Go get ‘em, puppy “A lot de­pends on which abil­i­ties you de­cide to fo­cus on in the skill tree”

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Martin Kitts

In a grimy sci-fi dystopia, pop­u­lated by syn­thet­i­cally en­hanced cit­i­zens and ruled over by the shady Heaven cor­po­ra­tion, a hacker jacks into your aug­mented brain and re­pro­grams you with a sin­gle di­rec­tive: Kill Boss.

What en­sues is around 10 hours of crim­son-tinted neon car­nage, as you take on room af­ter dimly-lit room of in­creas­ingly well-armed bad guys and bul­let-spray­ing bosses. Although it ini­tially ap­pears to be a stan­dard sort of twin stick shooter, there’s more to the com­bat than meets the eye. A lot de­pends on which abil­i­ties you de­cide to fo­cus on in the skill tree.

Af­ter much fail­ure we came to the con­clu­sion that Ruiner is ef­fec­tively a melee game first and a twin stick shooter a dis­tant sec­ond. The small en­emy hit­boxes and slow pro­jec­tiles make it hard to hit a mov­ing tar­get with the ba­sic pis­tol, and while weapons such as the shot­gun are rea­son­ably ef­fi­cient at keep­ing the bad guys at bay, they’re not al­ways avail­able when you need them and ammo is lim­ited.

Blud­geon­ing en­e­mies with a chunk of drain­pipe, how­ever, is quicker and eas­ier. You can grab swords that deal a bit more dam­age but they soon break, leav­ing you with the de­fault blunt in­stru­ment, which does the job as well as any­thing else. There’s ac­tu­ally some sub­tle en­cour­age­ment not to bother pick­ing up weapons at all, in the form of a weapon grinder that chews up any un­used items at the end of a bat­tle and spits out karma points which can be used to buy more use­ful up­grades. Chaaaarge! Charg­ing di­rectly to­wards a group of gun-tot­ing op­po­nents is a dumb tac­tic, of course, and you can go from max health to zero in an in­stant. There are a few tools avail­able to help you close the gap be­tween ranged en­e­mies and the busi­ness end of your iron bar, the most ef­fec­tive of which seems to be the ba­sic dash move. Up­grad­ing this makes you take less dam­age while dash­ing, and can be com­bined with a slow mo­tion power that lets you zip around at full speed while en­e­mies swim through trea­cle.

There’s also an en­ergy shield to help you break through tightly packed de­fences, and any up­grades that in­crease your dura­bil­ity are sen­si­ble in­vest­ments, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing boss fights. On the other hand, the abil­ity to set way­points for a multi-stage dash is one that looks cool but seems too fid­dly to be of much use in the heat of bat­tle, and a few of the later skills also ap­pear some­what re­dun­dant. Still, you’re not pe­nalised for try­ing them out, as you can al­ways de­ac­ti­vate the use­less ones and get your un­lock points re­funded. Ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions may well re­veal some­thing that bet­ter suits your own play­ing style.

When it works well, it’s fast, bru­tal and sat­is­fy­ing. Dodg­ing bul­lets, dash­ing be­tween en­e­mies and leav­ing be­hind piles of bod­ies: these are good things. But it also falls flat in some ar­eas. It can be hard to see bul­lets, you’ll of­ten die with­out know­ing what hit you, and it would def­i­nitely ben­e­fit from a smoother fram­er­ate. There’s noth­ing quite like it on Xbox, though, and the op­tion to ex­per­i­men­tally re-spec your char­ac­ter at any point dur­ing a level is a great idea and the key to get­ting the best out of Ruiner.

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