With their 2017 title Ruiner, Devolver Digital have delivered again.
I’m a big fan of Devolver Digital. They’re the bad boys of the indie gaming world. When they’re not publishing awesome games like Broforce and Enter the Gungeon they’re putting on insane E3 conferences and taking pot-shots at the gaming industry.
That’s why I’m usually salivating whenever I get my hands on one of their titles.
That’s not set up for a twist, like Ruiner is actually terrible or something. I just like gushing about Devolver Digital.
Ruiner is the gaming embodiment of the term ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’
Dash, shoot and bash. Maybe some special abilities if you’re feeling fancy. That’s essentially all there is to the stylish twin-stick action gameplay of Ruiner. Within the first five minutes, you will have been given all the tools required to get you through to the end of the game. That doesn’t mean that the game is boring or simplistic; quite the opposite actually.
Instead what you get is the framework for an incredibly rewarding and customisable combat system. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before my hands even touched the controller, I knew I was in for something special.
Cyberpunk settings are a dime a dozen, but the world of Ruiner is almost paradoxical in its beauty.
The glaring neon and clusters of wires strung up through the city is classic dystopian future. Yet the fashion and dialogue screams of 90s grunge. It’s almost like all culture and technology evolved from the primordial soup that was the movie Hackers.
It’s enough to make you ignore the mediocre revenge plot that is the game’s story. A hacker named villain hacks the brain of the silent protagonist, turning you into his own personal assassin. After you regain control of your body, you set out on a quest to save your captured brother.
The plot is nothing to write home about, but it accomplishes the necessary job of getting out your way so you can enjoy the world. Setting trumps story in Ruiner. It’s a risky decision that ultimately pays off because the effort was put into creating a vibrant and lively world.
I didn’t expect to get a hub-zone, but having a recurring location provides a nice break from running and gunning through endless corridors of mooks. Populating this zone with dozens of characters and side-quests makes it more than just a chance to catch your breath. It almost makes it feel like home.
But back to running and gunning those mooks
Over the course of the game, you are given upgrade points to develop the set of skills you unlock at the start. Where you allocate these points will completely alter your play style. You might sink them into strengthening your shield, to block and reflect gunfire back at enemies. Or you might put them all into dash and zip around the map like a toddler on cocaine.
Every approach feels balanced and there isn’t one tactic that works better than anything else. In fact, the game discourages you from relying too much on one combat style, because just when you start to get comfortable, a new enemy type will come along and wreck your day. Thankfully, you can switch your combat loadout whenever you want and wreck them back.
Ruiner does have a fatal flaw…
Despite all the praise I’ve heaped on it, Ruiner does have one flaw that may snicker ruin it for players.
Ruiner is hard – like skinning a cat with a spoon hard. And even on the easiest difficulty, you should expect to die a lot.
That being said, the game never feels cheap when you do. All the enemies have identifiable weapons and even in the most bullet helly moments, if you are quick on the trigger, you can dash to safety and regroup.
Personally, I love the elation that comes from banging your head against the wall until it eventually crumbles. And if you’re of a similar damaged mind, Ruiner is a heck ton of fun. If not, there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be found within the game’s tight controls and beautifully gritty cyberpunk world.