Venture into an old, magical ruin to seek an ancient power in this highly replayable roguelike twin-stick shooter. Optimise spells and build ultimate combos to defeat twisted monstrosities and delve deeper into the Lone Ruin.
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also available for: PC
Developer: Cuddle Monster Games
Publisher: Super Rare Originals
Lone Ruin is about as basic a no-nonsense as a roguelike can get. There’s no levelling up your character here, no carrying forth of abilities or levelling up your character. To put it simply: this isn’t Hades. And yet, although the description may line it up more with PlayStation Returnal, it isn’t that either, with a distinct lack of an engaging narrative in the form of traditional or non-traditional means. Lone Ruin is a game designed around chasing scores, beating leaderboards and looking to master its three stages.
After a quick cutscene that plays every time you begin a run, you’ll pick out of a selection of randomized weapons, start your fight through several areas, and a couple of boss fights before you can see credits in Lone Ruin. Move with the left stick, aim with the right and press a button to shoot. It’s basic twin-stick fare, and although it all feels good, something is missing from Lone Ruin’s design. Procedurally generated levels with small enclosed areas often frustrated me, as the pairing of the games’ darker voxel art style with the shadowy areas often made it difficult for me to track some enemy types. Some of the weapons also felt useless, in comparison to other games in the genre where you’ll feel like each weapon presents a different playstyle; it was only with the ranged weapons and, in particular, a lighting bolt attack that I felt confident in being able to play Lone Ruin without significant frustrations. The lighting attack can bounce off enemies when upgraded, which makes it chew through and achieve crowd control unlike anything else in the game.
Even if I found the balance and basic fun factor of the weapons to be un-balanced, once you find one that works, the core gameplay in Lone Ruin is gripping. You’ll die a lot and easily in the game, so learning how to constantly move while attacking is a must and learning when to use your dodge and other abilities will make you a pro.
Similar to other roguelike games and, most recently, Hades, you’ll choose between a couple of doorways when exiting any area, all of which feature a different symbol. After playing for a while, you’ll start to learn what all of these mean, but you can get rooms that’ll give you health, upgrade your weapons, or contain a handful of enemies to deal with and take out. To reiterate what I said in the opening paragraph, no currency carries over between runs and lets you upgrade any part of the character, nor is there a way to permanently upgrade your weapon’s damage or abilities. You can enter rooms that’ll give you different skills, however, or upgrade the one you have, like being able to dash at a faster rate.
Outside of the primary ‘story mode,’ which you can play on an ‘easy’ difficulty if you’d like (which is nice to see included), there’s a survival room, which quickly became my preferred way to play the game. As it sounds, you enter a room and fight enemies for as long as possible.
Playing on my Nintendo Switch primarily in handheld, the game struggled with frame drops and jumps being noticeable and disrupting my gameplay. However, this wasn’t anything I noticed when I played docked, but Lone Ruin was a game I enjoyed playing more in bed at night in handheld mode than on my TV.
Lone Ruin is going to scratch an itch for those who love chasing high scores and trying to one-up friends. The twin-stick roguelike elements are solid, but the game isn’t going to tickle the fancy of anyone looking for either a story in their roguelikes or a sense of progression you’ll often see in modern roguelikes.