Lone Ruin, developed by Cuddle Monster and published by Super Rare Games for the Switch and Steam, is an Isometric twin stick roguelike shooter. Put in another way: it is a game where you control a character from a three quarters top down view, control their facing and movement independently, fight primarily with projectiles against enemies with projectiles (to the point where the game becomes something of a bullet hell at times) and if you die, that’s it, game is over, redo from start. That seems simple and straightforward, and for the most part that’s the name of the game with Lone Ruin, for good and for bad.

First off, the story. While there is one, it’s very terse and not in the game itself, but the store page. You play as an unnamed, magically gifted explorer who has arrived at an ancient city to discover the cause of whatever caused it to fall many years ago and perhaps clear it of its corruption. No joke, that’s as much backstory as you get, and you get even less in the game itself, just a cutscene that is fortunately skippable on replays. Then you are dumped immediately into the gameplay where you choose a spell to fight with.

This is your main character. You are given no information about them.
This is your main character. You are given no information about them.

Jumping into the gameplay: at the start of the game, you have a dash option, and are given a selection of offensive spells to pick from, some of which will have upgrades. Most of these are projectiles, like a fireball, or the rapid fire ice shard, or the multi-auto target chain lightning, but there’s also the very powerful close range scythe attack too. Honestly though, go for the boomerang. It hurts enemies the entire time it’s on screen, out and back. it can take some finessing, but it melts bosses. More on those later.

After you pick a spell, you pick a door to your first challenge. These are randomly selected, both in terms of enemies faced and rewards given, but the challenges increase as you go along as do theoretically the rewards, usually a new spell or an upgrade to an existing one. Sometimes you gain access to a store, where you can purchase multiple options, provided you’ve gotten enough money to afford them. You will not always have money to afford any of them, much less all of them. That’s the nature of roguelikes. What’s more irritating, though, is that there didn’t seem to be a way to back out of a purchase after previewing an option, and given how unintuitive some upgrades are, a more detailed description is needed before purchase. That said, plenty of upgrades are excellent. There are multiple upgrade options for each weapon and the dash, as well as upgrades like added health spots and slow regeneration. For my money, the dodge recharge option is basically mandatory, and any upgrade that increases area of effect is better than anything else, though the dodge upgrades that leave behind damage zones are also very good.

Picking your path and thus upgrades is a nice touch, but quite often the choices don't feel meaningful
Picking your path and thus upgrades is a nice touch, but quite often the choices don’t feel meaningful

Each combat room traps you in an arena either with waves of enemies who spawn in semi-randomly out of summoning circles, or against the very specific bosses that you will encounter at set intervals throughout the run. Levels are an exercise in maneuvering and preventing yourself from getting overrun by spawns, and boss fights are primarily about cleverly moving to avoid boss patterns, with occasional enemy spawns as distractions to their attacks. Both require paying very close attention, partly to enemies, but more importantly to enemy projectiles, which can get lost in the chaos. While both enemies and projectiles are a different color than the muted background, being rendered in a Neon purple, the projectiles can fail to stand out against the enemies, and they aren’t destroyed on hit like enemies are. One important thing to note is that enemies are vulnerable before they fully spawn in, so attacks which do damage in an area, or while they are on screen, rather than when they hit an enemy are extremely powerful. Regardless, the name of the game is kill enemies and don’t get hit. You have very limited life and healing is often very far between, and you always want to be upgrading your spells if you can.

A couple quick additional positives: Lone Ruin supports controllers natively and seamlessly and the control scheme makes sense and can be customized. On top of this, the soundtrack is actually pretty good. Every track I heard was perfect to fight to, especially the boss music.

With the background being purple, projectiles can sometimes fail to stand out.

Now for the downsides: Lone Ruin is short. Incredibly so. It has eight Steam achievements and those are for defeating the three bosses on medium and hard difficulty, and completing the survival mode in medium and hard difficulty. That’s it. That’s the content. A bunch of levels, three boss stages, and a survival mode. I suppose that’s a reason why Lone Ruin is purely a roguelike and not a rogue-lite. Any permanent character growth might make defeating the bosses and getting to the end even easier than it already is. As it stands, Lone Ruin is very quick; defeated and passed on in a matter of hours, which given the game’s $15 price tag isn’t the worst thing, but is still feels anemic. There’s a wealth of options to explore and play with, but there’s not enough actual game there to fully enjoy them in. Like I said, Lone Ruin is short but sweet, but man is it short.

Tim played Lone Ruin on PC with a review code. Lone Ruin is also available on Nintendo Switch.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments