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Review

Lone Ruin Review

Twin stick sorcery

A roguelike lives and dies on its ability to sink hooks into your supple flesh. The very nature of a game where you can bite the bullet and get farted back to the start of your experience is one that demands a compelling reason for why you may wish to foray back into the depths of bullshittery and meet yet another untimely end. In the instance of Lone Ruin, the hooks are beautifully crafted and welcome to reside deep within me.

Lone Ruin delivers on a format that I am deeply enamoured with – the twin stick shooter. Super intuitive to pick up and play, it’s a vessel for developers to focus wholly on the substrate that supports and uplifts it. In this stead, we are flinging spells from every appendage as we delve deep into a ruined magical city to discover the font of power nestled within. Just gotta get past all the riff raff first, yanno?

A sharp visual style helps carry the frenetic action, with pixelated baddies evaporating under your barrage of magical mayhem. Visually, everything is carefully measured and deployed to make sure that player clarity is paramount – in the midst of action, it pays to be able to understand exactly what is happening on screen at any given moment, be it your own attacks or enemy spawns and projectile patterns. Throw in the occasional tasty bullet-hell boss section and you got a feast for the eyes.

I have played enough games to know that lasers are bad news

In typical roguelike fashion, your run will always start with a choice. The very first room actually serves as a training area of sorts to unleash your awesome power and become familiar with how it works. I tried many of the lusciously lethal death dealers, but ultimately found myself in love with the Fireball (I’m a long standing Dungeons & Dragons alumnus). I have to lavish a hell of a lot of praise on the developers here – a longstanding gripe I have with games of this nature is the ‘gotcha’-esque state of learning a new weapon. Player deaths are a currency for roguelike titles, and being defeated while trying to learn how to draw back a bowstring feels like pinched pennies as they try to grow richer. A plethora of powers await your would-be wizard, so familiarising yourself with the general spread will do a lot to get you a few levels deeper each time.

And conquering these levels will further your choice. The vast majority of rooms will end with a selection of doors, plainly labelled with what they offer – clearly signposting upgrades to specific abilities or passive treasures to offer a unique benefit. At times these would be a nail-biting consideration as you weighed up restoring a hefty chunk of missing health alongside yet another dash upgrade to make you a phase-walking monster, your own hubris begging to avoid further damage but entirely aware that you have been doing a terrible job of it so far.

Then, if the doors are not floating your boat, you can opt to go shopping and spend your hard earned dosh on whatever tickles your fancy. Defeating enemies and scooping up their golden ducats on the fly can net you a nice little piggy bank, but as action ramps up you will often lament the coins that sit out of reach. Couple this with power ups like The Golden Shield which will actually deduct coins for damage taken instead of your health pool, you’ll realise the economy is a cruel and unforgiving mistress.

You’ll soon learn why they call him ‘Three’ Shades

But really all of this comes down to your own mastery of the tools provided to you. Player control is straightforward and rewarding, encouraging rapid movement and positioning to both deal and avoid damage in equal measure. A dash move is also standard across your builds, with a short cooldown to quickly reposition at a moment’s notice. A quirk of this dash move that had me tickled was the fact that you could use it to actually navigate up short vertical ledges that are sporadically present in rooms. These ledges can be leapt down from with zero issue, but returning back to where you came demands either a quick jaunt to a set of steps or using your dash move. Simple in concept, but when you start to identify ways to take advantage of enemy pathing you start to unlock some really impressive tech options.

Quite often I will lavish praise on a soundtrack, showing an appreciation for how well it works within the confines of the game itself – but with Lone Ruin it was one of those cases where I hungered for those electro-bangers even outside of the title. The up-tempo energy was supremely my jam (geddit?) and left an impression on me that lingered long after I had stopped slinging spells. In retrospect I could probably attribute a healthy portion of my ‘just one more run’ sessions to a deep desire to keep vibing to the tracks.

Take in the stunning vistas of… is that blood?

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While doing so much right, there is nothing I can describe Lone Ruin as having done wrong. Instead I would make mention of some aspects where it could do better. The art style, with its solid identity and beautiful readability, does lean very heavily on a two-colour palette that becomes a little overwhelming. The pink and cyan is gorgeously utilised – but it would have been nice to see a proper splash of something else to serve as a motif within the game. There are also a few minor camera gripes to be had with some parts of the environment blocking view of your character – foreground elements can loom in your face without a handy silhouette or highlight to keep you on track. Finally, the crescendo of finally clearing a room feels great – but is let down by the ponderous nature of movement that follows. As the last enemy falls and the thumping music ends, you are left mashing your dash key to quickly grab whatever goodies shook free in a rather glib quiet. Why not remove the cooldown on dash during these sections, to add a little flair and interest.

Final Thoughts

Cuddle Monster Games absolutely understands what makes a tight gameplay experience that leaves you craving more. Skating effortlessly on that thin line between being overwhelmed and feeling overpowered, my journey to the centre of the ruins had precisely the right amount of peril to keep me invigorated to do better each time. Easily deserving a place at the table of other legendary titles in the same vein, Lone Ruin offers a perfect ‘just one more run’ experience.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Lone Ruin Review
It’s dangerous to go ‘lone
Lone Ruin nails the brief on what makes an appreciable roguelike – combining a slick and sexy aesthetic with a core gameplay loop that can be rapidly picked up, but is deep enough to beg for mastery.
The Good
Crisp twin stick action feels excellent
Beautiful mix of pixel art and 3D
Moody atmosphere does not feel grim
Huge range of playstyles encourage experimentation
Soundtrack is bumping electronica
The Bad
Some environmental clutter can block character view
Colour depth has great contrast, but may come off as a bit shallow after a while
8
GET AROUND IT
  • Cuddle Monster Games
  • Super Rare Games
  • PS4 / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • January 12, 2023

Lone Ruin Review
It’s dangerous to go ‘lone
Lone Ruin nails the brief on what makes an appreciable roguelike – combining a slick and sexy aesthetic with a core gameplay loop that can be rapidly picked up, but is deep enough to beg for mastery.
The Good
Crisp twin stick action feels excellent
Beautiful mix of pixel art and 3D
Moody atmosphere does not feel grim
Huge range of playstyles encourage experimentation
Soundtrack is bumping electronica
The Bad
Some environmental clutter can block character view
Colour depth has great contrast, but may come off as a bit shallow after a while
8
GET AROUND IT
Written By Ash Wayling

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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