When I saw the trailer for Ruinverse, I was intrigued to say the least. It looked like a great mix of character development, turn-based combat, and RPG elements. Unfortunately, what the trailer didn’t reveal was just how boring the gameplay was, which very much detracted from the whole experience. Whilst I love the premise in concept, the execution was somewhat lacking.
Story – A Masterpiece of RPG Intrigue
If you’re a fan of detailed stories and lore in your games, then Ruinverse could be exactly what you’re looking for. The game introduces the main protagonist, Kit, a transporter who is also a trainee to a hunter named Allie. Their dialogue and interactions are amusing, and immediately clue you in to the nature of their relationship and individual personalities.
Allie’s job is to hunt and defeat monsters in the nearby area, and Kit is her faithful companion. You’d think this would make the power dynamic pretty clear, but unfortunately Ruinverse went down the route that many JRPGs do, and infantilised Allie, presumably in a bid to make her appear more sexually available. This is very clear in the way her character is drawn, and the sound effects that she makes, which come across very ‘damsel-in-distress’ when her role is actually one of someone who’s fierce and in charge.
Aside from the questionable way the developers chose to portray Allie, however, the dialogue between the characters is usually detailed and interesting. It gives a lot of exposition without feeling shoe-horned in, and often there’s humour included. You get a true sense for who the characters are, and it helps you to relate to them.
Without delving into spoilers, the way the story develops is exceptionally clever. There was a great twist at the end of the first cave, which made me gasp out loud. Unfortunately, they did rescind some of the severity of that plotline immediately afterwards, which lessens the initial impact. However, it’s a theme that they regularly return to as the story progresses, and it’s very neatly done.
Overall, this game is very story-heavy with well-written dialogue, and you will feel a deep connection with the plot and the characters. Kit is a great protagonist; his personality is endearing and his story is compelling.
Gameplay – The Verse Isn’t the Only Thing This Game Ruins
If I had to describe the gameplay in one word, it would be ‘linear’. If I was given another word then it would be ‘slow’. Because Ruinverse puts so much focus on story, it means the gameplay loses out. The chapters are broken up by a lot of cutscenes, although even these are in the same style as the game, so there’s no visual differentiation. You also have to click through all the dialogue boxes, so it feels like work as you’re not making any actual game progress. I feel like the cutscenes would have been more effective if they scrolled through automatically.
The movement is very smooth; it feels as though you’re gliding, and the loading time between areas is incredibly fast. This means that the actual RPG elements run very nicely, but unfortunately you don’t get to appreciate this fact as there are so many cutscenes breaking up the gameplay. You can have multiple characters in your party, and they follow directly behind the leader, so you never have to worry about party members falling out of formation.
There are also various items that you can collect, most of which are found in chests. These tend to be hidden in harder to access areas. When you’re in a cave, you can look for specific markers along the wall that indicate a hidden area. This is a fun element, and makes exploring caves feel more immersive as you’re focused on looking for anything out of place.
One of the main downsides of Ruinverse is that you can’t do much exploring. Moving around is fun, but the game forces you in a certain direction. Especially at the early stages it physically blocks you from being able to go in other directions, and so you have to follow the story. I do enjoy the quests, but it would be nice to be able to do your own thing if you wished.
Combat – A Decidedly Basic Affair
Combat in Ruinverse is turn-based, and is measured by a slider near the top that shows the order of both party members and enemies. It’s convenient being able to see when enemies will be fighting, as this allows you to plan attacks better. You can focus on taking out the last enemy, as that way they might die before they’re able to take their turn.
The only downside with combat is that it’s quite basic, particularly near the start of the game. You have the option to just do a normal attack, the strength of which is based on your level and weapon. However, you can also use a skill, which will be a physical or magical attack that requires MP. There are also some skills that have a healing effect for allies.
