*Reviewed On Xbox One*
Take the frantic combat of Hotline Miami and add a dash of Cyberpunk then blend it together to create Ruiner. A game that’s both artistically beautiful, yet frustratingly difficult.
Set in the city of Rengkok; you play as a nameless character that is sent on a revenge task. Tasked with nothing more than achieving one true objective: KILL BOSS. The core structure of Ruiner is a straight forward top-down shooter with an emphasis on style and sound rather than creative gameplay.
The world of Ruiner consists of different environments wherein the player can take on different enemies. Each new enemy is stylistically introduced in a freeze-frame caption that describes each villain type in an anime-homaged style in the vein of classic Cyberpunk. A parking garage section for example, will have city-dwelling scum, while factories and high security plants will have militaristic henchmen. Each one is fairly different and unique enough to be interesting-especially with the Cyberpunk flair. In typical game fashion the majority of the game consists of smaller “cannon-fodder” enemies leading up to a boss or mini-boss.
Fighting your way through each level can be slightly painful. While I appreciate hard games, Ruiner is hard to the point of losing its fun. I first started playing on hard mode to experience the type of difficulty the game would throw at me. Unsurprisingly, it’s quite brutal. Then I switched to easy in order to review the game, and I found that even on this difficulty there are moments that feel surprisingly unbalanced. Many combat encounters last too long for their own good. Even with the limited amount of weapons, I constantly found myself switching to a different dropped weapon in order to stay alive. Hopping between submachine guns, flamethrowers, and plasma rifles – with the occasional grenade or katana – just to shake things up.
Luckily like many Devolver published games, Ruiner has a killer soundtrack that blasts out of your speakers as you shoot your way through this dystopia akin to Hotline Miami. The use of music is a warm welcome, considering the majority of the game is somewhat tedious. Despite this, one thing that helps the tedium is the skill system; which is surprisingly robust. Ruiner has a set of skill trees with their own ability that can be upgraded by putting certain points into them. These points are earned when leveling up with experience. The coolest part about each skill tree is the flexibility. During any point in the game, you can access this menu and switch abilities to put points into. If a better energy shield is what you want over mind-controlling abilities, then you are free to switch things up.
Experience itself isn’t the hardest to come-by, as after each combat encounter XP is awarded. There’s also the additional XP that can be collected by a machine called The Grinder. After each battle The Grinder will float onto the arena and once activated, sends a pulse that’ll transform each gun on the ground into XP. This optional implementation is good for choosing whether or not you want to switch-out certain weapons on the ground, or use The Grinder instead.
Ruiner is certainly artistic, but the longevity of the game just isn’t there. Unless you’re a perfectionist when it comes to mastering each section or a challenge junkie, then there’s not much else to Ruiner. There are some small side-missions, but they’re pretty much nonexistent in the off-mission hub – unless searched for.
Reikon Games has made a beautiful and stylish game despite it’s unbalanced difficulty. Making for a strong, self-contained experience that really puts forth a challenge.