Ruiner Review – Cyberpunk Brilliance

Reikon Games are a new Polish indie developer made up of a smaller staff of seasoned creators, so when I first saw and played Ruiner I was quickly hooked. The game oozed style and had intensely satisfying combat to boot, something giant multi-million dollar games oftentimes struggle to even dream of achieving. It’s been a long wait for me to finally get my hands on the entire Ruiner experience – the question is does the complete game hold up to my expectations?

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Reikon Games
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
Players: Single Player
Price: $19.99

Ruiner is a sight to behold, and I’m legitimately depressed I didn’t have the time to provide a video review to accompany this written review. The game is meant to be played at maximum settings in a dimly lit room – you know, so your eyeballs can fully take in the pulsating neon signs, dingy corridors, and blood spatters that will spectacularly paint every environment you fight through.

I never got bored seeing enemies go flaccid as I either beat them to a pulp, sliced them to pieces, or filled them with lead from a pretty wide arsenal of weapons littered throughout the levels. Since the game is a linear experience with some minor exploration and hidden items, an insane attention to detail has been given for practically every inch of every area you go to.

Reikon should be commended for not only setting a bar in terms of stylish visuals but also for a game that performs and looks so damn good in motion. The slow motion ability brings this to another level when you see intricate character animations, bullets flying everywhere, all the while blood and viscera are painting the landscape. It’s simply awesome.

I wanted to put a special focus on the overall atmosphere, lighting, and mood in this game. This isn’t your clean cut and sterile looking near-future dystopia, most areas are dark or dimly lit, bullets ignite small lights and particle effects that reflect off multiple surfaces. The game really has to be seen in motion, and I implore you to try exploring every nook and cranny within each level.

I will say this first and foremost: Ruiner is a game that adheres to more traditional reward and punishment mechanics – meaning yes, you’ll be given brief tutorials and then be expected to learn by doing and getting better. You will die and die again and the game will taunt you repeatedly until you get better, or you can be like the other gamers or gaming journalists and cry about it.

The game provides you a plethora of abilities to fine-tune your play-style, all of which can be unlocked, upgraded, and expanded upon as you level up the protagonist. I’m more of an aggressive and strike-focused player in action games, so I focused on dashing, melee and ranged weapon damage, and so on. Things get amazing once you progress into the later levels and really get a play-style.

One of the most beloved things a game can do is tap into that “in the moment” part of our subconscious, the one where you stop thinking and just start doing – Ruiner does this in spades. Enemy placements, sheer number of bullets and explosions, everything is seemingly perfectly tuned to constantly keep you on your toes. If a game makes me lick my lip without thinking, it’s a winner.

The vast majority of my time with Ruiner was losing myself to this unthinking state of mind, devolving totally into pure hand-eye coordination. I really can’t explain it better than that, and if this is something you don’t really care for, this game might not be for you. Ruiner is meant to be played with your eyes strapped open and proper airflow because your hands will get sweaty.

In terms of difficulty, Ruiner naturally hits that sweet spot where you’re constantly getting your face stomped in but you don’t quite feel cheated. Due to the fast load times, you can instantly respawn and give it another go – again and again until you’ve perfected your killing methods. You can learn, adapt, and dominate your enemies – running circles around bosses is euphoric.

The combat in this game is, for lack of a better superfluous adjective, breathtaking. Connecting multiple slow-motion kills back to back only to resume normal speed and see all your enemies’ bodies fall apart and blood spatter everywhere is fantastic, every time. I’ve been having way too much fun with this game, experimenting in how to move, attack, and kill.

The soundtrack in Ruiner is a cavalcade of delights that will furiously pound your earholes pretty much every second you’re not in the hub city. Even then, when mingling in the city streets with randoms you’ll be treated to an old Susumu Hirasawa track that is as haunting as it is beautiful. Every track on the list is superb and perfect for a breakneck cyberpunk action-adventure.

Enemy screams, groans, machinery hisses and clangs, the entire world of this game feels alive and has an excellent soundscape that honestly should be heard with headphones. Audio cues are a big thing in this game much like the classic games of yore, they can save you or even get your adrenaline pumping. All of it comes together to thrusting, angry, synth music.

If there’s one minor gripe I have with the game, it’s that there isn’t full voice acting. There are little snippets of voicework here and there but it feels a bit odd when everything else is so damn stylish and polished and yet characters don’t have full dialogue lines. There are, however, lots of bits of Japanese, Chinese, and other languages spoken by NPCs randomly. Its fascinating.

The game doesn’t beat around the bush in that it’s a story of revenge, plain and simple. You’re sent on a suicidal mission to kill whoever kidnapped your brother, your only real help is your hacker friend that affectionately refers to you as “puppy.” She will even sometimes bark orders at you like you’re really a dog. The entire game has a twisted sense of humor, and it doesn’t hold back.

Once again, Reikon should be applauded for crafting a truly cyberpunk-feeling world, filled with truly demented and twisted characters, situations, and good old fashion corporate espionage or corruption. They even use common or classic cyberpunk words like “wetware,” have you hack into the minds of your defeated enemies, and more.

Ruiner paints a near-future depiction of a dirty, depressing world in which people have begun augmenting themselves with robotics, started doing drugs, got into crime, got addicted to virtual reality, and so on and so forth. It has that Neo-Tokyo kind of feeling, or some kind of odd mix of Chinese and Japanese cultures somehow colliding, especially in relation to the tech industry.

I went into playing Ruiner with bated breath, I didn’t want to set my expectations too high on a new title from a new studio – but I was completely blown away. Everything about this game screams polish, finesse, as well as masterful execution and a clear, deep love for the cyberpunk genre of fiction. My only legitimate let down was that there wasn’t more to the game, I just want more.

Despite this, the game is satisfying to the utmost degree and well worth its entry price. If you get frustrated easily at games and like to have your hand held through conflict-free walking simulators, this is basically the opposite of that. If you’re into high-action, challenging games and / or anything cyberpunk, do yourself a favor and just buy Ruiner.

Ruiner was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy received from Devolver Digital. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 10

The Good:

  • Breathtaking visuals including cyberpunk vistas, environments, blood spatter, and more
  • Rewarding, challenging, yet addicting combat
  • Taps into that pure “in-the-zone” game feeling
  • Pounding and haunting soundtrack

The Bad:

  • Limited voice acting
  • I truly wish there was more to the game
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Owner and Publisher at Niche Gamer and Nicchiban. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry.

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