Hey, listen! Did you like Cuphead? Well prepare for Cuphead just with ultraviolence, pretty cyberpunk imagery and plenty of shrugging (it’s in the game). Ruiner is the latest action spectacle from Poland, the same country that brought us the Shadow Warrior reboot and The Witcher. There’s no shortage of intense action, bloodshed and epic music here but while you’re having a tough time deciding what game to buy, I’ll enlighten you if Ruiner is worth the purchase.
Ruiner takes place in the distant future where corporations are evil and people are either power hungry douche bags or murdering psychopaths. Well, you play as one of these delightful psychopaths who is out for revenge after being brainwashed into assassinating a figure known as Boss. With the help of a hacker named “Her” (no Mother! Jokes please) we see our protagonist who is regarded as a puppy by the hacker, set off to find those reasonable for his brainwashing and to also rescue his kidnapped brother.
What follows is a tale of revenge as our main lead infiltrates some of the darkest parts of Rengkok City where human trafficking, gangs and mass murder reign supreme. Ruiner is divided into essentially three acts with each act taking us into a different main location constructed of several levels. There’s a fascinating construct to the lore of Ruiner with the city, its inhabitants and the history being very compelling. Not to mention the game looks absolutely stunning, harbouring depth in every fibre of detail. The blend of cyberpunk elements and the enriching level of detail in the world are amazing and the depth in creativity for each location, the characters and weaponry is masterful. There are plenty of influences from Blade Runner, Akira and Ghost in the Shell in the aesthetics for Ruiner.
Color plays a big part in setting up an immersive atmosphere but what really strengths the core gameplay and the presentation is an amazing soundtrack. This alone is worth checking out the game for. The mixture of Sync-wave, techno and more traditional elements are a perfect blend that enhances the tension to the chaotic gun battles and tranquil moments in the hub world. Those who are familiar with Ghost in the Shell’s awesome soundtrack will sense the same elements used here with the rhythmic chanting playing over the collection of techno beats.
My only complaint for Ruiner on this side of the game is purely down to lack of variation in level appearances. While there is a great amount of detail, superb dynamic lighting and design, most locations look pretty much identical. The cyberpunk, industrial themes run through 70% of the game’s level design with only a couple of locations looking different: these being a car park area and the hub world.
As for Ruiner’s gameplay, its simplicity shouldn’t fool you. The gunplay is solid as Ruiner offers a refined experience of intense action and immense challenge at times. This is one of the best top-down shooters in a long time and does well to build on the basis of the action genre. The pacing is fluent with encounters being spaced out evenly, while never feeling overstretched. There are always different elements being worked into most encounters including a vast amount of enemy types and environmental factors which change up the pacing while adding some decent variation to the gameplay.
Ruiner is in many respects a trial and error formula of game where its adaption and learning what tactics work best for you. Players will always carry a semi-automatic pistol and pipe but can pick up other weapons off the ground. Each weapons functions differently and have certain levels of effectiveness on different enemies. It’s about going out of your comfort zone to engage the situation in ways you may never do so in other games. There are perks you can learn via collecting “Karma” points, leveling up and defeating certain bosses. There’s a good mixture of perks from slowing down time, planting grenades and the most useful, dashing. These can be leveled up to enhance your power and by the end of the game, you’ll pretty much be a god. Ruiner is a game that’ll take time to master as the pacing within any battle is often frantic, giving you mere split seconds to make a choice of what to do.
Overall, Ruiner is frantic, tension driven and at times rage quitting levels of hard. While it may not seem all that fair at certain moments, it’s about adapting and trying out tactics you’re not used too. As stated, bosses and other encounters all have variation, which is great for those looking for a sustainable challenge that changes up the formula. It’s tough, but immensely rewarding for your efforts.
There were little touches I really appreciated that were effected by your level of skills and adaptability. Most encounters will send in a weapons grinder that’ll take all the left over weapons you didn’t use and turn them into Karma and possibly a super-powered weapon. This is a simple, yet very compelling risk and reward concept that really tests players on how well they can restraint themselves on what they use. Do you pick up every weapon off the floor to use and make life a little easier? Or do you risk it and hope to reap the rewards at the end of each fight?
Boss battles can be immense with most bosses harboring different tactics and attacks that’ll keep you on your toes. I also loved the “Head-Hunt” listed bosses as these felt like a true treat to face against and defeat. Level designs also carry variation with different set pieces and elements, changing the pacing to interesting degrees. One level can see you face a legion of security forces with a timer breathing down your neck while another can have you face waves of zombie like creatures with multiple flamethrowers.
There were only two factors that did bring down the experience slightly. First, the length of the game is fairly short, with most gamers playing on the normal difficulty and properly finishing this in 6 hours. Decent length but if you’re like me and enjoy the hell out of this game, you’d wish there was more. Maybe this feeling was more due to the rather short climax as after an awesome boss battle, the game ends with a hoard mode style level that’s actually fairly easy. Still, there’s plenty of replay value as you can continue to level up and become the ultimate badass.
Second, the hub world is disappointingly shallow. If again you’re like me, you’ll love exploring and side quests. While those elements are present there’s few of them. Exploration feels limited with very few secrets to be found and side missions just don’t require effort to complete them. You could casually walk around and just stumble on the goal without any real thought or effort. There is one neat side quest that requires you to find cats and hack into them (no cats are harmed by the way). But all you get is a weapon locker in the next level, which doesn’t really make much difference as weapons are present everywhere!
However, these are minor problems in an overall fantastic game! The intense action, eye melting visuals and excellent soundtrack make this a sure recommendation. So when you’re done with Cuphead, go ahead and buy Ruiner.