We knew that the minute we laid eyes on RUINER, we’d be madly in love. Perhaps it’s the eccentric cyberpunk feel or the really over the top action that you’d find in games like Hotline Miami. Whatever the case is, RUINER is addictive and stylish all at the same time. Anyone who’s a fan of top down shooters will certainly find RUINER to be an incredible title because it has pizazz, it has the flare and overall it has the replay value to keep you hungry for more. You don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the cyberpunk genre or even the top down shooter genre because RUINER provides more than that, it comes with just about everything you need as far as a cool narrative and stunning visuals.
What to Expect
There’s a lot to look forward to once you load RUINER up because at first glance, it just looks totally normal, but the minute you start diving in and start earning karma points and incineration enemies with flamethrowers, the impact is extraordinary. RUINER is developed by Reikon Games, a company that a lot of people haven’t heard of, ourselves included. However with the recent influx of indie developers churning out hit after hit, there’s really no telling what you’re in for. Devolver Digital published this title and so we kind of had this itch that something was about to unfold, but we didn’t expect it of this magnitude. With your brother captured and your memory jaded, you must work alongside a young woman who assists you on this arduous journey through the dank and grimy streets of Rengkok, and all you need to do is survive at all costs. Wizard is the man you’re after and so your mission is to track him down in order to receive more intel behind your brother’s whereabouts, but this game is so challenging that the road to get there is no easy feat. Bullets fly across the screen faster than your eyes can process them, enemies are relentless in their approach leaving no room for error on your part, while the level designs are so well refined that you can’t help but just immerse yourself in this wicked world. Now that you know what you’re up against, let’s dive a little deeper into why we feel RUINER is perhaps one of the top 5 indie games of the year.
It’s not very often you come across a top down shooter that feels seamless and well designed but RUINER somehow pulls it off flawlessly without turning you off in any major way. Of course, the game is challenging and it should be for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t deter you in any way; in fact, it draws you in more. Every death you encounter in the game is just another motivation to get back up on your feet and come up with strategic ways to deal with hordes of enemies. As you race through each level you collect what’s known as karma points, which you can distribute among various skills that will essentially be of great benefit in battle. Figuring out just what every ability does is so imperative in RUINER because often times you’ll find yourself in very tense situations, and not equipping the right ability at that moment will see you die almost immediately. There are a plethora of weapons that you’ll be able to harness while running around, with many of them having unique characteristics that once again you’ll have to use in a tactical manner.
One thing we loved the most is just how versatile everything is and that you’re not locked into a specific skill. What that means is that when you find yourself in a scenario where one ability just isn’t cutting it, all it takes is one button and a click of the mouse to re-equip another ability. If you felt like the frag grenade wasn’t cutting it then swap it out for the Kinetic Barrier to avoid taking bullet damage and let the bullets hit the enemy instead. Each ability can be upgraded over time by collecting skill points, which can be acquired by beating stage bosses or by collecting enough karma points throughout the level. The more you upgrade the ability, the better it becomes of course, and that’s when the fun really starts because now you can really mess around with all of the options to see what the right fit is. Some enemies could care less about your Barrier and rip right through you with physical attacks, or others will simply throw projectiles like Molotovs to keep you in check. Simply put, these enemies are smart and don’t fool around when it comes to making sure you die fast.
Another wonderful aspect we loved about RUINER is that you don’t necessarily need to just follow the path of the story, as there are side quests that you can do for other NPC who are scattered around the map. This RPG-type feel is what really boosted the score in a major way because while the story in itself is wild and frantic, being able to deviate away from that to gather some extra bonus points is always a great plus. You also get to know more about the other cast members within the game which sort of ties into the story in a way, so ignoring these side quests and simply just running and gunning your way through the main core is doing a disservice. Hours fly by as you are constantly bombarded by powerful enemies, all come with different skill sets to make your work a lot harder. One example is Nerve, one of the mini bosses in the game who uses a flame sword to chop you down, but what makes him such a threat is that he shares the same abilities as you regarding teleporting and charging up your sword for maximum damage. You’ll run into enemies like this a lot who will try to use your own tactics against you and the salt just continues to rise as frustration builds. Be that as it may, these boss battles are some of the best we’ve encountered in any indie game thus far and without giving away too much, we’ll just say the endgame is wicked.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
While RUINER isn’t a very long game in terms of its story, it makes up in length with the infinite replay value you get while playing. Every stage gets progressively more difficult and unpredictable, so the amount of time you’ll be spending dying is going to be quite high. The game does grade you based on your performance so in a way it’s a primer to really push you to perform at your best, and see how far you can go without receiving any damage. The highest score we received was A+ rank but that required so much of our focus and having to deal more damage than to be on the receiving end. You do get an S+ rank on one stage but you don’t really do much as it’s pretty much part of the story, and you don’t actually play in that scenario. The only thing that we questioned while playing was the lack of voicing during cut scenes and while it didn’t really bug us in a major way, it really could’ve added a lot more fuel to the game and made it sweeter. Be that as it may, when you brush that to the side and focus on what truly matters, which is the gameplay, RUINER doesn’t disappoint in any way whatsoever and only gets better the deeper you travel. Hard mode is a headache but it’s so worth trying after completing normal mode, we recommend it!
Absolutely stunning visuals with the cyberpunk feel.
The deep house vibes we got while listening to the music really got us going.
Wide variety of weapons allows for more strategic planning, and offers up more ways to kill the enemy.
Great story. Simple yet effective.
Very challenging but totally worth the effort.
Adrenaline pumping action.
Lack of voicing made it weird to watch cutscenes.
Honey's Final Verdict:
If we could provide a score for RUINER it would certainly be somewhere around the 9’s because it truly does stand out in a lot of ways. It’s clever use of humor in the form of emoticons while characters talk is great, while the cultural diversity pertaining to Chinese, Korean and even Japanese imagery is remarkable. It shows a great deal of respect to the likes of AKIRA and even Ghost in the Shell in some regard, so seeing that type of influence within the game truly makes RUINER a solid pick for indie game of the year. We only hope that there’s a sequel at some point with more polish (not that it needs any more than it already has, but hey why not!) to the gameplay, because we’d buy it in a heartbeat.
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!