Lone Ruin review - twin sticks, one track mind

Lone Ruin

I noticed one thing about Lone Ruin before booting it up on Steam - it has just one achievement. If you beat the boss, you are given the only trophy in the game. This is both a wonderful expression of how tight the focus of the game is and also my biggest problem. Though it turns out to be just a prelaunch hiccup, I can't help but notice how much it graphs onto my experience with the game.

Lone Ruin is designed for a certain type of player - someone obsessed with the leaderboards, willing to replay five times to get just a fraction higher. It takes the right type of person to really stick their teeth in but this can be both wonderfully comforting and incredibly alienating.

If it clicks, this game could last you 50 hours, spotting new ways to tackle it and correcting mistakes made in previous runs. If it fails to hit that mark, it may leave you wanting something with a little more depth.

Searching for more

To put it simply Lone Ruin is a true roguelike, relying on doing runs through randomly generated paths - no long-term progression or permanent upgrades. The only difference between run to run is you. This is an infectious combination of genres that makes mastering the game feel really great.

Fighting enemies in Lone Ruin
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Unfortunately, the only thing keeping you coming back to it after you've "beaten" it is your own score. Essentially, there are two central modes: the standard mode and survival. You can run these on easy, medium, and hard difficulty - giving you something to keep working towards. The standard mode has you go through 21 levels, defeating a boss after every 7. This means you have effectively beaten the run if you can just get through them all.

The survival mode is timed and all about picking up new weapons and upgrades to effectively create your build to take on the next level. A good survival run has you choose both short and long-term upgrades that can give you enough firepower to keep going but enough synergy to make an interesting build long-term.

The cracks come through

This is where Lone Ruin starts to lose its charm. In the moment-to-moment gameplay, it is incredibly like the recent Hades, with little bits of other roguelikes running sprinkled in. Though it has a pretty interesting purple and black aesthetic, many of its individual components aren't all that unique. Given the entire game is based on doing runs and hitting new high scores on the leaderboards, all of the most unique aspects feel like side-dressing.

Upgrade choices in Lone Ruin
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I managed to get through all 21 levels on Medium difficulty on my second attempt, then took two more to defeat it on hard. Though I love competing against my friends, I saw little reason to play for an extra hour for a small bump in my score. I felt content with my record and mostly played survival for the rest of my time with the game.

This is a little more intriguing but a limited supply of items means I over-relied on the ones getting results and left the others behind. Most items are split into passive and active abilities. Your passive abilities give you stat buffs or special effects when certain requirements have been met. The active abilities are used to kill your enemies or hurtle you across the arena to get into a better position. They don't feel earth-shattering enough to be actively interesting to use, but vary enough to provide a pleasant experience, even if its a little too close to other roguelike titles.

What Lone Ruin does nail is its atmosphere and ability to lock you into the zone. With a constantly pulsing electronic soundtrack and just enough enemies to consistently litter the screen, there's something quite infectious about sniping an enemy from a distance while leaping elsewhere to get a better shot on the next. Moves combo together and can click if you create your build just right

A great start

Though all these ideas make for a great foundation, I can't help but wonder what else they could have done with this setup. The game looks unique and certainly has some good ideas but I felt done with it very quickly. It can be nice to beat my friend's scores but a nonexistent story and familiar gameplay loop leave it in the shadow of many games it aims to emulate.

Fundamentally, I never felt like I was given a reason to care about Lone Ruin. Bosses are reasonably interesting and the world is desolate and sad but they feel like a simple backdrop to get you playing immediately - rather than a springboard to throw better ideas at you. I really want to care about Lone Ruin but the game will never let me.

Lone Ruin
Lone Ruin is a game all about replayability that I saw little reason to replay after the credits.
6 out of 10

A copy of Lone Ruin was provided by the publisher

You can get it on Steam here.

For more articles like this, take a look at our Reviews and Lone Ruin page.