If you had to single out one genre that’s grown more than any other in recent years, it would have to be the roguelike. Now, more than ever, it feels like there’s more roguelikes launching than ever before, which means that the competition for your attention is stiffer than ever. If a game doesn’t offer something new and innovative, it’s liable to fail, and while Lone Ruin certainly manages to be a fun roguelike, it’s missing that killer USP.
A twin-shooter with roguelike elements, Lone Ruin depicts players as a solo adventurer, who arrive at the hostile ruins of a city corrupted by magic millenia ago. A gifted spellcaster, you’ve decided to find the truth behind what happened in this city, which means delving straight into the center of the ruins and killing any monsters who happen to be standing in your way. It’s a tough journey, but with the right tools, upgrades and quite a bit of skill, it’s not impossible.
To be fair, though, it’s hard to imagine the player character would have made it that far if it wasn’t for the helpful stranger you encounter at the start of every run. A mix between Resident Evil’s merchant and the old guy in the cave from the original Legend Of Zelda, the stranger proclaims that it’s “dangerous to go “lone,” before opening up their trenchcoat and offering one of eight different spells for you to use.
Those eight spells are essentially the weapons you can choose from to start off your run, and each one has their own quirks and nuances. Some are pretty simple, like Shards which serves as a machine gun of sorts, while Rail functions like a high damage railgun that takes some time to charge. Other spells are a bit more nuanced, like Barrage, which lets you charge up a hail of bullets before unleashing them in one direction, or Scythe, which is perfect for those who’d prefer a melee build. For each run, certain spells will start with a free upgrade as well, which incentivises experimenting with every spell to find the one right for you.
The game itself plays out similarly to roguelikes such as Hades. You’ll enter a chamber, kill a few waves on enemies, and then claim the rewards for doing so. These rewards could either be a new spell, for which you can equip an extra two before starting a run, new blessings which can alter your stats in key ways, or other benefits like additional blessings slots, treasure and healing items. You can even encounter shops to spend some of that hard-earned cash.
Even at a base level, Lone Ruin’s twin stick action is fun and responsive, though some spells take more getting used to than others. However, the real value comes when you build up your loadout to become way more powerful. Finding ways to stack damage or haste multipliers onto your to amplify your lethality or rate of fire makes for an incredibly satisfying gameplay loop. It is a roguelike though, so that random nature can be frustrating at times too, especially when the game keeps trying to give you the same useless blessing five runs in a row.
Sure, Pride Swell sounds good thanks to its boost to damage, but you need to be at full health otherwise it’s useless. I’m never at full health in Lone Ruin. Get it away from me.
While the moment-to-moment gameplay of Lone Ruin is rocksolid and worth checking out, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s somewhat of a barebones experience. The main draw of the game is just performing constant runs, over and over again, with no permanent progression or anything carried over between runs to keep players hooked. Compared to titles like Returnal or Hades, which have some kind of metagame beyond the endless runs, Lone Ruin’s structure feels kind of skeletal by comparison.
Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, as Lone Ruin is definitely going to appeal to those who love competing for the best scores via online leaderboards. It’s just that those who’ve been spoiled by roguelikes that have so much more to offer beyond the individual runs will likely drop Lone Ruin after their first completed run. There’s not much else to see and do afterwards, unless there’s a treasure trove of hidden bosses and stages that have skipped by me.
As it stands, Lone Ruin is certainly a competent roguelike with fun gameplay, but it could do with a little bit more meat on its bones. Hopefully, Cuddle Monster has some more plans for this game, as some additional levels, bosses and a progression system between runs (even if it’s just to unlock more blessings or spells that’ll appear in subsequent runs) would really improve Lone Ruin even more.
A Switch key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
READ MORE: 15 Best Roguelike & Roguelite Games of All Time
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.