What is “Ruiner”? by TC Harris
Ruiner is a cyberpunk and anime inspired top down twin-stick shooter, developed by Reikon Games. It draws a lot of inspiration from the genre, while infusing it with game play unique to the property. Although sharing a few brutal similarities with yet another Devolver published title (Hotline Miami), the two titles couldn’t be anymore different. The inception of the idea for Ruiner was born from a small development team comprised of seasoned game creators back in December of 2014. The original pitch for the idea is fabled to have been a cyberpunk “Hotline Miami”, but what they eventually created easily became one of my favorite twin-stick shooters of all time.
On the surface, you’ll immediately feel a momentary sense of familiarity with a similar games within the genre. Due to it’s isometric design, and twin-stick controls. The easiest, and most referenced source of inspiration respectably, is Hotline Miami. Both feature brutal gameplay, and leaves it to the player to rely on adaptability in order to survive the perils they’ll often find themselves in. At its core, Ruiner is essentially a horde styled boss rush game, with the majority of your time spent clearing “kill boxes” before engaging the boss for that specific area. There is a narrative to follow, as well as a built in hub world to explore, although from my opinion, that particular piece of the world feels slightly underdeveloped, as it exists mainly for narrative pieces, and mission deployment. With the release of their first DLC, and talks of possible future DLC releases, I feel that this part of the game will be further developed, but to be fair, you’re here for the action! Ruiner is not a power fantasy game at first. That is not to say that you won’t be stringing together combos, reshuffling your skill tree to brandish even more brutality against the endless drones who’ve been sent to dispatch you, while feeling like a boss. No, you will have to earn your kills, and learn from the many (MANY) mistakes you’ll inevitably make along the way. I will say that after completing the game on hard, maxing out my skill tree, and returning to earlier levels…Yes.. I truly felt like a God!
Originally, there wasn’t a new game plus mode available, meaning your only recourse to exact revenge on the deaths you sustained earlier in the game, was to revisit the very same initial levels, in order to get your power fix. This has been wonderfully corrected, with the addition of the Ruiner Annihilation update! New game plus mode adds a second level of difficulty, as well as allowing you to carry over all of your previously earned upgrades from your last playthrough. Arena Mode is 10 stages of absolute hell! At the start of each stage, you are given the choice of one of your possible skill tree powers, and a choice of a gun. The only advice I can provide people willing to take this challenge, is to choose your upgrades carefully! It can make the difference between finishing all ten rounds, or having to start all over again. There is also a speedrun mode for those who are masochists, like myself. Aside from an achievement for completing it, you can earn additional skins for your character. Nothing quite says vengeance and death, than running around skinned as Ghost Rider!
I will not spoil the narrative for those who have yet to play this title, but can tell you that like many stories within the genre, this is at its core, a revenge story. A web of intrigue will unravel, as you begin to not only question the intel you are being provided, but also yourself. I will say that without a doubt, this game rests highly on my list of recommendations. The game requires patience and timing, and knowledge that you’re going to die a lot going in. If you can stand tall through the carnage and adversity, you’ll enjoy the surprisingly weighty 10-20 hour playtime of Ruiner. Whether you play it physically or digitally (XBO, PS4, Steam) It is definitely a title I’d add to my collection. The only critiques I can find with this title rest solely in the lack of handholding. You’re thrown into the initial stage, with a very basic tutorial for how to affectively stay alive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for those, like myself, who wish to discover what a game has to offer without endless exposition.
I also found that the frame rate dropped considerably, when facing larger hordes of assiliants, and did experience a few needless deaths, from clipping into walls, and surrounding pieces of the environment while using the dash mechanic. Overall, none of these issues ultimately ruined my playthrough. I’ve yet to play this title on PC, but will update this review once I’ve done so, to report any experiences I feel differ from my initial opinions listed here. I do feel that perhaps this game would be better played with keyboard and mouse.
A special thank you goes out to Special Reserve Games, for releasing this title physically.