The words ‘roguelike’ and ‘indie’ are so synonymous with each other at this point that peanut butter and jelly are starting to experience FOMO. Hence, for a twin-stick shooter like Lone Ruin to excel, it needs to deliver something spectacular or craft a unique take on the roguelike genre. For the most part, it does succeed, but a few things could’ve been added to make this game even better.
Overcoming The Odds
Whether you select the campaign or survival mode, players are unceremoniously thrust into the shoes of a purple-clad magician who’s equipped with a basic dash ability and the choice to decide upon one of several starting spells. After each increasingly difficult battle, Lone Ruin lets the magician upgrade their spells, purchase handy items like auto-resurrect or treasure magnet, and add an extra ability to the 4 available slots. Since these awards can’t be planned out in the campaign, it can lead to some rather unfortunate scenarios. For instance, being one hit away from death right before a major encounter, or not having the most suitable spell on hand. However, it does force players to properly learn the ins and outs of each power, enemy behaviour and… how they can absolutely cheese the first boss.
Even on the lowest difficulty though, this twin-stick shooter demands a steady focus and strategic manoeuvring around the map to thrive. Overall, Lone Ruin’s gameplay is fondly reminiscent of Hades, with a constant barrage of projectiles and enemies gathering from every direction. But it’s simple easy-to-learn setup doesn’t quite offer the same amount of customisation or variance in terms of gameplay. Nor does the colour palette venture out from it’s mystical purple motif. It’s easy on the eyes, sure. Albeit, there’s only a slight shift to a more crimson red tone found in the latter parts of a run. That being said, the clean visuals make it much easier to see everything when the proverbial hits the fan—and it will, gloriously.
The satisfaction of watching a big chunk of monsters explode in unison, as the magician effortlessly dances around the arena whilst summoning a giant ice wall is palpable. In this fashion, Lone Ruin really nails the impact and flow of combat, demanding that ‘just one more attempt, I promise!’ sensation whenever a run is cut short. Discovering the synergies between spells is also highly rewarding, as some combinations like the Boomerang and Black Hole can devastate large groups of enemies with ease. Especially once their capacity, range and damage output is increased, most enemies will be gone before they even appear on the screen.
What Could Have Been
If there’s two areas Lone Ruin desperately lacks in, they’d have to be the campaign’s short length and an absence of story. At the beginning of the game, players are treated to a brief, yet skippable cutscene, hinting at the events of the narrative and what’s in store. However, nothing substantial ever comes of this, aside from the obligatory “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” quote that almost every indie game is contractually obligated to include. At the end of the day, it just feels like wasted potential. The low price point does justify these drawbacks somewhat, though it still hurts to see the developers skimp out on such a cool-looking world and visual design for naught but gameplay purposes.
Fortunately, the music does soften this blow, as the ethereal vocals and drum ‘n’ bass-infused tracks match the high-energy atmosphere Lone Ruin is going for. Funnily enough, (if anyone can recall) this OST almost invokes the same Live FM radio station sounds as FIFA Street 2. Bit of a weird comparison, I know. Although, even if the difficult gameplay can become strenuous at times, this relatively short soundtrack definitely won’t be the culprit.
Lone Ruin will ferociously slap players silly if they aren’t careful. The survival and campaign modes are crammed full of overwhelming swarms of enemies, requiring the swiftest of reflexes and clever management of spells to deal with. Even though the colour palette remains largely the same throughout, Lone Ruin’s visual clarity does a great job of keeping things clear and easy breezy to manage. The lack of a proper narrative is disappointing and there are moments in a run which can’t be accounted for, but it won’t be long before players are restarting over and over again just to get that little bit further—with a higher score to boot. Doesn’t hurt that the uptempo music is bangin’ as well.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
A tense, twin-stick shooting experience awaits for those who adore the roguelike genre and all the uncertainty that comes with it… whether that’s positive or negative, I’ll leave up to you. But just know that once Lone Ruin sinks it’s teeth into you, those marks will be tremendously hard to remove.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Super Rare Games. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.