Ruiner (2017, PC)
By Real Soviet Bear / October 1, 2017
I give Ruiner a neutral score because the parts of it I enjoy are really good, but it's lacking in so many other aspects. The aesthetic and delivery of the game are fantastic. The setting is interesting, the "glitchy" effect is really good and in general it just oozes style. The game was definitely in need of a design pass, though. It has all the elements necessary to be great, but they needed to be re-arranged and reworked better.
First off, the mid-fight resource management is really damn demanding. Your health and energy are in one corner of the screen, your ammo/durability are in the other, and your dash charges are center-bottom. Keeping track of all of these in a frantic fight is ridiculous, especially because the simple red UI blends with everything else in the game. There definitely should have been a better layout and clearer audio-visual cues so you know when you're hurting for something.
Skills have a lot of unnecessary fluff and you'll quickly learn what the best combo is. There are VERY FEW points where the game expects you to have a specific skill equipped, but other than that, you'll probably stick to shield + stun grenade + dash upgrades. It's along the lines of "Why would I have a wall I can place, when I can just have an insta-shield that negates damage regardless of where I am?" Or "Why would I have a frag grenade that deals damage when I can just disable any number of enemies?"
This carries over to the weapons as well. Melee is always better, unless you are fighting a very specific boss and then you might want to switch to your ranged weapon. Melee stunlocks and deals more damage than almost any firearm in the game, especially in the first few hours.
It also feels like the devs knew this? For example, melee interrupts enemies for the majority of the game, but then you get an enemy category that all of a sudden isn't interrupted by melee. That's fine, you can stun-grenade them. Well, now we have a "flaming" enemy type that is immune to the stun grenade specifically. Ok, that's fine, you can still ram them with your shield to stun them? It's a weird progression, but the strategy stays the same: disable, damage, disable, damage, avoid until you have enough energy again, repeat. This is enough to get you S+ rank on almost all fights.
There are other weird things, like energy costs being relayed to you as numerical values, but your UI is actual icons? I assume each of the icons is 10 energy/health, but I never know whether I have enough or not to do my thing, so, combined with it being hard to track your stuff, I just never bother thinking about it.
The enemy encounters could have been better laid out. Again, all the elements are there, but the waves are uninteresting. You'll have two melee dudes and two gun dudes. Ok, that's fine. Now you'll have a wave that's just suicide bombers. Now a wave that's just mines. Now a wave that's a draining device and one big dude. Why not throw in mines/suicide bombers in the midst of more varied waves? Then you can use them as tools against other enemies. There's very little target prioritization going on, because the actual battles aren't mixed up enough.
Probably the two most frustrating moments for me were a boss battle with three health bars for no real reason (and you can just stun-lock him anyway) and that a very late fight has infinite spawns that the game literally teaches you up until then how to disable completely, and then the fight starts and it's like "nope, they're immune now, sorry".
So, yeah, the game is very stylish, I don't regret playing it, but I think it needed one big design and balancing pass to actually capitalize on all its other strong points.
For reference, I beat the game on Hard difficulty, since it was the "recommended" one.
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