I wish I could go back in time and experience the opening levels of ruiner for the first time with a controller. Reikon Games’ top-down cyberpunk shooter pretty much demands the fluidity of twin-stick control, even at the cost of mouse-and-keyboard precision. And by “demand” I mean the game was kicking my head in six ways until Sunday before I realized the optimal way to play.
The hardness of the action is wired by the hardness of ruiner‘stone. The world of the game is as red as Carrie at the prom and values human life just as much. An opening crawl of text warns you that this dystopian future is as much about malice as it is mega-corporate profit – that hacking into people’s brains and screwing up their lives “has never been so much fun.”
That form sometimes gets in the way of function. Usually, red bullets are guided by red laser lights to produce red blood across enemies’ red metal floors and red-marked weapons. Add in the weird explosion or glitchy screen noise as your character’s brain gets hacked and the action becomes impossible to read at times. Fortunately, that action is smooth enough to compensate for these occasional issues (as long as you’re playing with a controller).
KILL BOSS…and then some
All that action isn’t clouded with plot either. ruiner drop your nameless faceless avatar into a closely guarded corporate hideout. Your goal to crackle “KILL BOSS” crackles loudly across the screen and ether waves on repeat. Things escalate when a miniboss fight forces you to juggle a timer, which extends each time you kill an enemy, along with dodging shotgun and assault rifle fire.
Dodging is your first and most essential skill, but it certainly won’t be your last. You earn skill points by leveling up through battles, side missions, and XP found in chests scattered across stages. You can spend those skill points on new abilities, such as letting you sprint multiple times in a row without resting or slowing down time at the expense of continuous energy.
What could you do? not think skill points can be redistributed for free, on the fly, in any skill. This means that not only can you customize your own playstyle, but you can Get on to adapt that style without fear of sanctions. This flexibility gives the shooter a puzzle game layer as you try trial and error to find the best mix of skills to take on new enemies and bosses.
Figuring out how best to deal with enemies’ constantly changing rhythms and lineups quickly became half the fun for me, as I theoretically craft my LED-masked avenger to my heart’s content. The other half of the fun came from ducking and weaving, prioritizing which target in a given wave of enemies to destroy, and deciding which of their dropped weapons to use for a few rounds.
Fast friends and harsh reality
A handful of fights, especially boss fights, require a hard set of skills to continue. ruiner pushes you in the right direction via ‘Her’ in these cases. This mysterious, totally trustworthy-we-promise woman acts as a guide and narrator between missions in the hubworld-esque city of Rengkok, where most of the story is plagued by disembodied broadcasts and indices in the main menu.
But ruiner is more about style than about exposition. The red decor overflows into title cards that introduce each new enemy. Industrial Compressed Start horns accentuate scene changes. Neon signs reflect on our 99 percent silent hero’s mask before breaking out in a message straight from Cyber City Oedo 808.
With all that hard-hitting, driving techno soundtrack – not to mention it’s released by Devolver Digital – it’s hard not to compare ruiner until Hotline Miami. But what was the cult hit of 2012 about? schedule raid rooms full of enemies, play ruiner is more reactive.
You can take a few strokes here, and you definitely will. Gunfire naturally moves faster than you do, so you track bullets back to their source and determine smooth paths through levels based on where those bullets aren’t. Those narrow lanes then twist and deform, depending on the ranged and melee weapons that enemies drop. Combat is an overwhelming mix of battlefield cramps that require frequent rewriting of strategies, making it all immensely satisfying every time you overcome it.
ruiner is not quite bullet hell, a puzzle game, an RPG or a standard shooting game. It borrows from all of these genres, yet ties them with devotion to style. That identity is maintained for most of the 8 to 10 hours ruiner together as something more than the sum of its parts.
There were a few moments when the game’s dedication to crimson got in the way of that careful mixing, but, like the levels themselves, I got better and better at reading it over time. ruiner currently it lacks any kind of colorblind mode or even just the ability to customize the UI, so make your purchase decision accordingly based on whether those screenshots seem interpretable to you.
Another glaring omission is to convert any kind of mode ruiner‘s smooth fight to infinite use. Your performance will be rated at the end of each mission and encounter in it, but the scores are not displayed anywhere. l could bring my proficient character back to previous levels to do better, but without clear evidence of my achievements, there is little compulsion to do so. That means I probably won’t be trying that first hour of the game with a controller anytime soon.
Something like daily challenges or a boss rush mode can also fill the game’s replay gap. “i just want more ruiner to play” isn’t the worst problem to have though – for me or the game. As it is, this tight, linear package is still plenty of intense fun on its own.
- Tough cyberpunk aesthetic never gets lighter, never gets old
- Satisfactory battle calculations come together and run smoothly
- You can build your own playstyles by endlessly tinkering with skill builds
- You definitely need a controller to play if you buy on PC
- A lack of replay modes like time trials, boss rush, or daily challenges
- Too much red sometimes makes the action hard to read
the ugly one
- Constantly being reminded of our company-run dystopia
verdict: ruiner has a lot in common with other top-down action games, but combines bits of all in a uniquely demanding, satisfying shooter. Buy it.