The grisly and violent world of RUINER, a cyberpunk, top-down shooter
This article contains spoilers.
As the first game released by Reikon Games, a studio founded by four expert game designers whose previous work has included The Witcher, the hack-and-slash game RUINER features adrenaline-filled, stylish bloodbaths and anime-inspired art accentuated by dark atmospheres.
In RUINER, you are someone whose brain was hacked to kill the boss of Heaven, a megacorporation that sells “virtual experiences” to the rich by playing out the equivalent situation – even the horrible ones – in real life, mostly to those less well off.
A hacker girl (“Her”) saves you – by hacking you again – but tells you that you must kill everyone in your path to save your brother. It’s quite the recipe for an addicting cyberpunk adventure. And what a ride RUINER can be – the entire game is an almost nonstop bloodfest. Plenty of enemies come at you, and the only breaks in the action are to quickly progress the plot.
Yet underlying these gory scenes are characters and story threads which highlight the depravity of humans. Oddly enough, the world created by these points make the abundant bloodshed in the game make a sort of morbid sense.
DECEPTION, DECEPTION, DECEPTION
In RUINER, almost everyone serves themselves. Let’s take a closer look. RUINER‘s two protagonists are you and Her. Her’s role is quite ambiguous.
At first glance, she might seem like she’s working with you to help you, but just one more look and you’ll see that she’s actually ordering you to “get” your many, many opponents in the name of saving your brother. All the while, she never appears in person, and calls you the condescending name of Puppy. That name is quite appropriate for the situation: she practically takes your hand and makes you run to the game’s unhinging conclusion.
The Boss and your brother also play pivotal roles, but not really as people, per se. For much of the game, they act as symbols – the Boss as everything that’s wrong with this world (ironically, as something you’re trying to protect, at least initially), and your brother as the victims of the Boss’s megacorporation (which is also something you’re ideally trying to save). However, through certain events in the game, you’ll see that maybe these two ideas aren’t so different after all.
And your character, whose face consists of a mask with flashing text and images, is simply a pawn in the middle of it. You were hacked to kill Heaven’s boss, and then hacked again to save your brother – who is inevitably linked to the Boss. Along the way, you must fight against Heaven’s own cronies. They had hoped to usurp the Boss, showing that dissatisfaction permeates even within the corporation.
Who’s right, and who’s wrong? Or is there any glimmer of hope for Rengkok’s citizens? Most importantly, can we untangle this web of intrigue? By the end, it’s still difficult to tell, though these questions help provide context for all the bloodshed.
IN THIS WORLD, NO APOLOGIES ARE GIVEN
RUINER is out to prove that it means business, but not only through its violence. While a constant splatter of blood might sound overwhelming at first glance, it’s balanced out by the pizzazz and even elegance of RUINER’s animation, as well as the game’s focus on hack-and-slash action. The blood never feels like it’s too much, even though there may be a lot appearing on the screen.
What might make you queasy, however, is RUINER’s willingness to showcase how depraved the world is. At one point in the game, you must torture the severed head of an opponent that you’ve kept alive for the sole purpose of entering an area. Another boss features two females who work in tandem until one of them dies; then the other simply shrugs off her partner’s death.
This utter lack of concern for the lives of other people permeates the entire game. As mentioned before, Her simply keeps urging the main character onward: “Get them, Puppy!” Furthermore, the accomplishment screens that appear after you’ve killed all the opponents in certain areas show Her smiling and cheering at how well you did, or making side comments if you didn’t perform to her standards.
Such progress reports are familiar from other games where they make you feel you’ve accomplished something – and indeed, they are very appropriate for showcasing just how good you are at RUINER, which has gained a reputation for being tough. However, from a plot and character perspective, the same happy reactions contribute an additional sense of unease to the game.
WE ARE TRULY RUINED
All in all, RUINER’s violence makes sense thanks to the world it has built: full of vengeance, mistrust, and enough mysteries to keep you interested. Some of the plot points weren’t clarified as well as they could be, but these lingering questions can possibly be remedied by a DLC.
RUINER is available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.
Image credits: Reikon Games, Devolver Digital