Publisher Devolver Digital has a knack for spotting raw potential. Peruse their publishing pedigree and you'll see no shortage of gritty smash hits oozing with personality: Hotline Miami
, Enter the Gungeon
, Shadow Warrior
. Reikon Games' Ruiner
, a flashy shooter set in a cyberpunk slum, fits that bill and is a worthy addition to the list.
The story begins in a confusing haze. The main character — you — has no idea who they are. A girl, who the game refers to as "Her," contacts you. She nicknames you "Puppy," which is fitting, because you'll spend the game following her orders like a loyal canine. She says your brother's in trouble and you need to go kill some guy. This being a video game, you don't ask any further questions and hop to it. Objectives flash across your screen throughout the game: "Kill Nerve," "Find Brother." Lead pipe in hand, you'll proceed through Ruiner
's beautiful, but drab and dreary, cyberpunk environment. Ruiner
's unique aesthetic style drowns the world in red, which will only get redder once you're through with your enemies. It's really a great-looking game with an environment so convincingly bleak and abysmal that it's enticing.
You'll quickly graduate from the lead pipe to the Ruiner, the game's namesake gun. After that, the game takes on the feel of a twin stick shooter but with a whole lot more to do than shooting and moving. It's surprising to see at first, but there is a skill tree, and you can choose to invest in perks like shields, hacking enemies, different types of grenades, increased regeneration and more, with subsequent upgrades for all the above. The brutal, swift combat with a heavy focus on dodging makes you feel like a badass, and no one would judge you for letting out a fist pump here and there after successfully predicting and dodging a deadly enemy attack. This is amplified by the fact Ruiner
is far from a cake walk. You'll die often and suddenly until you get your rhythm down in combat and accompany it with a fleshed-out skill tree.
Aside from the default weapons, the Ruiner and your trusty old pipe, other tools of destruction are picked up on the ground and there are plenty with which to toy around. Flamethrowers, grenade launchers, shock weapons and deadly swords are just a handful of the more than 20 weapons you'll come across. It's a blast picking up a new item and excitedly waiting for the next enemy to approach so you can try it out.
When you hack someone, they get an adorable panda face and do all the work for you. What's not to love?
is a flawed game. The first few hours are filled with surprises, trial and error and a fresh feel. Every new enemy is a learning opportunity, and every new boss will shatter you in seconds before you figure out how to best combat their aggression. Ruiner
, however, gets less exciting as it drags on through what should be the defining moments of a video game. After a while, enemy spawns slip into repetition. You'll go toe to toe with the same bad guys and mini bosses over and over again. Worst of all, multiple boss fights, including the final boss, are copy-pastes of prior encounters. Not only does this take out the thrill, but say goodbye to the challenge. You already know how to fight them. Beating the last boss on the first try because it's a rehash of a prior boss is anticlimactic and downright lame.
The skill tree also isn't as awesome as it appears at first glance. Once you've gotten to grips with Ruiner
's combat, enemies and upgrades system, you'll realize some perks are absolutely necessary and others aren't worth putting a point in at all. The system allows you to remove points from upgrades you've invested into and re-spec at any time, which is nice, but it'd be a deeper experience if other strategies were viable. Ruiner
also gives the impression it's forcing you to go down specific paths: certain encounters are heavily focused on dashing and shielding, and you'll struggle without higher-level upgrades in these sections that could have been spent elsewhere. Similarly, the Ghost Break ability to hack enemies is a godsend in hectic fights, and being able to take control of the tankiest enemy instead of unloading dozens of clips into them is the best strategy without argument.
Your time with Ruiner
correlates with your skill level. It could run you seven to nine hours or more if you're struggling, but for a skilled player, a gamer on their second playthrough or someone breezing through it on Easy mode, that could be chopped in half. Luckily, the game has three difficulties, allowing you to choose the type of player you are: Easy, Normal or Hard, the difficulty recommended by the developers. Normal was frustrating at times but far from impossible, and Easy and Hard are great options to either lighten your burden or lay the punishment on thick (for all you masochists out there).
The dreary hub world
To earn all 27 achievements in Ruiner
, you'll need to beat the game on all three difficulties (which are stackable — if you beat it on Hard, you'll get the achievements for Easy and Normal). There are also several miscellaneous combat achievements and a couple side quests like bounties, collecting coins and hacking, but these are simple. The game is rather linear, so most players won't even need a guide for these, and it also has a built-in level select feature, so you can easily get back to parts that make it easier to get certain achievements. The trickiest achievement is to beat the game without dying
, but some players have already earned the achievement and completed the game, so it doesn't look to be an impossible undertaking with Easy mode and perhaps some tactical closing of the game if you get yourself in a pickle.
is a whirlwind of shooting, dodging and dying that falls just shy of true greatness. The shaded cyberpunk environments are depressing but beautiful, inviting you into a seedy criminal world where challenging enemies and badass weapons abound. Death is always one misstep away; you'll come to embrace it and take it in stride as you figure out what makes every opponent tick. However, by halfway through Ruiner
, you'll have seen all there is to see, as much of the late game encounters are lazy copy-pastes of enemies and bosses from earlier in the game. While it's cool there is a skill tree and perks to upgrade, some of them aren't worth investing into, and it feels like the developers try to push you down a specific leveling path with the way the encounters are set up. The frenetic, fast-paced combat is still a blast, especially if cyberpunk themes are your jam, and the opening levels of Ruiner
are some of the best gaming experiences to be had in a while.
- Trial-and-error gameplay feels fresh, fun and challenging
- Dark, dismal cyberpunk aesthetic style is awesome
- Brutal, fast-paced and badass combat
- Big arsenal of weapons and perks
- Later repetition of enemies and boss fights is monotonous and anticlimactic
- Skill tree isn't balanced well
The reviewer spent 11 hours with Ruiner, completing the game on Normal difficulty and returning to past levels to deal with miscellaneous achievements and collectibles. 19 achievements were won for 660 gamerscore. Although the game can be played on Xbox One or the Windows 10 store through Play Anywhere, for this review, it was played exclusively on Xbox One. A review code was provided by the ID@Xbox team.