A lone wanderer departs toward a Lone Ruin.

Lone Ruin Review

Published: January 16, 2023 11:00 AM

By:

 

Back in 2019, I played Hell is Other Demons, a stunningly unique bullet-hell platformer with a striking visual style and fresh gameplay. Perhaps it was too unique, as it didn’t take the world by storm in the way it probably deserved to. Either way, I knew I was in for whatever one-man development team Cuddle Monsters Games would release next. That game, Lone Ruin, keeps the incredible visuals and the creative combat but places it into the much more familiar trappings of a twin-stick roguelike. In that new form, the same tricks don’t hit quite as hard, even if the creativity is as on point as ever.

Like so many of its ilk, Lone Ruin casts players as an anonymous hero who gains a wide variety of abilities over the course of a single dungeon crawl. The story of a broken city taken over by dark magic is only really on display in the marketing materials outside of a single cutscene, and that’s fine. What Lone Ruin lacks in narrative, it more than makes up for in neon aesthetic.

Advertisement


If you know about Lone Ruin already, it’s likely because you saw a screenshot flash by on social media. The hard blacks, deep blues, and vivid purples combine for a killer look that drives the rest of the game forward. Particle effects from magical lasers and rotating orbs fill the screen whenever Lone Ruin is at its best, but never so much that it distracts from the task at hand. It’s an outstanding balance between a chaotic feast for the senses and gameplay cues that keep you alive longer and longer as the hours roll on.

Lone Ruin Horrible Hordes

Another factor maintaining Lone Ruin’s momentum is each run’s initial weapon selection. Although the game pushes you toward some of the various starting abilities, you have free reign to choose between shooting out chain lightning, unleashing an energy scythe, and filling the screen with damaging spheres. Each weapon changes gameplay significantly, especially when combined with the various upgrades you pick up along the way. This setup is an improvement over just rolling the dice and hoping for a good result, and I wish Lone Ruin brought that ingenuity to the rest of its gameplay loop.

Advertisement

Indeed, Lone Ruin feels like a winner across the board on paper. But, with all that polish coming from a single developer, something has to give. The other shoe drops when you come to terms with Lone Ruin’s scope. While similar in size to Hell is Other Demons, Lone Ruin feels desperately tiny compared to its contemporaries simply due to genre conventions. Progression in platformers comes from completing stages, which meant that the developer’s first game felt more extensive than it actually was. By contrast, progression in this genre comes from discovery, and that’s not this game’s strong suit. 

Lone Ruin Projectiles Gameplay

Even the most modest roguelike has more weapon choices and interesting perk combinations than what’s available here. I had a great time blasting through the campaign in a dozen hours, but I don’t feel like I missed anything after reaching the end credits. That could be a boon to some, but I prefer these types of games to loop back around after a single go-around and provide multiple paths to victory. Once you find your preferred weapon loadout and figure out which power-ups are the most beneficial, it’s simply a matter of performance to get to the end.

Advertisement

This changes somewhat with the secondary survival mode, which mixes things up just enough to provide a repeatable challenge that rises above the main roguelike action. You and a single weapon of your choice must take on ever-growing hordes in ten-minute chunks. As your killing spree extends further and further, you get more power-ups to your weapons and perks to increase your stopping power. It reminds me of Crimsonland in the best way, even if the scope issue prevents it from going far beyond expectations.

What are you selling

Lone Ruin has a lot going for it if you are looking for a new obsession that will last a weekend rather than an entire summer. The visual style is extremely appealing whether you’re on the go on Switch and loading up the game on the biggest screen in the house. The gameplay is fast-paced and appropriately tight, and the weapons are fun to master. I prefer loading up this developer’s previous effort, but Lone Ruin is a solid follow-up that makes me eager to see what’s next. 


TechRaptor reviewed Lone Ruin on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC.

Review Summary

Review Summary

7.0
Lone Ruin is a stylish good time while it lasts, but players will want more before too long.

Pros

  • Striking visual style with beautiful pixel work
  • Varied arsenal filled with unique choices
  • Tight gameplay lends itself to mastery

Cons

  • Scope pales in comparison to genre greats
  • Upgrades can feel slight, especially in the main mode
  • Repetition sets in quickly and never subsides
Alex Santa Maria TechRaptor
Author: | Staff Writer
Alex Santa Maria is TechRaptor's former Reviews Editor (2015-2020) and current occasional critic. Joining the site early in its life, Alex grew the review vertical into its own and laid a solid… Read More