Rabbit and Steel Review – Repeated Rabbit Raiding

While it might seem weird to start a review talking about a different game, playing through Rabbit and Steel made me think of Final Fantasy XIV. While Square Enix’s long-running MMO is one of my favourite titles in the franchise, it’s always felt lacking when it comes to harder content that can be enjoyed with a smaller group of friends. Rabbit and Steel filled this void perfectly, adding its own addictive spin on MMO raiding and roguelites.

Update: The original version of this review only included our thoughts on the single player content of Rabbit and Steel. We have now updated the review to include some thoughts on multiplayer as well.

Saving Animal Girls, One Run at a Time

Rabbit and Steel sees you picking from 1 of 5 (eventually 10) classes, taking the role of a bunny attempting to free the Moonlit Kingdom from a dark spell. Said dark spell causes its various animal girl inhabitants to attack others each night, with a mysterious white tower popping up at the same time.

It’s a nice way to craft a simple narrative around the endless roguelite loops you’ll be going through — it’s even explained that the enemies you fight aren’t actually harmed, simply falling to the ground before you end up encountering them again in the next run.

When playing Rabbit and Steel solo, you actually have access to more story content over multiplayer. At the start of areas, you sometimes encounter bosses when they’re less aggressive, learning more about the places that make up the Moonlit Kingdom. It’s mostly quite light, though the added structure to each single player loop (you can see which areas have new story scenes and choose accordingly) is appreciated.

Raiding with a Twist

The meat of Rabbit and Steel is its combination of MMO raiding with shmups. Each class has access to primary, secondary, and special attacks, along with a defensive move. Since the amount of abilities is low, it makes learning the rotation (order you want to use the moves in) quite easy, though the game mixes things up in a few ways.

For starters, the first encounter of each main area is a shop. Here you can buy potions that grant temporary buffs, heal up, or most importantly, upgrade your moves. While some upgrades are simple ability buffs, others fundamentally change how they work. For example, one move could start triggering automatically over time, while another could change from a placeable AOE to one that attacks all enemies on screen.

This, combined with the loot that you obtain during each stage, allows for a simple set of moves to transform over the course of a run. You’ll have to learn the best order to use abilities on the fly, all while dealing with whatever enemies throw at you. And let me tell you, bosses will do their best to make things hard for you.

Familiar Mechanics in a New Setting

If you’re familiar with Final Fantasy XIV or other traditional MMOs, then many of the mechanics in Rabbit and Steel will be familiar to you. While you’ll be dodging simple bullets at times, there are also plenty of AOEs, targeted attacks, and mechanics that require you to stand in specific areas to avoid damage.

Each area has its own unique mechanics that the enemies will use. This can range from Emerald Lakeside’s tethers and colour matching, to the AOE cleaves and slippery floors (or should that be air?) of the King’s Arsenal. As you make it further into a run, the enemies level up alongside you and throw tougher versions of each mechanic at you.

Learning how to deal with each mechanic alongside the classes and upgrades was a fun experience, with normal mode offering a decent amount of challenge to start with. The amount of variation for each area between runs isn’t too crazy, but that’s by design. You’re instead intended to learn how to deal with each boss, becoming comfortable with how the fights are designed, before upping the difficulty and repeating the process.

This gives Rabbit and Steel a unique feel from other roguelites. As mentioned earlier it has random loot, and you do unlock new items and classes by defeating enough bosses or completing certain challenges, but RNG is mostly on the lower end. Once skilled enough, each run should be possible to complete regardless of the items and upgrades you’re given — at least up to Hard mode, Lunar mode might be another story.)

Moving up to Hard mode, it was cool to see just how things changed. You’re still encountering a number of familiar mechanics, but now with some extra modifiers and challenges. Fights might require you to memorise the order in which attacks come out, or extra AOEs are included in attacks that were once easy to dodge.

Tough Gameplay Wrapped in a Cute Exterior

I think what makes this difficulty more fun is Rabbit and Steel’s artstyle. You’re fighting for your life trying to keep up your rotation while multiple mechanics resolve, all while playing as a bunny girl fighting other animals.

The overall artstyle is pleasant, without going too far and getting in the way of gameplay. Backgrounds are a good example of this — areas make use of simple shapes and colour palettes to give each a distinct look, but fade to black once the next fight starts, making it easier to focus on incoming attacks.

Special mention goes to the soundtrack, which remains catchy even after many failed Hard mode runs. Areas transition seamlessly between ambient and battle tracks, with my favourite being the vocal battle theme of Emerald Lakeside — as King Mog and Titania in Final Fantasy XIV taught me, there’s something fun about battling along to some less intense music.

Multiplayer Lowers the Bullets, Ups the Mechanics

Post launch, I managed to grab a friend for a few Normal mode runs. The main thing that stood out is that the amount of projectiles and mechanics of that sort are reduced, making way for more party-based mechanics.

There are lots of MMO staples, including AOEs that require you to spread out or stack together to avoid damage. One mechanic that I’d love to eventually see in Final Fantasy XIV (but will likely never happen) is where players are directly tethered together. You have to work together to move into the correct spaces while avoiding other attacks.

It also made me appreciate the smaller scale focus even more, and especially the lack of servers to get in the way. Mechanics can be built around small groups, and also take into account that players can dodge at the last second without significant lag.

On Normal mode, players will revive with one HP a little while after dying, making it easy enough to clear if at least one other player hangs on. Hard and Lunar both have an enrage timer (you take constant damage if you take too long to beat a boss), meaning you’ll still need to learn mechanics on the harder difficulties.

Rabbit and Steel Review | Final Thoughts

Rabbit and Steel is an incredibly enjoyable game, merging raid mechanics and roguelites in a way I didn’t think would work so well. There’s just enough variety to keep runs fresh, while also not going too far and making it harder to learn each boss encounter. Single player and multiplayer both offer their own twists, making this enjoyable both solo and with friends.

Rabbit and Steel was reviewed on PC via Steam using a code provided by the developer. All screenshots were taken by the reviewer.

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Isaac Todd
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