Ruiner Hands-on Preview – A Brutal, Enthralling, Injection of Cyberpunk DNA

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I got the chance to play new independent Polish studio Reikon Games’ ultra-slick cyberpunk shooter, Ruiner, at this year’s PAX East. The game was just picked up by indie publisher Devolver Digital, and with me loving practically anything to do with cyberpunk fiction, I had to see what all the hubbub was about.

The game is essentially your twin-stick shooter that is set in the fictional Asian city of Rengkok – possibly taking cues from Bangkok. In my opinion it’s definitely moreso akin to cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc., the type you see in the very DNA of cyberpunk fiction.

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The story begins with a bit of exposition and setup: you’re a cyborg of sorts that had his brain fried by some asshole hacker looking to settle a score. You get rescued by another hacker, and after getting your head on straight, go out on a revenge trip through Rengkok’s streets.

One of the most noticeable things for me is the game’s soundtrack: it’s basically the perfect mix of brooding, nostalgic, yet depressing calmer pieces; all the way to thumping and invigorating synth melodies that accompany the combat perfectly.

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With one of the masters of electronica (and one of my all-time favorite musicians) on board – Susumu Hirasawa (Paprika, Millennium Actress, Berserk) – you can be rest assured the game’s music is going to impress.

My favorite track was looping while you strolled the streets of Rengkok, it was haunting, brooding, and yet somewhat depressing – something you’d hear in cyberpunk classics like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and so on (I’m almost certain it was a track from Hirasawa-san).

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Reikon titled this “babe,” I’m inclined to agree!

Despite being a top-down, isometric twin-stick shooter, the game’s visuals definitely are a sight to behold. Neon lights and signs glow and flicker, random passerbys stagger around the locales, and animations equally look snappy and feel rewarding.

Even the in-between comic book-like cutscenes and dialog look great, it all evokes a style I can only describe as concentrated cyberpunk, a dystopian, industrial overdose.

The demo has you perusing the streets of Rengkok in search of clues to where you can find the bastard who tried wasting you and leaving you for dead. Eventually you get some clues and are guided to a car garage, after which you’re quickly thrown into twin-stick combat (a note: I used a controller for the demo).

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Combat is very fast-paced and quite unrelenting, enemies pour out in predetermined areas (from what it seemed like), and you die easily, if I may add. This is the kind of game where you have to plan out what enemies to take out, conserve ammo, and hopefully make it to more ammo or health.

There’s an interesting mechanic with the energy bar that lets you turn on a shield that acts as both bullet-repellent and an EMP-based tackle effect. I found that switching between melee and using this shield to take out stragglers worked very well, although sometimes I’d go crazy with guns too.

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I couldn’t quite pinpoint what triggered it, but there’s also a slow down mechanic (or bullet time for you Payne fans out there) that allows you to really screw over your enemies. It seemed like kills did the trick, but it was very fun to chain together slow-mo kills, via melee or ranged weapons.

All in all, Ruiner is a very, very promising action title that I think will please fans of the genre, let alone cyberpunk fiction.

Ruiner oozes style and finesse, and it legitimately has me wanting to know more about its world, its protagonist, and more. I’m thirsting for more, Reikon Games.

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Owner and Publisher at Niche Gamer and Nicchiban. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry.

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