The bloodshed in Ruiner is hypnotic in its franticness. Managing three or four foes who are shooting and lashing out at you, dashing from enemy to enemy as you grab whatever gun is lying around in order to fight back, all while throbbing club beats pound your ears makes Ruiner into a heady experience. However, the spell it weaves eventually wears thin, leaving players with an experience the feels a little too repetitive after a time.
The combat in Ruiner is gloriously chaotic. Enemies will come rushing in from all sides, some with melee weapons and others with guns, all aiming to end your life. Players will have to learn how to manage this within milliseconds, prioritizing targets while quickly using all of the abilities at their disposal in just the right way. Combat, by necessity, grabs the player’s attention and never lets go, keeping players firmly invested and interested in each fight.
Players have access to a lot of powers. They can hack enemies to make them work for the player, drop temporary shields on the field, create a bullet-deflecting barrier, heal, call for backup guns to be dropped in for them, and several other powers. Players can choose which of these to equip or power up on the fly, too, as the game allows players to spend or remove upgrade nodes any time they like, trying out different abilities should one character build not be working out, or if they suddenly need to use a specific power to survive one particular fight.
This is all on top of an emphasis on working with whatever’s lying around. Enemies always drop their weapons as you kill them, and most guns have only a few shots before the ammo expended, leaving players with the default guns. It’s always a good idea to pick up someone else’s gun over the default, so players will always be using new firearms, and always adapting to them. It makes combat feel even more shifting and surprising in each moment, turning players into ever-adapting killers.
This constant pressure in combat—to deal with enemies on all sides, to choose what powers you need that second, to pick up the right tools to fight back—keeps each fight exhilarating. Slapping enemies around in this world rarely gets old, as the game’s tough, prolonged battles and endless need for player adaptation means never just idly attacking without paying attention. Combat demands full focus, and that focus feels well-rewarded when the game’s foes finally back off.
However, the combat in Ruiner isn’t quite as appealing as it could be. For a game so focused on clobbering enemies, weapons lack any sort of appreciable, visible impact. Hitting or shooting foes just makes them twitch slightly or not react at all; a small detail that robs combat of a sense of weight or power. Likewise, the weapon sound effects have little sense of impact as well (likely taking a back seat to the excellent soundtrack). There’s little sense of power to firing a gun or hitting someone, which makes it feel like you’re hitting airy punching bags. It steals a bit away from what is otherwise an excellent combat scheme.
The soundtrack is a solid trade, though. The game throbs and pulses with club tracks, pushing the player along with driving beats. There’s a sense in the music that the whole game is a sort of dance, with players moving along in a bloody trance to the song. It encourages players to lose themselves in the violence and chaos and music, just giving in and flowing along with it.
It all works for some time, too, but eventually, rough edges start to poke through Ruiner. While combat draws the player in with its frantic nature, it all feels a little bit the same after a while. The game will have melee classes striking at you as gunners hang back, and while the sci-fi weapons constantly change, this is basically how each attack goes. Managing the nuances of each arena and some of the special powers enemy have adds some variety, and the game tosses so many foes at the player over time that pure challenge keeps the fights interesting, but it really feels like the same fight, over and over, after you play for an extended period.
Likewise, locations all feel very same-y. Despite some eerie graffiti in a few areas or hints of interesting environments, it all feels like stark, overly-similar futuristic places. Mechanical factories give way to the mechanical plants, and all of it is made up of meandering corridors that are only there to serve as obvious locations to fight in. It’s all very dull to look at, which only heightens that sense that you’re fighting the same battle repeatedly, and not even in different locations.
The game does have some bits of visual design brilliance. The game features a hub city players return to between stages that is filled with neon signs for filthy nightclubs and glimmering adds shimmering in the polluted haze. Gangs, crooked cops, and futuristic chop shops line the streets, giving the city a visual appeal while also helping ground Ruiner in a living reality.
This loses some of its appeal when it becomes clear it’s just a hub for busywork. Players will meander around this area for a few minutes to get their next mission, which typically involves going to the same guy to get another bit of story that could have been told in a quick cutscene. Otherwise, players can pick up side tasks here that give them extra rewards for doing stuff they would normally do in each stage anyway, like kill bosses or collect hidden items. It helps build a world for Ruiner, but from a play perspective, it feels like a bit of a pointless deviation.
Ruiner is a dizzying affair when in combat, offering tons of things for players to weigh and consider as music pounds their senses. It’s not something that lasts, though, as the game’s reliance on similar-looking mechanical plants and only a handful of enemy attack types takes away from its appeal. It’s fun for a time, and while its challenge may keep the game interesting throughout, for some, its lack of variety may make it overly repetitive.
Want to see the game in action? Check out our First 15 of Ruiner!
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