Ruiner was probably the most surprising game at PAX East this year. The entire showroom floor was talking about it, and the line to play the game wrapped around the Devolver Digital booth. People waited over two hours just to get their hands on it, and for good reason.
Ruiner is an extremely challenging top-down action shooter with unforgiving battles and fast-paced gameplay. Set in the dystopian city of Renkok, it's a cyberpunk fan's wet dream. It's kind of like Ghost in the Shell hooked up with Blade Runner one drunken night in LA and gave birth to Hotline Miami. Hackers, underground cyber gangs, a teenage-headphone-wearing-girl-cyber genius, a mysterious "hero" wearing a Daft Punk scrolling LED mask - this game has it all. The world itself absolutely captures the heart of cyberpunk classics with its grimey, lowest-level-of-society, neon and steam, stunningly rendered in a dark comic style.
Play-wise, it's a challenging game, and definitely not for the faint of heart. The basic controls were easy to learn: mouse aims, click to fire, and so on. You can dash through enemies knocking them through the streets, call up a shield, attack multiple enemies in one go, slash people with your laser cyber-sword or gun them down with a variety of firearms offered in the game. Simple stuff, right? Encountering the enemies and putting all that into practice is another thing all together. You have to be quick to plan and react. The onslaught of enemies, or Creeps as the game calls them, is brutal. Frankly, I gave up after a while and watched as an expert provided by the team played, just so I could see a little more than the first few screens and the nameless hero's pitiful form gasping in a pool of blood.
The minds behind Ruiner, Reikon Games, is a team of ex-AAA devs who previously worked on The Witcher games, Dead Island and Dying Light, and you can see there's definitely experience behind every aspect of its design and gameplay. The dialogue, however, stuck out a little bit. There were some clunky lines and maybe this is just my petty problem, but that teen-club-kid-cyber genius had ASCII emoticons after every line. To me, that seemed a little forced, although, it did fit her character. I get it.
I'm really anxious to see some more of the levels as more of the game becomes available to play. Like I said, the grungy, urban, concrete and metal labyrinth that reminded me of the streets of Hong Kong, which made up the main area, was beautifully crafted. I'm excited to see how they vary the levels and what other call-backs to the genre they'll make. Again, I am really happy to see more challenging games like this hit the market. There's enough variety in skills, weapons and powers that will certainly make for some really fun gameplay. Let's hope that this game can deliver.