Devolver Digital’s publishing initiative delivers yet again with Ruiner. The FingerGuns review;
‘Hey Rossko, we have a review code for Devolver Digital’s Ruiner, do you fancy it?’
Whenever a game which has ‘Devolver Digital Presents’ in its opening credits is a game worth checking out in my book. It’s been a stellar 2017 for the team, knocking it out the park with more or less every release and capping it all off with that rather special E3 conference. I’ll happily check out whatever they deem us worthy to throw our way and if Ruiner is how they choose to close out 2017, then that’s all good with me.
Ruiner puts you in the shoes of a vigilante who, after being set up by one of the games many villains, is on a mission to bring him down and save his missing brother. Throughout the initial level – which is pretty much the most balls to the wall tutorial you’ll ever play -, this villain is in your head telling you to take down the Boss, something that you’re reminded off rather frequently. Still, intertwined between these moments are where you learn how to control your character, with each progressive section of the level brilliantly designed to hone your new skills. The gameplay is clean, the controls concise – left stick controls your isometric movement, right stick is your aim -, which makes it rather easy to get your head around with little effort, thanks to how well the game describes each new addition to your arsenal such as weapons and shields and energy bars.
As you progress your enemies naturally get a little tougher and it’s up to you to utilise all the game has taught you to make it through a mini-boss level. Your health and energy do not regenerate – at least not at first – so you’ll need to make sure you hit health and energy stations dotted around to keep them stocked up. Your movement has to be precise and immediate, your enemies are just as brutal as you can be, though you have the added extra of utilising certain skills together to enable either a quick getaway or a visceral attack. Being able to combine my shield and quick dash had got me out of a jam several times. Your weapons are limited use – one clip and you’re out – so I found myself relying on my fantastic melee weapon to smash in the skulls of all the fools who dared take me on. When a sequence ends where you’re surrounded by goons, their lifeless corpses surround you, their blood smeared across every wall and ceiling. It’s quite the sight to behold.
Naturally, your character has a skill tree, which is all pretty straightforward. What it does allow you to do is level up certain skills over others, so if you’re more tactical in your attacks you may want to upgrade your dash and your shield abilities. If you’re far more offensive you’re going to want to upgrade your health and energy regens. The skill tree can be tailored to how you play an awful lot more than I was expecting, and this gave a nice personal nod to the gamers who like to go through these kinds of titles in their own way. The flexibility is welcoming.
It’s a shame the story itself is all a little haphazard. It works well enough as a way to tie all of this madness together but offers little in the way of getting too deep into a narrative. The deeper meaning of perception in Ruiner doesn’t pay off as nearly as well as it thinks it does and by the end I realised that I disliked pretty much every single character which I met, especially my nameless, wordless protagonist who had about as much as charisma as a dishcloth. When you’re in conversation moments with characters your meet and your only options in terms of dialogue are ‘nod’ and ‘shrug’, I struggled to give a damn about his plight. If he seemingly doesn’t care then why should I? With the story based around him saving his brother, where is his own urgency? He’s a hell of a fighter but it almost felt like at times he was only going to save him because he has too, and that didn’t sit right with me. By the way, corporations are bad, if you didn’t know already. Just a heads up.
It’s worth a shout out to the music too, which is absolutely spectacular, beautifully catching the sense of dread and the futuristic trash heap that is the world of Ruiner. Someone send me the album immediately because I want to blast it in my ears for all time. It’s up there with some of the best uses of music this year. Absolutely stonking, which isn’t a word I use in reviews often.
Visually, it’s difficult to complain. It all just looks fantastic and has that absolute seal of approval that is the Devolver spit and polish. The movement feels brilliant and there’s not a hint of slowdown or jaggedness. The hub world which connects the levels together is a rundown city, ‘the lowest of the low’, drowned in darkness, showered in neon like a gold star on a garbage bin. It’s worth noting the use of light and colour – where it’s actually used – is beautiful and compliments the visceral nature of the world of Ruiner perfectly. Visually, Ruiner is spellbinding. Reikon Games have created a world I’d never want to visit but loved exploring.
Ruiner is also tough as absolute nails. You’re recommended to play this game on Hard – the way the developers want you to play -, and well, it’s just absolute insanity near the end of the games four and a bit hours. From the very beginning to the end I died a lot, possibly in the hundreds, and had to knock it down just to see the game through. I make no bones about it, I couldn’t complete this game on Hard. Dammit, I really sodding tried too though. If you jump into this game and complete it on Hard, if you’re the first to let me know. I’ll send you some random gamer swag.
Ruiner is terrific. The story is a bit of a misfire and the characters are difficult to engage with, but the solid gameplay, the terrific visuals and the cracking soundtrack should get you through. The difficulty levels are overwhelming – at least for me – but it doesn’t take away from the fact Ruiner is just a great game.
A really bloody great game.
RUINER is out now on PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One and PC
Developer: Reikon Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For more information on our review policy please go here.