Nearly every single encounter in Ruiner is a learning experience, whether it be with gun-toting henchmen or one of the many bosses in the game. I’ve never played any action-RPG/twin-stick shooter quite like it; it’s a unique beast in a (mostly) good way! Nearly every single boss killed me at least once, and some of them killed me an embarrassing amount of times. Even so, the game only took me about five or six hours to beat, so I easily recommend it to most people—especially considering the fact that it’s not a full-priced game.
Being that the game is fairly short, the story probably could have used a little bit more time to be something truly memorable. Now, I know some people will say “Oh, story doesn’t matter, it’s a really gritty, gruesome shooter, just take it for that!” You know, I would, but so much time during the game is spent trying to develop characters, including yourself, to give you motive to keep playing. Clearly, you’re supposed to care about the story, so I think it’s only fair to consider it greatly when grading this game.
Let’s talk about the story, which has some serious promise to deliver a hard-hitting, emotion-packed finale, and flubs so hard. The whole game, you’re essentially trying to rescue your brother, who has been kidnapped by an organization called “HEAVEN,” in order to get you to do their dirty work. Your brain is hacked in the early bits of the game by a girl claiming to try to help you get your brother back from them.
Now, I’m going to be revealing some big spoilers here, so if you haven’t played the game, and really want to know what happens, I suggest not reading more of this section of the review.
It turns out that your brother is the leader of this organization, and the girl that hacked you was using you to get to him and kill him. Your brother only wanted you around for spare parts for himself, and you found out that he’s the one that took your arm (though that’s never really talked about in the game before the very end). This would have had more weight if you found out that all of the people that you killed on the way to him weren’t so bad, but they really were. I would’ve much preferred an ending where you actually rescue your brother, or that you were leading her to him so that she could kill him, and he wasn’t a bad guy. Then you could fight the girl and kill her at the end. That, I would have liked more, but there’s barely even a boss fight. The final battle is just a horde of enemies and a copy/paste of a boss that you’d already fought three times prior (and you fight him twice again).
The end of this game was so underwhelming that it almost ruined what had come before it. The biggest kick in the nuts is that there are “multiple” endings, one where you kill your brother with a pipe, and one where you shoot him, but it cuts out both times to you riding a motorcycle. L. A. M. E.
I wish I could say that this is the only time that a plot point gets totally flubbed, but it’s not. For a game with some really cool, memorable bosses, this game loves to recycle old bosses and just give them a different gun, or even take skills away from them and toss them at you. If this game had ten bosses, three of them would be original, fun, and exciting, and seven would either be re-skins or regular enemies with really big health bars. Those three bosses are really memorable fun to fight, but the rest are just bland and boring. This coming from Devolver Digital is weird because those guys are so creative, it seemed like they just ran out of ideas here. This kind of makes certain boss fights that should feel cool or intense just feel like another boss fight, and that really takes you out of the situation and reminds you that you’re just playing a video game.
The gameplay is fun, fast-paced, and requires you to constantly be switching your skills around to accommodate it. Some enemies really like showering you with bullets, so bring in a kinetic barrier to block them, and shoot em right back from safety. Some enemies are lightning fast and opt for just cleaving your head off with a sword or claws, so you’ll wanna upgrade your dash and your health to keep up (and stay alive). Ruiner isn’t too hard, you just have to put a little strategy into fights, that’s all.
You can reallocate skill points at any time, even mid-battle, and it’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in that you can switch around your skill points and, at later levels, be able to max out whatever skills you want. However, constantly having to pause and putz around a menu in a game that’s supposed to be fast, brutal, etc. isn’t really fun. I would rather have a lot more skill points, or be able to level up more easily so that I could just have everything unlocked all at once. That’s not a huge thing or a deal breaker, but for some bosses, I tried out many skill combos and sitting at that menu got pretty tired after a while.
Rengkok South is the sort-of hub world that you’ll be in between levels, and there’s not a ton of levels, so you’ll only be here a handful of times. This is by far the most unnecessary part in the whole game. Everything that happens here could easily be a one or two-minute long cutscene between levels.
There’s a couple of side quests that you can get here—one is hunting for cats on the streets, and I still don’t know what the hell that does. The other is collecting coins in levels. I think I missed one throughout my whole playthrough, and I’m not sure what those do, either. Everything that you do or get here is almost completely pointless and just seems like filler to waste your time and pad out the game time.
Even though the gameplay is damn good, the visuals and music of Ruiner are the shining nuggets in this game. Ruiner‘s soundtrack fits so perfectly, and the sound effects are just as amazing. The visuals during gameplay are fantastic, and actually look better than they do in the cutscenes (for the most part), I think because they run in-engine. When we get up-close and personal to the character models, they are a bit ugly and a little scary to look at.
The drawings of each character that’s shown in the dialogue exchanges or right before their boss fights are amazing. I want a set of prints of all of the portraits in this game because they are so fucking amazing to look at. Whoever drew those, hats off to you, sir or madam, because that’s some of my favorite video game artwork of all time.
Also, whoever designed the girl that guides you through the game, I want her jacket. Make that jacket real, please. I just love her design.
Lastly, here’s some stuff I wanted to point out to, hopefully, get fixed in a future patch:
- The Framerate in Rengkok is AWFUL on the Xbox One. It chugs so hard.
- Laser trip wires are in one or two levels early on in the game, and since the color palette of said levels is basically the same as those wires, they’re impossible to see. If these could be brighter or something, that would be great; otherwise, it feels like a cheap death.
- The hacking mechanic (to open doors and weapon lockers) is entirely pointless because it is so easy and you’re given so much time. This should just be eliminated entirely. It adds nothing. It wastes time and is just another example of padding.
- The game crashed on me about four times, always during boss fights, and that’s frustrating. This shouldn’t happen.
Given all of the positives this game has, and all of its negatives are somewhat small-scale (game crashing isn’t small, but the menus, the boring hub world, etc. aren’t huge deals), Ruiner is well above-average. It’s not just another twin-stick shooter, even though there are some things that could be better. The aesthetic of the game is very cool. It’ll grab attention for that.
I don’t think it’s going to be anywhere near action game of the year or anything, but I highly enjoyed my time with Ruiner. It’s fun as hell, and a great game to beat in a day, though there’s not much reason to go back after the first playthrough. Devolver Digital continues to flex its creative muscles, and I could see this game getting a sequel that could fix a lot of the problems it has. It’s a memorable game with cool character design, cool music, and I guarantee we’ll be seeing some awesome merch from iam8bit or FanGamer. It’s dripping with possibilities for shirts, comics, and everything in between.
Play this game. It’s a bloody, brutal, retro-fueled blast!
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