One of the more exciting publishers on the gaming scene is Devolver Digital, a company that always seems to have a slate of interesting looking games on the way. And one of those games is cyberpunk shooter Ruiner. From developer Reikon Games, the title that appears to be a Hotline Miami clone at first glance is anything but.
We got to sit down and chat with Jakub Styliński, one of the developers on the game, and according to him, while the game started as "let's make Hotline Miami, but cyberpunk" it rapidly and radically evolved and shifted away from that concept.
While the game may be top-down and the publisher may be Devolver Digital, that's really where the similarities stop: gadgets, a wide array of weapons, an upgrade system, and a chaining dash are just some of the primary focuses with Ruiner. The way the game approaches the dash in particular is a stand-out. Chaining dashes together actually freezes time and allows you to pick targets or areas you want to emphasise multiple moves at a time, and this frankly makes the title feel more like a strategy game. It allows the game to strike a perfect balance between more traditional, frantic minute-to-minute action, while also presenting the opportunity to slow things way down and get a chance to catch your breath.
And catching your breath is something you're going to find that you need to do because make no mistake this game is punishing. During our hands on we died more times than we'd care to admit, and this was still during the hand-holding portion of the game. Fret not, however, as the game isn't unfairly challenging. All of our deaths came from errors that we made while feeling our way through the controls – and because we were using keyboard and mouse instead of a trusty DualShock. Toeing the line like that when crafting a challenging game is always essential, and Reikon absolutely nailed it. Styliński did mention that there will be a "tourist mode" for those who want the story but aren't in it for the gameplay, but it's not the true game that the team set out to craft.
The game also allows room for all of the gadgets and weapons to breathe, providing ample space for you to do just about anything you fancy with the gadgets in the game, which apparently was not always the case. According to Styliński, the dash actually broke the game entirely when it was originally introduced:
"The environments were originally much smaller than they are now, back when the game was still a lot closer to Hotline Miami. We wanted something more dynamic in our levels, so we added a dash, which with the environments, just did not work. So we had to rework our environments to allow for the dash, so everything got a lot bigger in the game."
We're inclined to say the Polish outfit made the right call by increasing the size of the environments to allow for the dash, as like we said, this is absolutely a stand-out feature.
The gameplay isn't the only area of this game that excels. The cyberpunk world is incredible, with a very unique look and feel to it, which is impressive. Cyberpunk is something that in this day and age is hard to separate from properties like Blade Runner or Akira among others, and Styliński did say some of these had an influence on the game, most notably a lot of cyberpunk-based anime; he mentioned Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Cowboy Bebop, and Cyber City Oedo specifically, which is quite the group of titles to look to for inspiration.
The influence of all of the above can be felt within the game, but it still very much feels like its own beast. One of the key reasons for this is the game's user interface. The primary colour of your HUD, as well as much of the lighting in game, is red. A vibrant blood red. Styliński mentioned that getting the UI to work with this colour scheme was actually rather tricky, as the red didn't stand out properly in some environments, but the team was determined to make it work, which seems to have been the right call. The blood red UI is definitely one of the defining characteristics of the game.
Not to be outdone, though, was the title's music. Cyberpunk has a very particular soundscape to it, so it was absolutely essential that this facet be handled correctly as well. This led to the devs hand-picking much of the game's music as they came upon things that they thought most appropriately fit their title. We asked about what we could expect as far as artists featured in the game, and as it stands currently, the game's music will be provided by Susumu Hirasala (the prolific Japanese composer), Sidewalks and Skeletons (a darkwave artist), as well as Zamilska, another darkwave whose music will comprise the brunt of the game's soundtrack.
The game has come a long way from the build we played at PAX East 2016, with the game's level of precision and polish offering what just might be one of the best games in Devolver's portfolio when it launches this summer.
What would you ruin to get your hands on Ruiner right now? Devolve the comments section below.