Ruiner – Review
In recent times it seems we have been blessed with an abundance of high-quality twin-stick shooters. From Alienation to Assault Android Cactus to Redeemer, it appears that the once dead genre is back and showing signs of both innovation and originality. This is where Devolver Digital’s latest bloodfest comes in, riding high on the back of those that came before it and leaving a bloody swath of dismembered limbs and rotting entrails in its wake. This slaughterfest is called Ruiner and it may just be the most challenging entry in the genre I have ever encountered.
I have to be honest with you, this is the first time I have ever received a game to review with a note from the developers that said it was ok to turn down the difficulty, that it was more than ok to play at the easiest level. Years of video game experience and the cock-sure attitude that brings led me to ignore that advice. I dove straight into the usual setting I play these games on, one above normal. Not the hardest, but certainly no cake walk. By the end of the second level, I had crumbled. The difficulty had dropped to normal. From here I slogged, sliced and shot my way through about 2/3rds of the game before it beat me once again. With my head bowed in shame, I clicked that easy button and plowed on. Let me make this clear to you, this is a hard game. Perhaps the hardest I have ever played in the genre. To succeed you will need a combination of lightning reflexes and super-keen awareness, two things I clearly lack.
Thankfully the combat is so entertaining I didn’t mind how many times I died. A lot of games that challenge me like this one end up becoming a bit of a chore, but thanks to the fluid nature of the encounters and the fact I was thrust back into the action quickly after death meant that the drudgery never came. This is helped by a huge skill tree which I could upgrade using karma, the game’s currency, and mix and match the combat to suit me. There was also no penalty for re-speccing my build which allowed me to experiment and change tactics as the situation demanded. Another thing I noticed was that there was always a way forward, no matter how difficult the challenge may seem. With a little thinking, a new ability or a new tactic I could take down even the toughest of bad guys.
Speaking of bad guys this is where the game disappoints a little. There was little variety in the types of enemies that sought to kill me. The same goons are repeated constantly and the only difference seems to be their moves and abilities. They all essentially look the same. In fact, variety is something this game lacks. Set in a Cyberpunk future, Ruiner is almost exclusively set in an environment that could only be described as “futuristic meat factory.” It is such a shame, even though I only just finished the game before typing this, I am struggling to remember one enemy or location that stood out. The bosses, while super entertaining to battle, were just as forgettable leaving me with the memory of an outstanding section of combat against a cliched and unoriginal enemy.
The story of Ruiner, while somewhat simple and predictable, was entertaining enough to have me invested. Playing as a nameless killer who is unsure of who he is or what he is required to do is always a solid (if overused) start to a game. Add some cyberpunk mind hacking and gangster double-crossing and you have yourself a solid slice of Sci/fi B movie fun. That familiar, if fun, feeling permeates through the rest of the tale and despite a somewhat sudden ending (that I think maybe as a result of me finishing the game on easy) I was invested in my amnesia suffering anti-hero and was keen to see his story play out. The game lasted about 5 hours from start to finish and it never outstays its welcome. Actually, it felt about the right amount of time for the game. I feel that had the game gone longer I would have probably gotten sick of it, it is, after all, a repetitive genre by nature, so ending it at the 5-6 hour mark seems a smart move by developer Reikon Games.
Ruiner takes the recent resurgence of twin-stick shooters, slaps a cyberpunk skin on it and douses it with a bucket of blood. The game’s difficulty could be a sticking point for some, but for those up for the challenge an enthralling game of twin-stick murder awaits. Excellent combat, an entertaining story and some cool abilities more than make up for the lack of variety. Ruiner is the perfect experience for a twin-stick veteran looking for something a little different to cut their teeth on or a gamer that thrives on challenge and doesn’t have a squeamish stomach. Ruiner is a gory journey that is worth taking, just don’t be afraid of dropping the difficulty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.