Ruiner turned heads when it was announced last year and I was instantly smitten with its chilling cyberpunk aesthetic and action-driven gameplay. Drawing inspiration from anime like Akira and movies like Blade Runner, Reikon Games has successfully created a violent, dystopian world where murder is currency and trust is obsolete. The year is 2091, and playing with people’s lives has never been easier.
In contrast to its bombastic trailers, the game boots up without much fanfare to reveal a simple but slick menu. Upon starting the prologue, I was quickly given control over the nameless, mask-wearing protagonist who’d just broken into a factory. It was then that the portrait of a grim-faced man flickered into existence. “Kill Boss,” the mysterious man demands. Without much choice, my character was forced deeper into the factory, where he stared down the barrels of countless guns, armed only with a steel pipe. As the game succinctly puts it: The only way out is through.
Combat in Ruiner can be frustrating at first. It teaches the basics and leaves you to figure out the rest. Even playing on easy mode is, ironically, no easy feat. I died countless times and spent most of my first playthrough brute-forcing my way through battles and thinking, yeah, that could have gone better. I was riddled with bullets, set on fire, vaporised, my hacker ally egging me on with words dripping in thinly veiled amusement.
“That’s a good boy,” she would say, after I eviscerated an enemy with a meter-long blade. “Get up, puppy,” her snarl would echo in my ears after an agonizing battle that ended in my death. “Your brother needs you.”
But despite being punishing, Ruiner is fair. How players make use of their skills is key. The game allows skill points to be refunded, and it makes experimenting a welcome task. My second playthrough was leaps better after having learned what worked for me and what didn’t. What was once frustrating became rewarding. Accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack, battles intoxicated me with a certain frantic energy and left me craving more.
Between levels, players will find themselves spending time in Rengkok South. The amount of care and detail that went into crafting this hub world is apparent. The city is a melting pot of different cultures, its citizens speaking English, Japanese, and Korean. Flashing neon signs are peppered throughout, acting as the only lights in an otherwise dark city. Thugs can be found crouched between dilapidated buildings. Seedy looking shops line the streets, their entrances guarded by hulking bodyguards. Prostitutes flaunt themselves, reeling in vulnerable souls with sultry croons of "Annyeong haseyo," which translates to "How are you?"
However, like any game, Ruiner is not without flaws. Despite how well realised the city is, Rengkok South is only skin deep. There isn’t much to do after a brief period of exploration, and although players can undertake side quests from several NPCs, the rewards don’t make much of a difference. It’s a shame the characters aren’t fleshed out beyond several lines of dialogue because it feels like there’s more to discover, but their possible backstories remain just that: a possibility.
There’s also the matter of controls. Keyboard controls are non-rebindable, which might not sit well with some.* For reference, skills are activated with the spacebar, E, and Q keys while movement is controlled via WASD. The mouse is mainly for melee and gun attacks and chaining a series of dashes. The developers have stated the controls are hard coded, so it’s highly unlikely there’ll be any updates to fix it. The game does have full controller support, so using a controller might be a good alternative.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with Ruiner. It’s a game with stellar graphics, addicting combat, and atmospheric soundtracks. Players who love a challenge will feel right at home with this one.
*Update: As of October 4, 2017, the developers have announced that key binding will be added in a patch "very soon."