. Their effects are big and flashy and obvious: a screen-exploding laser, a pair of boots that sets the ground on fire, a hand-to-god extra life. In a single run of the game you will probably only find one or two of these, total, though it isn’t uncommon to complete the game without any at all.

(There are a few other groups of items, which aren’t relevant here.)

Amongst accomplished Risk of Rain streamers and YouTubers, it’s common to say something like “Infusion and Hopoo Feather are so good, they should definitely be Tier Three.”

And I don’t agree at all.

On its face the argument makes sense: these are the two best items in the game. I rather doubt there’s much disagreement about that. Oh, you’ll find the odd duck who’ll make the case for Barbed Wire (a Tier One) or Brilliant Behemoth (a particularly flashy Tier Three), but those come with little asterisks that change depending on your character, your build, your artifacts, and how long you plan to loop. Meanwhile, Infusion and Hopoo Feather are good for every character, regardless of build, or artifacts, or any other factors. There are no weird edge cases where having fewer jumps or less health is beneficial.

I might actually be understating how good these two items are. Let me try another angle. Attempting to continue on down the list, identifying the third best, and fourth best, and fifth best item, and so on, you would very quickly get into subjective territory that would change from player to player. For my part, I would say the third-best item is the AtG Missile Mk. 2, a Tier Three item that has a chance to fire a big flurry of monster-seeking missiles every time you attack. This is a universally good item that synergizes well with every build on every character. You don’t even have to aim your attacks anymore, just swing/fire at empty air and eventually the missiles will show up and wreck shop.

I could, however, see the case for lots of other items being third-best. Goat Hoof is a Tier One that makes you run faster, and if you find a couple of them, the speed increase can be quite substantial. 56 Leaf Clover is a Tier Two which makes certain monsters drop items. Find one of those early, and you’ll be more powerful much sooner. Ceremonial Dagger is a Tier Three which makes purple knives fly out of monsters you kill, seeking out and killing more monsters. Frost Relic is so strong they had to nerf it because it used to crash (“win”) the game all by itself. Depending on your priorities, any of these items, or dozens more besides, are good candidates for third-best.

But no honest player would call Infusion and Hopoo Feather anything other than first and second. Maybe there’s a debate about which of these two is first, and which second, but if a player tells you anything else they either don’t know as much about the game as they think they do, or they’re trying to be edgy and contrarian. They’re Metal Blade. They’re !Mix. They’re Oddjob. They’re really that goddamn good.

They’re powerful enough to be Tier Three, but making them Tier Three would totally suck and ruin the items completely. Here’s why.

Tier Three items are rare, and powerful, and flashy… but they don’t really change how you play the game. Not in the moment-to-moment sense, I mean. With the exception of the Photon Jetpack, Ancient Scepter and maaaaybe Rapid Mitosis, your approach to how you push the buttons and use your abilities to clear monsters won’t change much upon your big Tier Three find. They certainly make the game easier, and more exciting, and you’ll never be unhappy to get one. But they don’t alter your fundamental approach to playing.

Many Tier Two items do have this effect, though. This sense of, “Oh neat, I found _______, this run is way different now!” Smart Shopper puts a lot more gold into the game, which alters the way you think about clearing levels and hunting for chests. Guardian’s Heart gives you a damage shield that can absorb one big hit for you, dramatically increasing your odds of surviving individual encounters. Leeching Seed heals you with each attack, shifting the risk/reward decision to fight or flee when low on health. Toxic Worm will have you initiating encounters from up close, rather than at range, even for projectile characters.

In other words, Tier Three items are rad for how powerful they are, but Tier Two items are rad for how fun they make the game. Plasma Chain is a kickass attack item, but it won’t make you rethink your approach to fighting monsters; the big damage chain is just a nice perk that happens automatically. But Chargefield Generator? That’ll make you rethink everything about how quickly to kill, and where, and where to stand while doing it.

Hopoo Feather changes the game in a dramatic way no other single item pickup does: you get a second jump. It lets you reach places you couldn’t get to otherwise, more easily avoid attacks from virtually every direction, and doubles the pace which you can climb up ropes. Infusion is a “lock in” moment, a clear delineation exists between “pre-Infusion” and “post-Infusion” in a successful run. For a few minutes after finding your Infusion you must play very cautiously and carefully. Wouldn’t want to lose this great Infusion run you’re on, after all! But after that you can play much more aggressively than you would otherwise, using your health as a resource to tank some big hits to give yourself opportunities to pile on lots of damage.

If these items were Tier Three, you wouldn’t get them as often, and the whole game would be much less fun as a result. I think they were placed in Tier Two for exactly this purpose: it’s more important that these two items find their way into as many runs as possible, than for any given Tier Three.

I don’t know how much of Risk of Rain‘s vast inventory is going to find its way into Risk of Rain 2. I don’t even know if Risk 2 is going to have tiers, or whatever. I suspect the basic structure of the game — search for and buy items, some items are more rare/expensive — is going to remain the same. If that’s the case, I hope the designers don’t take these streamers to heart who want the “best” items to be too rare to have fun with.

Thanks for reading this long post about feathers and whatnot!

1 comment to Infusion and Hopoo Feather

  • Jikkuryuu

    To complement your point:
    These are the same people who made Commando the initial class. Not Enforcer or Bandit or Miner. They gave the player one of the best classes right from the start, as if saying “Yeah our game is really hard, use this guy to find out that it’s really fun too.”

    The tier lists are mostly good. I’d like the rusty jetpack to be a little more common or a little more potent, but I wouldn’t put in tier 1. The old box needs to be a tier 2 though, come on.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>