HP will fully restore after each battle, however MP replenishes over time and is not immediate. That means you have to consider when to use skills, and when to conserve your powers. You may choose to sacrifice some of your HP in an easy battle and just use normal attacks which will do less damage. That way, you save your skills for the tougher battles when you’ll need to use all the magic that you can.
As well as attacks/skills, you can also use items during a fight. These will usually be things such as potions to restore health or magic. However, there are also special items that will deal with specific enemies. Occasionally you’ll encounter solid boulders, which will withstand a lot of damage if you attack them normally, but will break apart easily if you use a hammer. This kind of thing does add variation to combat, and makes battles more interesting.
After combat, your characters will gain experience and gold. As well as this, enemies will sometimes drop additional items such as armour or weapons. You’ll also occasionally receive angel tears, which are used as a separate currency in the game.
Skills, Weapons, and Equipment – Plenty to Customise
As mentioned previously, you gain items as you play Ruinverse, and these can be equipped from the main menu. One of the things I noticed was that the menu is not very intuitive, nor is it explained, so it took me a while to figure out exactly how to perform certain actions. For example, I picked up some armour near the beginning, but when I went into the ‘Equipment’ section of the menu, I was only able to delete it.
Instead, equipping weapons and armour is done through the ‘Character’ screen, where you can see each section of a character’s loadout. Again, this section isn’t clear, and I was unsure how to cycle between characters as scrolling didn’t seem to work. Fortunately it had an option to equip ‘Party Strongest’, so I used that for the first few hours. Eventually I realised you could cycle the characters with the same button that you change party leader when on the map.
As well as using the menu to kit out (pun intended) your party, there are various other options. One of the most interesting sections is the ‘Skills’ menu, where you can upgrade certain abilities, or purchase new ones. You gain skill points when you reach certain level milestones, and there is a skill tree available to choose how to spend them. The three main areas are physical abilities, magical abilities, and passive abilities. You can divide your points how you wish, and you have the option to reset if you change your mind.
On your journey you may sometimes find berries, and these can be planted from the menu. These grow in real time, so you’ll have to play for a while before these are ready to be harvested. You can plant up to 3 different berries at a time, and they all serve different purposes.
Graphics and Audio – Pleasantly Whimsical
Whilst the assets are visually uncomplicated, they’re mostly rather pleasant to look at. The 2D style fits the story, and gives the game a somewhat retro charm. There are lots of objects scattered throughout the world, but most of them are just for decoration. The game doesn’t allow you to interact with them, not even to get a short line of description. This detracts from the immersion, and makes the world feel a bit empty. However, it is still nice to look at.
Character designs are very basic, however the main characters have a separate illustration that shows on screen when they talk. These pictures are more detailed, and are fun to look at. I really like how the expressions change on the faces depending on the subject matter.
The map in Ruinverse is pretty rudimentary, and although it shows your target objective, you can’t zoom in to get a more detailed view of the terrain. This is especially problematic in enclosed areas such as towns or caves, which are shown as just one spot on the main map. You can’t see which direction you need to go within them in order to reach the objective.
You do have a mini map, but this is even more simplistic than the main map, and shows everything in a pixelated style. There are no arrows to show where to go, nor even indicators for the target. It does show buildings and your character, but this is of limited helpfulness. A more graphically detailed map would make the game a lot better in my opinion.
The audio throughout Ruinverse is upbeat and magical, and really complements the genre. The tunes change depending on the area; however, they all fit a similar theme. The music on the main menu is particularly exciting, and invites you in. When you’re in towns, the audio is relaxing and cheerful. There’s also a unique tune for during combat, which helps with the immersion as you associate the sound with battle.
There aren’t many sound effects throughout the game, though. There is no spoken dialogue, nor even noises when characters are speaking. You also don’t have a sound effect for opening chests. Pretty much the only time where sound effects are present is during combat, and it would have been nice to have them be more prevalent.
Ruinverse was reviewed on PS4, with a review key provided by KEMCO.