Hands-on Impressions of RONIN: Like Spider-Woman with a Blade
One of the few games that had its official unveil at PAX South was RONIN, which is developed by Tomasz Waclawek, and will be published for PC, Mac, and Linux platforms by Indie super publisher Devolver Digital sometime this fall. This unique turn-based action platformer definitely drew in large crowds at the DD booth, and after getting some hands-on time with RONIN, it’s easy to see why PAX South attendees flocked to its station.
RONIN features a heroine on a quest of vengeance who must take down five evil corporate lackeys over fifteen missions using her skills with a katana and razor wire, as well as the art of stealth. Visually it plays out on a 2D plane with retro style graphics that don’t necessarily fall under the whole pixel art movement that has taken root with Indie developers. The art style is memorable, feeling almost like a cartoon thanks to the sharp lines used in the design of the characters and the environments. The flat design is quite charming, making RONIN stand out amongst other Indie titles, and it also features some fantastic stylized gore courtesy of the main character’s skills with the weapons of a ninja. This is a game that is both fun to watch and play, which speaks volumes about its artistic design.
The style of the game is memorable, but the gameplay is what sets it apart from other titles that are either purely turn-based, or a full on traditional platformer. I’ve honesty never experienced the hybrid gameplay that RONIN offers, but its promise of sporting turn-based action oriented gameplay with platforming is completely legit, even if those terms don’t make sense lumped together. Platforming and action don’t really go hand in hand with turn-based gameplay, but Tomasz has somehow successfully married the three genres together into one cohesive experience.
The action and platforming pieces make up a majority of RONIN’s gameplay, and both are frenetic to say the least. The levels are made up of buildings that you can see into as if the front of the building was chopped off like a dollhouse, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get into them without disturbing the laser scope gun toting baddies in suits. You must guide the heroine into these buildings using a grappling hook that behaves similar to Spider-Man’s web slingers. Once attached to a building or roof the heroine can scale the surface like a spider, or use her grappling hook to create a pendulum-like effect that allows her to swing off of a rooftop and smash through windows like John McClane in Die Hard 1.
When inside the buildings the action part of RONIN’s gameplay kicks into high gear, but it can be tempered with the turn-based aspect of the game, or the stealth mechanics. You can try to go toe-to-toe with the security guards and slice them to pieces in a glorious display of stylized blood sprays, which truly do offer some exciting gameplay moments, or you can stick to the shadows and use the razor wire to string up bad guys from the ceiling a la Batman, except there’s no considerations for human life by the heroine.
The action really starts to get interesting when the turn-based piece kicks in, which is extremely unique when compared to other turn-based titles. RONIN doesn’t have any sort of move clock to work through like an XCOM, all the action and platforming happens dynamically in real-time, but what you can do is essentially stop time, bullet-time style, and then plot out your attacks to unleash the most deadly combo of moves you can to win the day.
For example, you could enter a room with multiple bad guys all pointing their lasers at you, stop time mid-jump, aim under the lasers, and then propel yourself forward with ninja-like speed to finish the execution. I’m sure that sounds clunkier than it really is, so if you need better reference check out RONIN in action below.
If you enjoy action platformers but like the strategy piece that a turn-based title can offer, then you will definitely be intrigued by RONIN. It has a memorable visual style that offers a flat aesthetic with defined lines and a cartoon charm. The gameplay somehow manages to successfully balance the action, platforming, and turn-based aspects without making the experience clunky, which leads to its addictive qualities, and will surely entice speed runners and fans of Indie games looking for a new type of game to experience. RONIN is set to release towards the end of 2015, so head over to Steam and make sure to add it to your wish list for safekeeping.
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