RAGE 2 Paradoxically Rises and Falls At Once

Mark Delaney - May 18th 2019

In RAGE 2, your expansive weapon wheel, mods, throwables, and combat vehicle collectively equate to one thing: a hammer, and the world is a box of nails. By the purposeful design of id Software and Avalanche, who worked together to build the open world FPS, that's been my experience with RAGE 2 so far. It's bombastic, brash, and one-note, though that's meant both positively and negatively so far.

My first few hours of RAGE 2 have been spent largely exploring the open world. Its design will be familiar to anyone who's played video games in the past decade. The map is quite large and broken up into different biomes much like Avalanche's other explosive sandbox, Just Cause. The density of activities has been impressive so far, though I wonder when the seemingly unavoidable monotony of checklisting through the world will start to set in. Right now things are still providing a fun challenge but I feel like I can see into the future where tackling my third sentry tower in 1000 meters will start to wear thin.

Just as the dual developers wanted, there's really only one way to deal with a problem in this wasteland: totally obliterating it. The FPS elements play a lot like DOOM. It's predicated on the player nearly ice skating around an arena of variable types and sizes. Enemies drop feltrite crystals, crucial resources for upgrades and they disappear after a few seconds. It's a design that reminds you sniping from a distance of lurking in the shadows are strategies on par with non-violent resistance in the world of RAGE 2.

RAGE 2's best bits come in the extensive upgrade tree. Though it feels a bit too convoluted at first with several currencies working to unlock different things in the game's many menus, it actually does a pretty good job of explaining things and I've not felt confused since the first hour or so. It also incentivizes clearing your map in a great way, dishing out project points with each cleared area, which in turn can be spent on some awesome new perks and abilities. Clearing Arks is the best side activity, for sure, because they reward you with new ranger skills. These skills were the highlight of my hands-on time with the game last summer and the reason I've been so excited to jump back into RAGE 2 this week.

All of this is to say that the game paradoxically gets stronger and weaker simultaneously due to the open world exploration. Unlocking new skills is irresistible because the upgrade tree is so well designed, but this also demands I keep checking every box along my travels. Few sandboxes reward you more bountifully than RAGE 2 for clearing the open world objectives, but the same fatigue is present nonetheless. It's a paradox. It feels like RAGE 2 has a shorter tail than similar sandboxes, which makes the upgrade chasing feel a bit confusing. What's it all for if I'm bored by the end? I'm still having fun, but I fear the law of diminishing returns will affect me sooner than other open-world shooters. Look for my full review early next week.

Track My Progress in RAGE 2