We all play those games that are too hard to overcome, or at least that hard that you genuinely rage at anyone who talks to you moments before your 90th death as you scramble to blame anyone and anything other than your lack of skill. That ladies and gentlemen, is Ruiner. Make no mistake about it, Ruiner is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those that have a weak patience span. It’s a very tough game that refuses to hold your hand and doesn’t do much to make you feel better about yourself when you’ve had your ass handed to you for the umpteenth time in a row. That being said Ruiner is every bit as engaging as you could hope, so much so that I often sat back and wondered why the hell I was torturing myself over and over again. There’s an allure to Ruiner, a constant whisper that entices you to try again, and again and again.
You take on the role of a masked sociopath that’s fresh from breaking out of a facility known as HEAVEN. With the help of a mysterious hacker known as HER, you’re tasked with working your way through the twisted cyber metropolis Rengkok. Armed with weaponry and fuelled by vengeance, you’ll be setting off on a violent mission to save your brother from the clutches of his kidnappers whilst uncovering and dealing with those who have wronged you. It’s a pretty basic story setup as far as games like this go, but it’s certainly a plot that’s worth following. The last top-down shooter I played before this was the recently released Time Recoil, where one of my chief complaints sat with the lack of a meaningful campaign. Moving from that to Ruiner made me appreciate the story even more, and despite its basic backbone I found Ruiner to be quite a bitter-sweet delivery. What I will say however is that the story begins to wear thin and fall flat towards the end of the game, which is a shame.
Polish developer Reikon Games have done a stellar job at ensuring that Rengkok is fitting to the theme it adopts. It’s abundantly clear that this world is dire and in desperate need of a kick up the backside. Every location is grim and comes packed with markings of the much loved cyberpunk vibe, and everything that fills it is equally as faithful to the concept. Albeit the forefront colour you’re going to witness throughout is red, and that’s not just because this is gory, but because the environment seems to be built around this colour as though that’s the only one that exists in this world. That’s not to say that Ruiner looks monotonous, far from it, in fact I dare say that the design choice when it comes to the visuals are unique and certainly a sight to marvel at. There’s a great use of black and shadowing to break up all of the red, and several other sections throughout that rely on mechanical settings to give your eyes a rest from the favoured colour. It helps of course the the detail and the level design in Ruiner is so well struck, collectively offering up some excellent well crafted environments to sink into.
It goes without saying that a top-down shooter is only as good as its functionality. You can have a solid story and some gorgeous captivating visuals, but that means sweet F-A if the game doesn’t play well and offer up a decent portion of variety. Thankfully Ruiner manages to tick the right boxes in this regard. There’s a large pool of weapons that you can utilise within, ranging from both guns and melee. Pistols, automatic weaponry, railguns, hammers, and just about everything else you would expect to pick up in a cyberpunk reality. Your weaponry leans heavily against several skills that you can unlock and work towards which includes rapid dash, frags, mind control and more. Despite the fact that you have a weapon stock that Robocop would be proud of and an ability pool that would make Neo proud, Ruiner remains ridiculously hard from beginning to end.
It’s because of this that you really need to think before you act in any situation within. Should you isolate an enemy and then work on the rest of the grunts? Should you go in all guns blazing? Should you stun an enemy with your shield and take out the rest whilst he’s dazed? Ruiner will almost always try to outsmart what you do and the steep difficulty curve will never buckle to your command, desperation or intuitive thinking. I don’t pretend that I’m the best gamer on the planet, but I can hold me own, here however I must have died hundreds of times before finishing the six hour campaign, and no I’m not exaggerating. Boss battles are memorable and equally as bitter-sweet as everything else in Ruiner, often coming with their own unique attack and movement patterns. Naturally the points that you need to purchase said abilities can be obtained through exploration and besting your opponents.
When you’re not having your ass handed to you on a silver platter you’ll be venturing at your own leisure around the downtown of Rengkok. Here you can grab some extra quests or chat to the locals. The implementation of conversation choices felt a little lost on me due to the fact that it plays such a small role in the grand scheme of things, it’s almost as if it’s in there just for the sake of it. Nevertheless, this (along with my gripe with the story towards the end) is a small complaint in the face of everything that Ruiner gets right. It helps of course that the controls for Ruiner are so fluid and well set, something that’s an absolute must for a game that’s so freakin’ hard. Rounding off the overall package is the brilliantly selected music tracks, each of which go on to capture the thrills and action of the game tremendously well.
Ruiner is an excellent game that boasts some unique visuals and wonderful level design, with fluid controls holding up the tough as nails action-packed gameplay. With that being said Ruiner is excessively hard, so much so that it can become frustrating throughout the entirety of play. The story is well set and lasts somewhere in the region of six hours, but does lose its grip towards the conclusion. There are heaps of weaponry and abilities that you can unlock and take to, ensuring that the constant bullet storm feels exciting, varied and fresh from beginning to end. It goes without saying that there’s no top-down shooter like Ruiner on the Xbox Store, but this is certainly a game for those that have patience, skill and forgiveness. If you enjoy a tough challenge, Ruiner will not disappoint.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.