Thanks to its huge expansion, I no longer suck at Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon sits on a growing mound of rogue-lites that I love, but have no real hope of ever completing. It’s pretty difficult, not because the moment-to-moment shoot-and-dodge gameplay is hard to learn, but because the RNG has always felt too consequential to success. I can finish Spelunky without a shotgun and jetpack, but I can barely finish the second level of Enter the Gungeon unless I get some overpowered machine gun that shoots the letters B.U.L.L.E.T.S at blistering speed, or a water pistol that gushes huge obliterating poles of deadly H2O at my enemies. Or, you know, a simple grenade launcher or something.

Studio Dodge Roll must have realised this, because the new Advanced Gungeons and Draguns expansion serves to address some of the problems new players can encounter in a game that they, most likely, suck at. There’s a new boss, several new mini-bosses and plenty of new mobs, as well as new room types and synergies. These will likely only be of interest to veterans, though. Overall, it feels like AGaD is an attempt to expand the game’s audience beyond the type who have hundreds of hours to spend on a game about shooting bullets at sentient bullets.

I’m the type of player Dodge Roll wants to bring back to the game. I played it to death when it first released, but eventually gave in due to stingy RNG and unsatisfying long term rewards. Whenever I felt like I was getting better, bad luck would diminish my elation. I’m happy to play a game like this for hours and find no victory, but it felt like failure used to come particularly thick and fast in Enter the Gungeon. The game has been much improved by some of the new changes. 

The most satisfying change is that you’ll see more guns earlier in the game. For a game that boasted around 190 weapons at launch, and has added plenty more since, it always felt dumb to me that you’d only see one or two weapons across the first two levels, and they were often underwhelming. After the update, it’s rare for me to reach the first boss without at least one decent addition to my arsenal, and by the time I’ve reached the second boss, I’ve usually got two or three cool new toys to play with, in addition to the two I start the run with.

You’re still relying on RNG, but it’s noticeably more generous. On one run, I ended up with the pleasantly overpowered Heck Blaster within seconds of spawning. It’s not a new weapon, but it shoots high powered hitscan bullets and doesn’t need to reload. I took down the Gatling Gull boss in thirty seconds flat, with all my health and plenty of money intact. It’s still possible to end up at the first boss without a powerful weapon, and it’s still possible to feel heavily under-armed. As it should: this is a rogue-lite. But it’ll happen far less often with AGaD.

Oh, and there's a weapon that shoots solar systems.

I’m also encountering more black and red chests on the first level than I ever have before, which are high on the rarity list behind rainbow and glitched chests (to be honest, I’m not sure I ever saw a black chest before this update). In fact, it’s overall a more chest-centric game: lowly brown chests will often drop when you’ve cleared a room, and if you get really lucky (which can be reasonably often), clearing a room can result in a Diablo-style loot mop up. Thanks to their guaranteed appearance in shops on the first two floors, obtaining keys for locked chests is rarely an issue either, and they drop more frequently too (though my favourite class, The Hunter, has a friendly dog companion who sometimes digs them up).

I still suck at the game, but I’m having more fun sucking at it, and after a good five-or-so hours spent with the new update, I’m newly engrossed in Enter the Gungeon. The two changes I most appreciate are quality-of-life adjustments: you can now run much faster when out of combat, which makes backtracking and navigating much more fluid and fun (I still barrel roll a lot though, because it looks cool). Elsewhere, surplus health units can be sent to an end-of-level dispenser, so you’ll no longer need to backtrack through the level mopping up health once a boss has taken you down a few pegs. Not that you’ll need to backtrack a lot, because warp points are more abundant now, too. Apparently you can slide over tables now, not that I’ve even pulled that off yet. I suck, you see. But any encouragement for reluctant players to try this excellent rogue-lite shooter is welcome.