Ruiner is published by Devolver Digital and described as a “brutal cyberpunk action game” by the creators, Reikon Games. Out now on PC and console, the game is the rage-filled pursuit of one man desperate to find his brother in the fictional city of Rengkok. With a sociopathic main character who has little regard for himself or his surroundings, you carve a path in the most violent way possible, ripping through enemies and levels like some sort of Daft Punk inspired berserker.
There are some main mechanics that remain a staple in the twin stick shooter/brawler genre like moving on one stick, aiming on the other (for our keyboard purists that translates to WASD and mouse aiming) but other than that, this is a fresh take on the top down shooter, with heavy emphasis being put on switching up your abilities and weapons depending on the situation. By making things situational rather than progression-based (i.e. get bigger guns cause more damage) the difficulty of starting out as a pipe-wielding cyber-maniac isn’t so daunting, but rather, really really fun. There’s something extremely satisfying about dodging enemies, environmental hazards, and then whacking a robot ninja with a satisfying metal thunk.
The game has multiple difficulty levels which offers a levels of re-playability, but the main draw to go back through the game when you’ve finished it is all the secret areas and enemy encounters you might have missed the first time around. You can also speak to the citizens of Rengkok while blasting through the game, providing a lot of context for how and why the city looks and feels the way it does.
And man, it feels incredible. I’ve held off on mentioning the graphics and design of this game until now because I know I could gush about it for hours. The city of Rengkok feels like a blend of Neo-Tokyo from Ghost in the Shell mixed with Los Angeles 2019 in Blade Runner, and the in-game lighting with particle effects just washes over the industrial dystopia with the perfect amount of artistry. I will admit I found myself distracted from time to time, just looking at the way my attacks and movement interacted with the environment. The best way to illustrate this is to view the city around you as dim, dark, and gritty. But then you explode through the alley with flashy attacks and dashes acting as a neon sign that flickers in the perfect way, highlighting all the shadows and details hidden underneath.
If the environment is the meat and potatoes, the music is the gravy. The music adds even more to the atmosphere, drawing on the public’s recent familiarity with more cyberpunk and synth sounds brought on by edm and other genres and providing that sinister creeping undertone that accompanies the hero wherever he goes. Never out-of-place, the score really adds a lot to the game and it’s pacing by giving you a worthwhile soundtrack to vibe with while brutalizing faceless enemies.
And that leads me to my one small legitimate criticism of Ruiner. The enemies. A variety of different types chase you down throughout the game, everything from futuristic mobsters to robot ninjas to autonomous drones. And while the game is never leisurely, it does need to be mentioned that there are certain enemies that could be categorized as “pushovers” once you’ve really got the hang of the combat and movement mechanics. Personally, I would prefer remixed versions of enemies that behave in different ways based on how you absolutely destroyed their earlier counterparts. Adding a mechanic to them beyond “get there first, murderize” would not go amiss. That’s not to say I think the game is too easy, on the contrary I think there are some areas that were keyboard-smashingly difficult for me, but after this game has given me so much, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want more from some of the weaker enemies.
Speaking of keyboard smashing, I think it’s fair to say that this game starts off difficult, and stays pretty difficult. This is the main reason why I think most people would prefer to start on normal (or even easy) just to get a feel for the game and appreciate the environments. The gameplay loop is very similar to Doom (2016) in that there are corridors and exploration followed by enemies that spawn in waves for you to defeat inside set-piece style rooms. It does have a slightly higher learning curve towards the start of the game than other twin stick shooters, but ultimately I found this rewarding. Learning mechanics that help you defeat certain enemy types is great but the sudden appearance of your death really makes you question where and how you got killed, and the game doesn’t do a great job of telling you. Which means it’s hard to tell if you died because you missed something, or the game decided that you needed to die. Your mileage may vary however, as my frustration with it did peak at a certain boss fight in-game.
Overall I think that Ruiner is a gorgeous game with a good layer of added mechanics on top of the tried and true twin stick shooter formula. 14 levels is definitely not enough to whet my appetite, and I am aware that not everyone can stomach the high learning curve followed by the hardcore combat. But who cares about that when you are a leather jacket wearing silent protagonist with a digital art piece for a face, eh?
A review copy for this title was provided by the publisher. The author first played this game during PAX South 2017.
Check out the game’s website here (it’s really awesome).
Also, watch Blake check out the game on stream.
Like this review? Hate it? Leave some feedback for the author below!