Published by: Super Rare Originals
Developed by: Cuddle Monster Games (aka Hannes Rahm)
Our friends over at Super Rare Games sure have been busy as of late. You may know of SRG as the team who brings physical copies of, up-to-then, digital-only games in an ongoing bid to help in game preservation. Or, you may know SRG as those guys who did that kooky-cool cassette-cum-USB with many long-lost indie titles. Or you’ll know them for the amazing Grapple Dog.
Whichever way you know of them, SRG is a team you should be paying attention to. But, “why now in particular?” you may ask. Well, my dear reader, SRG has teamed up with Cuddle Monster Games to bring a devilishly delicious rogue-like twin-stick shooter with a heap of potential replay value.
Oh, and we’ve had the chance to review that particular game. Yes, I am, of course, referring to the latest Super Rare Originals title. From the team that brought the world Hell is Other Monsters comes Lone Ruin.
Fear not, despite the gushing I’ve made over SRG so far, I will remain unbiased for this review. Also, whilst we’re covering bases, I should make it clear that our copy of Lone Ruin was provided by the publishers. And it was performed on a PC running Intel Core i9-10900 CPU @ 2.80GHz/2.81 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER, with 16GB RAM. And no, I still don’t know what any of that means. Leave me alone.
It’s Dangerous to Go ‘Lone…
Lone Ruin is an oft-times chaotic little rogue-like that manages to meld a few genres into the mix. Obviously, it has the whole rogue-like mechanic going for it. You play a run with some abilities, you get so far in the said run, you acquire more abilities, you die, and you start again. Rinse, repeat.
It’s also a twin-stick shooter, moving with one thumbstick and shooting with the other. Pretty straightforward stuff, really.
And then, it throws in being a bullet hell for good measure too! What you’re left with is an amalgamation of styles that typically blend in nicely with one another. And, truth be told, it’s the same with Lone Ruin. If you go in expecting the difficulty of any one of those genres, you won’t be taken by surprise.
Now, long-time readers of my reviews will note that I typically open with the game’s story with whatever game I’m reviewing. It’s pretty standard practice for me now. However, there isn’t…really…a story to Lone Ruin. You’re thrown into this hellscape of neon and low-poly textures with no real rhyme or reason beyond a brief cutscene at the start. But, then again, aside from Hades, it isn’t really a genre known for being narrative-heavy. And that’s completely fine.
You start each run in the same way; walking into the first courtyard, being greeted by an ominous figure who claims, “it’s dangerous to go ‘lone. Take one of these”. You’ll then be given a choice of eight different magic spell attacks – a scythe for the melee-focused among you, and wider-reaching attacks like chain lightning and fireball for the sensible amongst us. In addition to these eight attacks, three of them will have a random upgrade buff available – for free.
It’s a Kind of Magic
After you choose your attack, you’re free to progress through the dungeons. Each room gives you a choice between two more rooms you can move onto – after you’ve defeated all the enemies, of course! The enemies range from your basic one-shot grunts to a trio of crab-like things to totems that spit dark magic all around them. Typical fodder.
Once you’ve bested every enemy in a given room, you’re free to move on. The next room might offer you a health bonus, or a new spell, or a new upgrade. So then it becomes a case of “what do you value more; your health or your attacks?”. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because, with some twenty-one levels and three bosses to beat, you’ll either blitz through or die trying.
In a bid to help you not die – skill permitted – you can pick up an additional two abilities to complement your first one. That’s right, you’ll have three magical attacks to bring about firey retribution to those horrid little blighters that killed you last time.
Those three abilities don’t just mean you can spam attack, however. Each attack has a cooldown or reloads in place. One spell might have, say, five “shots” before your “magazine” is depleted and you have to reload. Another one might feature a charge mechanic in place which means you have to line each shot up perfectly.
Once More, Unto the Breach
You’re also given a dash ability from the start – which can be upgraded – but, ultimately, it comes down to what weapons you choose (and upgrade) and your own skill level. There are many people online that have noted how one run can be done in around an hour.
Sadly though, those same people all say one thing in common; there simply isn’t much content going for Lone Ruin. And, if I’m honest, I have to agree. Aside from a leaderboard (and a chance to win a money grand prize for the best score!), it doesn’t really offer enough to warrant multiple returns.
Now, again, this is a rogue-like, and when you’ve actually bested one, there rarely ever is a need to come back to it. However, when it comes to the rogue-like twin-stick-shooter genre, there are simply too many other options available. So, what does Lone Ruin offer?
There’s the obvious main quest of getting through the dungeon in the “Ruin Run” mode. Of which you can choose between normal and hard difficulties. Whilst the normal difficulty does pose a challenge, granted, veterans of the genre will already be used to it.
There’s also an arena mode where you need to clear out wave after wave of enemies in a timed manner. I’m told this is similar to Vampire Survivors, though I can’t make that comparison as I never bothered with that title myself.
Neon-Drenched Medieval Horror? What’s Not to Love?
And then, aside from a cool aesthetic? Not a lot, really. Sure, the soundtrack is luxurious, with heavy synth tones pulsating throughout each run. But, even that, is so cliché for the genre, that it might as well be a genre convention now.
Don’t get me wrong, that aesthetic, with its neon-drenched, low-poly medieval vibe going is certainly eye-catching. And perhaps that’s enough to draw people in. However, when it comes to it, Lone Ruin needs a little more to keep its audience coming back.
Enemy types are pretty standard throughout, level designs begin to feel repetitive, and the bosses are only ever as difficult as you allow them to be. Once you’ve been through the dungeon a couple of times on failed runs, you’ll have picked up enough to know what to expect.
Now Everything’s Ruined
Obviously, rouge-likes have different entry-level requirements for players’ skills. One person might excel at the genre and be at home with the chaos going on around them at later levels. Meanwhile, another person might struggle with a few waves on screen at the same time. As such, it’s difficult to gauge how long you might spend with Lone Ruin. A feasible guesstimate? Maybe two hours or so of failed attempts and one hour for a successful one? Again, player skill and experience taken into account.
The sad thing about Lone Ruin is that it looks like it could be a wonderful beast. It definitely has the visual appeal of a game that should be a hit. But ultimately, it falls just shy of being a great game. Sadly, I’d struggle to give Lone Ruin a score higher score than 5/10. The only saving grace is that the developers are already looking at ways to increase the amount of content present. If you’ve played Lone Ruin or have watched someone play it and can think of ways it could be fleshed out, please do shoot them a message. I really want this to become more than it currently is. I have high hopes for its future, but, sadly, I can’t review a future version of the game right now.
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Lone Ruin Review
- Overall - 5/105/10
Lone Ruin is a beautifully decorated rogue-like twin-stick shooter that, sadly, doesn’t quite do enough to stand out from the crowd of similar titles. +
- Amazing visuals
- Music is superb
- Combat is intuitive
- Does what a rogue-like should do
- Lack of content currently
- Repetitive upon repeat attempts
- Doesn’t stand out amongst others in the genre
ABG’s Senior Editor (News), YouTube content creator/streamer.