Ruiner (XB1) Review

A relevant title.

There are a lot of games hitting right now. That said, it takes something special to stand out in the crowd. Ruiner is a game that immediately popped when I saw it. The primary red and black color palette drew me into its world. The characters permeating with cyber punk influence. It is one sharp-looking game. What happens after getting there though? This is where Ruiner stumbles a bit. While the core mechanics are serviceable, the title makes a few missteps that ultimately lead to tedium and frustration.

This is a cyber punk story through and through. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve. This isn’t a bad thing – it draws from some of the best, and the characters are interesting enough to move the plot along. This is a revenge story. The main character has a screen for a face and is constantly being paraded forward by a mysterious woman. The concept is simple: someone kidnapped your brother and the woman is telling you to murder them all. Yes it is violent, but that lends itself well to the story.

MSRP: $19.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $14.99

Ruiner is an isometric action game. There is an overworld where players can take on quests and talk to NPCs. Each mission feels like a dungeon. Players move to a new spot, the arena is walled-off, and the combat ensues. Both melee and ranged weapons are available, as well as a host of power-ups and skills. Players move with the left stick and aim with the right. My biggest adjustment was that aiming is all done with the right stick. That meant if I was moving right, I also had to aim right. I get why it is done this way, but it felt awkward until I acclimated to the controls.

Combat is crazy at times. There are plenty of enemies all vying for your blood. I died…a lot. Normally that doesn’t bother me, but Ruiner feels like a game that has great ideas, poorly implemented. The skills earned in the game are fantastic. So much so that it feels like a game that improves upon a second play through. Once I had all the tools at my disposal, the combat was a lot more fun. This may sound obvious, but the way the game is designed I was constantly put in situations where I was just not equipped to succeed. So I died, and I died, and eventually leveled up enough to grab a skill or perk to get me through.

It is a strenuous process, and one that tested my patience far too often. I wanted to enjoy the game more than I did. I feel if the leveling system was sped up just a touch, it would have been a lot more enjoyable.

It also doesn’t help that the game recycles the same environment throughout almost the entire campaign. I love the art direction, but it cannot save the repetition. At least the enemy types are varied. The game throws a lot of variety at players with enemy types, but sadly this also leads to another problem. When a new enemy appears players are expected to respec their load out to tackle the challenge. Fine, but when it results in several deaths to figure that out, it only compounds the game’s main problem.

I like Ruiner. It has some truly great ideas, but the fact that it seems to revel in player’s misery is discerning. The game taunted me every time I died. Most of the time that instills a challenge inside me, here it simply made me want to stop playing the game. I don’t mind a challenge or a death that feels like my fault, but when a game feels designed to make me replay sections over and over, I quickly lose interest.

Ruiner succeeds upon completion though. The second outing feels like the balance the game should have had, and it is a lot more fun. For players willing to suffer through it once, it almost makes up for the tedium. The problem arises once again in that there are so many games out there that work on the first try. Maybe the developers will patch out the issues, and if so Ruiner is a great idea with some truly questionable mechanics that make it a chore to play more often than it should.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

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Ken McKown
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Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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