Xbox One, PS4, PC
September 26, 2017
I jumped into Ruiner expecting a top-down arcade shooter with an amazing style, pumping beats and weapons and abilities galore. What I discovered was a surprisingly deep RPG full of story, dialogue, character, quests, side-quests, loot rarity and even a world-hub. Oh, and it also had arcade shooting, an amazing style, pumping beats and weapons and abilities galore.
Ruiner is incredibly satisfying on a pure sensory experience level. The aesthetic of the game is a mixture of science fiction, cyber-punk and pure grit and it manages to pull it off incredibly well.
“Playing Ruiner feels like a walk through a seedy party district during the latest stretches of the night”
Characters are visually unique and interesting and the soundtrack brings together heart-pumping electronica with a dark and grimy undertone. In fact, the entire world you walk around has a dark and grimy undertone that is beautifully masked by the games vibrant and piercing colour palate. Playing Ruiner feels like a walk through a seedy party district during the latest stretches of the night – the lights and sounds around you may give an initial feeling of energy and life, but the longer you stay the more you realise it’s a cover for something more insidious.
The game starts with your character regaining consciousness in an unknown location. You’ve been hacked. A message plays periodically on a loop, telling you to kill. You proceed to do as your instructed with a new voice in your ear seemingly helping you understand what’s happening and guiding you to a point of recovery. Your quest then begins. There’s bad guys after you and a kidnapped brother you need to save. Your quest will take you all around the cyber metropolis of Rengkok.
Ruiner’s story is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. You don’t know who is on your side and no single character seems to be acting solely in your best interest. Trusting the people communicating with you is all but necessary but even your hacker friend whose helping you track your brother has a dark side and personal interests that bubble their way to the surface.
Like any good RPG there’s a bit of lore here too that helps to flesh out and construct the world around you. One of the first clans you meet are a group known as the Creeps, but these aren’t your standard, one-dimensional enemy. They’re a set of 3rd born children who were cast away by societal laws and who took refuge under the care of an evil paternal figure who preyed on their feeling of abandonment. Ruiner pretty quickly surprised me with the extra mile it goes to turn what is essentially an arcade action game into something more meaningful.
Outside of dialogue and moving from one area to the next, gameplay within Ruiner primarily involves sequences of combat. Once you run into a group of foes the game locks you into an arena and you need to use the tools at your disposal to stay alive and annihilate your enemies. Enemies come in small waves and using guns, melee weapons, smart movement and abilities are all mandatory for your victory. The game plays like a twin stick shooter, but one that gives you a lot of options to adjust your play style.
Abilities in the game are varied and dynamic and there’s enough here that you could successfully play a few separate games using different gameplay methods. I found myself focusing on shooting, shields, dashes and passive upgrades for a good portion of my play because it jelled with my preferred play-style and capabilities.
Let’s get something out of the way, Ruiner can be a difficult game. Combat is a frantic mess of dodging enemy attacks and environmental hazards, whilst juggling weaponry, attacking enemies, and attempting to use your abilities to their fullest potential.
Unlike other twin stick shooters, Ruiner feels slightly unforgiving due to the speed of projectiles. Often it isn’t a matter of attempting to dodge enemy fire, but to instead continue moving so as to reduce the inevitable incoming damage. The game’s design means you are never going to come out of a fight unscathed. This isn’t really an issue of challenge because health drops are fairly frequent. It’s more an issue of lack of control. At no point during my entire Ruiner play-through did I ever feel like I really aced a fight or perfected my gameplay. Instead it was a constant mess of barely surviving and fumbling my way through fights. In a way this was exhilarating and frantic, but in another way it was also exhausting and gave a feeling of inadequacy.
Control-wise the game is pretty good but not perfect. Once again I feel like I don’t quite have the control I need to play the way I want to in my head. Many rounds of ammunition whizzed off to the sides of my enemies as I sprayed madly with my assault rifle, and many dashes that were suppose to situate me just in front of a foe for a close range whack ended up falling short or overshooting in an embarrassing display. I appreciate how Ruiner wants you to earn your kills rather than hand them to you, but I also understand that a controller isn’t designed for pinpoint accuracy. There’s good reasons that similar games help you out with a more lenient auto-aim or targeting system.
- Fantastic aesthetic and style
- Surprisingly detailed lore and world building
- Memorable characters and sequences
- Dynamic and customisable combat due to a good range of skills
- Lack of finite control within combat
- Can be on the challenging side
Ruiner is going to be a memorable experience for me. I went in thinking I’d fall in love with the combat, visuals and sounds but I walked away with a connection to the game that runs deeper than those facets alone. For those who dive in to this world, give it some time to open up, pay attention to what’s going on and take your time to explore and interact – Ruiner will make it worth your while.