I really love the moment-to-moment gameplay of the isometric action roguelike Lone Ruin, but a few missies on the bigger picture hold it back.
- Title: Lone Ruin
- Release Date: January 12, 2023
- Price: $14.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated E for Everyone by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, Steam
- Recommended for fans of: Hades, Twin-Stick Shooters, and Old School Structures
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I hate when I feel like I am missing something in a game.
Lone Ruin is an isometric roguelike action game with a wide variety of spells and boons. You enter a room, fight a few waves of enemies, then get to choose between two doors (and two upgrades) on your way to a boss fight, then you do it all over again a few times.
I know that Hades is a Roguelike, but I think it's time to start calling games like this and Dandy Ace Hades-likes.
Unfortunately, despite a fantastic sense of style in both audio and video, the gameplay and bigger picture let me down the more I played Lone Ruin.
I am being a bit jokey in comparing Lone Ruin to Hades, but it's hard to take the game super seriously when literally the only dialog I have encountered so far is from some sort of demon or reaper you meet at the beginning, and it's a Legend of Zelda joke. Seeing that off the bat set the tone for me, basically telling me that this game was meant to be played for a laugh more than it was meant to be taken seriously.
In action, this is a twin-stick action game that has you casting spells rather than shooting. You start off with just one attack and a dodge ability, but pick up upgrades and additional attacks along the way. Aiming is done purely using the right analog stick, which is a bit of a bummer for me. I'm not sure why that sort of control scheme doesn't work for me, but I wish there was an option for attacks to lock on to the nearest enemy in the direction you're facing instead.
Look and Feel
Lone Ruin looks absolutely incredible. The environments you explore are dark, dreary ruins, but they are brought to life by atmospheric effects like fog and synthwave neon lighting. It doesn't exactly feel like the bright colors fit with the world's design, but it absolutely fits with the music.
I'm not sure how to describe the soundtrack of Lone Ruin. It's not quite synthwave, it's not quite lofi beats, it's not quite trance… but it's a little of all of that. It honestly feels like I took all of the weird, instrumental playlists I listen to on Spotify while I'm writing, mixed them up in a bucket with some glowsticks, then poured that in a tall glass with some ice and vodka.
The soundtrack absolutely rules.
What am I missing?
My struggle with Lone Ruin is that when I slow down and try to look past the great vibes, I feel like the game comes up short. While I'm in the middle of a run I go way into a flow state and have a great time, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of depth. I haven't encountered any sort of story so far, so there's no plot to pull me forward. Hades was the first roguelike game I really got into, largely thanks to its phenomenal narrative, and Lone Ruin doesn't seem to even be nodding toward a plot.
The other issue I'm bumping up against is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of synergy in the spells and abilities I've found so far. I've leveled up giant lasers, chain lighting, and barrage attacks, and each of those individual attacks have gotten more interesting, but I haven't found any way that they interact with each other.
Moreover, you use your dodge and your attacks with the trigger and shoulder buttons, and from what I can figure out you can't use multiple attacks at the same time. If you're going to give me three big flashy attacks that don't interact with each other, I wish I could at least set them all off at the same time.
Finally, as far as I've uncovered so far there is no meta-progression here. As far as I'm aware I haven't unlocked any new abilities or upgrades or anything. This seems to be a true roguelike, where you start over from scratch each run.
I don't think I'm done with Lone Ruin, but I honestly might be. The game is really a blast when I'm playing it, but the lack of a plot, interesting synergies to uncover, or a sense of ongoing progression holds it back. I want to love this game, and each time I pick it up it's easy to sink hours into it, but when I'm not playing it I don't feel a pull to come back.