The wait for Ruiner is finally over and it’s safe to say that Reikon Games completely blew away all expectations with their first game.
Developer: Reikon Games
Platform: PC/PS4/Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a Steam code for review
It’s the year 2091 in the city Rengkok and your brother has just been kidnapped by some corporate goons and it’s your job to rescue him with the assistance of a mysterious and overly eager-to-help hacker. That’s as deep as the plot gets in Ruiner, but that’s okay because the combat is why you should be playing this game and Ruiner knows it. Anything else is just sprinkles on top of your hyper-violent ice cream.
I don’t really want to sit here and compare the game to Hotline Miami, but it’s hard not to. If you played that game you’re going to fall in love with Ruiner. Both games feature a similar top-down combat style and I’d honestly say Ruiner probably plays better since they managed to make both the melee and shooting feel incredibly balanced. “Tight” is how I’d describe the combat in Ruiner. There’s just a satisfying smoothness to the combat that similar games fail to achieve and the thumping, synth soundtrack just adds to the moment-to-moment combat. Ruiner does a good job of keeping things from getting repetitive by slowly introducing new enemy types and weapons at just the right pace. The moment you’ve figured out how to deal with a group of enemies, the game tosses a new guy at you when you least expect it. You’ll dance between enemies whacking them with sledgehammers and picking up a multitude of firearms from simple shotguns to the more ludicrous laser cannons, dishing out your brand of violence. I will admit that I did find issue with figuring out which gun is which during hectic combat battles. What might look like a shotgun could actually be a different gun from the same family and you won’t know until you pick it up and fire it. During a few fights I found myself dashing from gun to gun trying to see what each one was and anytime I’m not fighting goons the fun level drops.
Ruiner also has a sort of weapon rarity system built into it. After a battle is finished a grinder bot will drop down and destroy any unused weapons in the arena, spitting out experience points and a new weapon for you. The problem here is that I never got a sense for what determined what I’d get from the grinder. Did more weapons being grinded increase the chances of it dropping a rare weapon? Is there a way to make it spit out something specific like a melee weapon over a ballistic? The game never explains this and it’s frustrating grinding up a bunch of guns only to get something worse than the stuff you just trashed.
Finishing combat gauntlets or grinding up weapons will reward with you experience in the form of Karma. Gain enough Karma and you’ll level up which will grant you skill points you can invest in a variety of abilities that all make you better at killing. You have access to around a dozen different abilities that range from passive upgrades to active abilities like a hack that lets you take control of enemies. Each ability also has its own (linear) upgrade line that adds even more variety on top of it. The overdrive ability for example boosts all your stats to a ludicrous degree and upgrading that will eventually allow you to set enemies on fire or increase your damage the longer you can keep a combo going. Something that Ruiner does that I absolutely love is that it lets you redistribute your skill points whenever you want, even during a fight. Did you dump a lot of points into this stationary shield but you’re now fighting enemies that keep teleporting behind it? Remove those points and put them somewhere else. Playing around with all the abilities to form new combos is something Ruiner constantly encourages and it lets you play with your character in a way most games nowadays don’t really let you do.
Ruiner also features a rating system where it’ll grade your performance after each fight and give a final overall grade at the end of the level. The odd thing about this system is that you can’t actually view that information anywhere else, not even in the level select screen. I’m the kind of guy who likes to compare high scores with my friends or replay levels to get that perfect “S” rating so being unable to see what grade I got in a level doesn’t really leave me with the motivation to want to replay it; instead of keeping Ruiner installed it’s instead making a swifter move to my uninstall folder.
There are three locations you’ll travel to in the game that are each split into three to four levels. Each area follows the same method of running through gauntlets of enemies, fighting a miniboss at the end, and then capping off the set of levels with a story boss. Once that’s done you’re tossed out into a sort of hub area called Rengkok South that entices you to explore it, but the area clearly reeks of having higher aspirations than it delivers.
There are characters to speak to and side-missions to collect, but they either don’t lead to anything or are practically forced upon you. One side-mission is given to you by a police officer who asks you to kill eight targets in exchange for Karma. The problem here is that those eight targets are minibosses you’re forced to fight anyway so you’re sort of given a non-optional side-quest that you’ll complete regardless. Every time I fought one of these bosses the game would congratulate me for knocking another target off my list and I’d just shrug; it comes off more as empty praise. Maybe if you were able to refuse this quest I’d feel a little better about it. Being able to make the game harder for yourself by introducing a set of bosses you’d normally never fight would have definitely been an enticing offer. Another has you finding coins in exchange for a reading of your future, but to get access to those coins you need to do a side-quest for another character who will unlock access to the side-rooms those coins are in. What kind of backwards logic is this where I need to do one side-quest to be able to complete another? The game is littered with all these side-quests to do things that you’re forced to do anyway and it all comes off as pointless. There are also quite a lot of characters to talk to that give the impression that you should be receiving a side-quest from them, but instead all they offer is flavor text for the world. Now don’t get me wrong, getting to hang around Rengkok South is a welcomed breather after going through three levels of non-stop combat arenas, but you can’t help but get the feeling like there were more ambitious plans for this area.
The Final Word
If you’ve been looking for a new adrenaline pumping action game to scratch that itch, Ruiner just might be the exact thing you’re looking for.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good