By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on October 5, 2017
Welcome to Rengkok; a place for outcasts of society. A place where people say all your dreams can come true, but where they are more likely to be crushed into oblivion. The year is 2091 and dominion over mankind by HEAVEN, the world's leading virtuality company, is at an all time high. About time somebody upset the balance a tiny bit, don't you agree? And guess what? That someone... is you!
So, how did humanity let themselves slide down the drain so much? Well, in their pursuit of everlasting happiness, mankind needed a way out of the mundane world and HEAVEN was the answer. This company offered people what they sought by providing them whith a virtual life in which you can be who you always wanted to be. But, as is usually the case when corporations are thrown into the mix, the little man is being stepped upon to reach the top. A second problem is that, with everybody carrying implants in their heads, your brain can actually be hacked. And that is exactly what happens to you, the nameless, faceless and voiceless protagonist of the cyberpunk action game, developed by Reikon Games and published by Devolver Digital: RUINER.
As you start playing the game, you are being sent on a mission to "Kill the Boss". Being the good brain-jacked killer you are, you instantly follow these orders. The first mission kind of serves as an introduction to the game and lets you get yourself acquainted with Ruiner's control scheme. Being an twin stick, isometric beat / shoot em up, one stick lets you control the movement of the character, while the other controls the alignment of said character. Stick 1: running... Stick 2: aiming... you can Dash, you can conjur up a force field that temporarily stops bullets... check... got it! Pretty soon, you'll run into a couple of security guys, who seem hell bent on killing you which, if you think about it, is no surprise. I mean, you ARE here to kill their boss, which will definitely and adversely influence their paychecks. So yes, they want you dead!
During this mission, the guy who controls you, keeps telling you to "Kill the Boss" and an image of him flashes across your screen every now and again. Then, all of a sudden, another voice sounds inside your brain. It's a woman's voice telling you "don't do it..." Of course, being the stubborn (and let's not forget brain-jacked) killer you are, you eventually kill the boss, but when you try to open a huge door, something blows up and rips your arm off! Eventually, you find yourself in Rengkok South, having been repaired by a guy called 'Mechanix'. He managed to keep you alive and to give you a new arm, but your abilities are gone, leaving you somewhat more vulnerable than before when attacked.
At a certain point, the woman who tried to stop from killing the boss, the aptly named 'She', explains to you that your brain was hacked and that the guy giving the commands is a two bit hacker who calls himself 'Wizard'. Also, she tells you that HEAVEN kidnapped your brother because he was snooping around and got too close to the truth behind what HEAVEN is actually doing to the world. So now that your free will is restored, you set out to find this 'Wizard' guy and find out where HEAVEN is holding your brother and to, if possible, free him from their clutches.
Ruiner is a fast-paced and action-packed thrill ride that looks awesome and plays even better! You start off with a long pipe as a melee weapon. When enemies get too close, just start swinging! Pretty soon into the first mission, you will also be presented with the ability to Dash. This enables you to close the distance between you and your enemy in a heartbeat, as well as to duck enemy gunfire. Hmmm, you seem to have brought a pipe to a gunfight... that's something we will have to remedy, isn't it? That's why you receive the Ruiner pistol, which is a 7-shot auto pistol with unlimited ammo. Every enemy you defeat, drops a weapon, either melee or ranged. You can pick up these weapons and use the until their ammo runs out. When this happens, you revert back to your trusty pistol until you pick up yet another weapon. The same goes for melee weapons. Of course, melee weapons don't use ammo, so the developers gave them durability. When the durability of any weapon you picked up reaches zero, the weapon breaks and you will automatically go back to your steel pipe. Different weapons do different damage, have less or more ammo or a higher durability, so be sure to experiment with them in order to find the weapon or weapons that best fit your preferred playing style.
Making it to the end of a level, often means needing to unlock doors and the ever-handy gun lockers. This is simply done by correctly inputting the button sequence, shown on your screen. When you do this, the door, or locker, in question will open granting you either access to a new area or to a new weapon. And, if you fail in correctly inputting the sequence, don't sweat it, you can always try again! There is only a limited amount of time to push the correct buttons, but you usually have time enough so don't get your panties in a twist if you see a long row of buttons.
As you make your way through Ruiner, you'll collect Karma. This Karma is important, so pay attention. Whenever you gather enough Karma points, your Karma level will go up, unlocking new ability after new ability as you level up. At the same time, you gather skill points, which you can use to activate or even upgrade the abilities that have been unlocked. You only gather so much Skill points, so distribute them wisely. Don't try to buy every ability at once, because you will be left with a plethora of abilities that are weak. It is better to focus on the abilities that tie in with your playing style and upgrade them, making them much more powerful and useful. And don't worry if you find out later on that you chose the wrong ability; if you deactivate an ability or upgrade, the points you spend on activating them will be restored to your account. Now, if that isn't neat, than I don't know what is!
So, how do we gather this much-needed Karma? Well, that's quite simple actually. You beat the crap out of the bad guys, trying to get your combo meter as high as possible and you open every supply crate you see. If you do this, you will be collecting Karma like it's nobody's business... fuggedaboutit! Also, and this is my absolute favorite, when you have cleared an area a device called a 'Weapon Grinder' comes along and sets down somewhere in the area you have just cleared. Activating this machine will destroy all the weapons that are scattered round on the floor and turn them into Karma. On top of that, the Weapon Grinder usually presents you with a special weapon. These weapons have a purple or gold glow about them and are usually souped-up versions of the regular weapons in the game. For instance, a regular shotgun holds six to eight rounds, while the special shotgun may carry up to fourteen... awesome, right?
Every level is concluded with a cool boss fight. Usually, this boss is a stronger rendition of a certain type of enemy and will be much more difficult to defeat. But, if you manage your abilities right, you will be able to defeat them in the end. After each mission, you return to Rengkok South, where you can pick up additional missions by talking to various characters. These missions will grant you rewards if you manage to complete them successfully, making your life a whole lot easier. And you're going to need all the help you can get because, even on the lowest difficulty setting, Ruiner is quite challenging. It is by no means an easy game and that suits me just fine! You'll have to work your way up from the bottom and I like it when a game can give you the feeling that you are gradually getting stronger and stronger, instead of being wildly over-powered right from the start.
So, if you're looking for a more than decent challenge, Ruiner is definitely your game! It looks spectacular and handles really, REALLY well. The soundtrack, although it's probably not everybody's taste, fits the cyberpunk setting perfectly. The protagonist is easily likeable, even though he does not speak, or even emote for that matter. The other characters in the game are really cool and the story is mysterious and awesome. I can recommend Ruiner to everyone who loves a good action / twin stick game or even to everyone who loves a dark story and a grim world. Just get your hands on this game and you'll see what I mean! And now, if you'd excuse me, I have some more baddies to obliterate and more Karma to collect. HEAVEN, ready or not, here I come!