Ruiner Game Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Devolver Digital
Developed by Reikon Games
2017, Rated M
Game released on 26th September 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam
What can I say about Ruiner? This top-down shooter captured my attention months back with its sexy cyber-punk aesthetic and shiny GIFs showing off fast-paced, tech-encouraged action. With each mysterious message and snapshot of combat shown, I became more excited to play it for myself. Over the last week, I managed to nab a review copy for PlayStation 4 and head into the game’s seedy underbelly for myself. Find out why I think you probably want this game in your life.
Before I go on, I feel like I should briefly mention that Ruiner isn’t a horror, in any way. It is, however, a compelling universe in which you would probably fear for your civilian life amidst corruption, body augmentation, and no doubt drug and human trafficking – that’s just the kind of dystopian cyber-punk reality we’ve come to expect. So, onto the action…
And, since Ruiner’s core is its action, I’ll blast through this aspect first. From the get-go, gameplay is challenging, but extremely fun. Fast-paced, visceral, and surprisingly tactical, requiring quick strategies and even quicker movement. If you’re not moving, you’re dead. Given that enemies are similarly fast-paced, Ruiner benefits from fluid controls and motion, unhindered by a distracting HUD, meaning that the only thing holding you back is likely to be your mind and eyes’ ability to keep up with the action on screen. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll manage this.
Equally fluid is switching between melee and ranged weapons, together with your arsenal of abilities – which I’ll go into later. Both melee and ranged weapons have a default for when you run out of ammo so that you’re never left empty-handed, but the weapons you’ll collect throughout your journey are where the fun is at. All weapons have a different feel to them, and there are plenty of options to choose from as you begin tearing down those that stand in your way.
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As expected, there are the regular hand-guns, machine guns, shotguns and grenade launchers, which all have their purpose and feel robust, though it wouldn’t be the future without something a little wackier. Think flying razor blades, sub-zero rays, and little balls of floating electricity. Before long you’ll have favourite melee and ranged weapons, which are likely to be replaced with other favourites down the line. Everyone likes options.
My personal favourite melee weapon was the HF Blade, which sliced through foes with ease, and my favourite ranged weapon had to be the Xaar, which burned flesh from bone in just a few concentrated seconds. You already knew I was a little messed up, right?
A range of weapons is also very much needed when you’re dealing with such a range of enemies, which Ruiner certainly has. They start off pretty simple – your basic henchmen, armed with basic weapons and an even more basic hatred of the world – and soon become technologically and strategically advanced. You might be able to dash about the stages and shield yourself, but so can they. It becomes a challenge of tactics and speed as much as a challenge of who might be holding the biggest gun. Luckily, you’ll have more than just dashing and shielding in your cyber-punk kit.
By using levelling up and collecting Karma, Ruiner’s version of experience points, you can unlock, purchase, and upgrade abilities. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to purchase or upgrade these fully within one playthrough, meaning that you’ll end up choosing abilities that suit your own personal playstyle. For example, there are some abilities that are mapped to the same keys, meaning that you change between them using an ability wheel – such as switching between a shock grenade and an explosive grenade. Personally, this switching took me out of the fast-paced action of the game and so I opted to stick to one ability per key and upgrade.
Some skills are more offensive – like the grenades mentioned above – while others more defensive, such as different types of shields that bounce projectiles back at foes or slow them down. Having said that, even these could become an offensive tool once upgraded, if that’s how you’d prefer to play.
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In addition, there are passive skills that increase your overall health, energy (used to activate the abilities), and consecutive dashes – all of which aim to make your journey a little easier. Even in those times when you’re replaying a certain stage or boss fight a few times, potentially throwing out a few curse words here and there, the skills at your disposal and the world you’re playing through are captivating enough that you’ll quickly bounce back.
In fact, I can’t say enough about the world that Reikon Games has created in Ruiner. They’ve nailed it. At just a glance you understand the kind of environment you’re fighting through, whether that be the gritty, neon streets of Rengkok South where you’ll spend most of your time outside of missions, or the dark, dirty factories where most of these missions seem to take place – though, granted, these factories do become a little repetitive as the missions go on, even if the team are trying to make a statement by having them all look almost identical.
Put in just a tiny bit of exploration on your part, though, and you’ll also find characters and elements to add a little further to this world, such as individuals with interesting conversation and side missions dotted around, or residents with their own unique opinions and problems. Also, speak to a brand of factory robot called ‘Yoshi’. You’ll thank me.
In addition, Ruiner's soundtrack complements the cyber-punk world well, with a mix of techno and sometimes surreal screams that break through. This might seem like a strange mix, but like in the cyber-punk worlds of Total Recall and Blade Runner, you never really know who you can trust and this echoes that sentiment. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to me.
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I only had one real issue throughout my playthrough and it was incredibly minor. There was a little machine called a “weapon grinder”, which spewed out experience and weapons at the end of stages. Occasionally it just didn’t bother shooting out a new weapon. I was normally already holding something pretty deadly so I was never that put out, though it was strange considering it was what I’d come to expect. Probably nothing more than a glitch, and not one that corrupted my enjoyment in the slightest.
Other than this, my only gripe would be the need to ever switch abilities in the middle of a fight. While I appreciate that this allows players a degree of personalised gameplay, and might have made some stages easier, it felt counterproductive in keeping up the pace that Ruiner sets for itself. Again, if a player wants to switch up strategies on the fly then this won’t be a sticking point, but it might be noticed by players like me who want to stay in the moment.
Ruiner is a fast-paced, addictive, challenging top-down shooter set in a well-crafted cyber-punk world and narrative that will have you questioning the motives and moral compasses of those you interact with. The bustling neon streets of Rengkok South are a pleasure to explore in your few moments of downtime between the chaos of missions, along with a few interesting characters and side missions if you dig a little deeper.
All in all, Reikon Games hacked into my brain with Ruiner and I’m not even a little bit mad. The game isn’t easy, and it definitely isn’t relaxing, but the intense fun I had over a few days is exactly what I wanted in my sadly time-short adult life, and I’d recommend trying it for yourself on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Steam.