Developing a title around the axis of unabashed violence, has provided gamers with an alluring niche genre, capitalizing on our baser instincts. Often struggling to balance style, substance and justification for its brutality.
Ruiner’s application of bloodletting combat, complementary audio, and visual aesthetic, are what drive the frenetic momentum of its gameplay, keeping me enthralled from one encounter to the next, as I embraced the jowls of darkness with euphoric enthusiasm. It’s addictive fun, but is it a well rounded experience?
Ruiner takes place in the fictional city of Rengkok in the year 2091. An intimately realized environment, brimming with reverent detail, corruption and sin. Despondent souls populate every corner, no longer able to afford their hedonistic pursuits. Forsaken youth stalk their prey from alleyways, as overt surveillance scans the streets below. The mesmerizing invitation of neon lures the anesthetized into the devil’s playground, while pariahs observe the hive from afar. The environment is believable, right down to each meticulously rendered interaction between the city’s many inhabitants. Eavesdropping conversations while exploring provides the player with fascinating contextual elements, often highlighting the juxtaposition of analog and future technologies, as grit recedes to gloss. Themes of deep social control, technological escapism and isolation, are explored within a plausible extension of modern reality.
Beneath the surface of this alluring backdrop, resides a labyrinthine underworld of harlots, outcasts, devious opportunists, murderous thugs and contract killers. Outlandish personalities provide stark contrast for the silent protagonist known only as Puppy. Emotive images dance across an LED helmet, as the disconnected trans-human attempts to interface with the world around him. Puppy exemplifies a stark contrast of solitary pursuit implanted within a cultural maelstrom of distraction.
Life in this cyberpunk city unfolds in a series of transient interactions with captivating characters which embody the culture and set the tone of Ruiner’s dystopian world. While Rengkok’s distinctive personalities are vast and engrossing, they fail to substantiate the story. Characters feel trapped within the context of their dilemmas, which rarely coincide with the overall narrative in a truly meaningful way.
Well written-textual exchanges, are accompanied by highly stylized images, serving as an intriguing contribution towards the overall visual appeal.
Violently rebooted after being hacked by a malevolent controller, you awaken to a pulsating boot screen, followed by a series of flickering images and text. A mysterious voice calls out in the darkness, informing you that your brother has been kidnapped, and the only way to find him is to scour the city for leads and exact vengeance upon his captors. While the story lacks substance, its simplicity lends itself to the fierce pacing of the overall experience, predicated on the visceral nature of intense combat.
Bullet fire erupts from every angle of the screen, illuminating noxious shadows; piercing alloy, flesh and concrete, as blood spatter paints the industrial canvas a viscous crimson. Iron shatters bone in lurid detail, as bodies soar through the air and explode onto an intricate landscape of circuitry and percussive machinery. Clean outlines and meticulous details highlight the oil painted aesthetic appeal of your surroundings. Saturated hues steal your attention, while dynamic light and shadow effects set the mood. Visually, Ruiner oozes with style and splendor, luring you in with violent imagery and grisly animations.
Ruiner’s isometric gameplay unfolds with seamless technical performance and dizzying inertia. Even on normal difficulty, combat is incredibly challenging yet fair. Surviving each brawl requires perpetual motion, razor sharp focus, positional awareness and adept utilization of the various abilities in your arsenal, including shields, grenades and a quintessential dash mechanic. Recognizing attack patterns, and capitalizing on split second holes in each enemies’ defense, marks the difference between progression and swift demise. A plethora of various enemy types, abilities, weapons and circumstances, keep the player yearning for the kinetic addiction of combat from one encounter to the next. The ability to re-allocate skill points at any time, free of cost, allows the player to effectively adapt their strategy to counter each enemy type. Incorporated into each level are imaginative boss encounters, which evolve to defy your progression and put your skills to the test.
The soundtrack of Ruiner fuses innovative soundscapes (akin to Vangelis’s work on the original Blade Runner), with the synchronizing pace of Hotline Miami. Pulse-pounding, snyth-based electronic beats, encompass the traumatic sounds of carnage. Each stratified track develops through phases, accompanying the pace of combat until your heart is ready to burst through your chest and onto the monitor. Complimenting the game’s more subdued scenes, are ephemeral vocal melodies and haunting ambient backgrounds composed by the legendary Susumu Hirasawa. Ruiner’s soundtrack is intoxicating, evoking a profound level of immersion and rounding out the overall experience.
Overcoming waves of murderous opposition, with indomitable momentum, drives the overall experience through distilled violence. An overriding confidence swells, as capabilities develop and panic wanes. Pupils dilate, muscles tense and heart rate elevates, as the adrenaline-fueled world of Ruiner indulges baser instincts. Ruiner succeeds in delivering a challenging, yet rewarding experience, that’s balanced, stylish and immensely fun to play.
|+Pulse-pounding combat||-A dynamic cast of supporting characters which feel disconnected from the main story|
|+Oozes with its own unique style|
|+Incredibly challenging but fair|
Developer: Reikon Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One,
Release Date: September 26, 2017