Lone Ruin, developed by Cuddle Monster Games and published by Super Rare Originals, advertises itself as a “highly replayable roguelike twin-stick shooter” but suffers from an identity crisis.

I love Lone Ruin’s flow state-inducing aesthetic. Its warping and neon-highlighted environment combines well with the sci-fi trance music but it feels inconsiderate to anyone playing the game. In merging 2D characters and projectiles in a 3D environment, there’s a crucial loss of depth perception needed to hit skillshots and dodge damage in a bullet hell game. Sometimes your shots get caught on stairs, and it’s hard to tell where some projectiles are going to land in the heat of the moment. I do like being able to outmaneuver enemies by dashing between elevations, but there are too many inconsistencies to justify playing around the z-axis.

You’re given a dash and three empty slots. With these slots, you’re able to unlock eight different abilities that you can later upgrade to enhance damage and special effects. You may expect the game’s roguelike premise to revolve around making the most of synergies and crazy combinations over multiple runs, but the game shows everything it has to offer by the end of an hour. There are some fun features to be had, like making a massive bouncing hyper beam or combining a black hole with an ever-spinning boomerang, but most of the upgrades are negligible increases in damage or size that don’t make runs feel different from one another. Part of the blame lies in the lack of enemy variety. While the game is invested in delivering a power fantasy, the enemies and the bosses are too simple to aid the spectacle.

The difficulties do little more beyond giving you fewer lives to start with, and even then it puts up almost no fight. The main mode has you clearing out waves of enemies in chambers and choosing doors based on potential rewards — pretty standard stuff for roguelikes nowadays.

However, there is a countdown mode where you’re stuck in one room trying to gain levels and outlast the clock, similar to the current trend of Vampire Survivors-like games. This mode was shown off as the demo version of the game. Since then it seems nothing substantial has been added or changed. Neither mode has enough content to warrant more than a handful of runs. Somehow, this current iteration of Lone Ruin feels like the most anemic roguelike I’ve played in recent memory. From a different perspective, it’s the highest production value I’ve seen out of  a game reiterating the Vampire Survivors formula.

Ultimately, I’d describe Lone Ruin as a fun concept of a customizable single-player battle arena that only lasted me about 30 minutes. The skillshots feel satisfying, the premise is playful, the mood is hypnotic, and the replayability is nonexistent. Hopefully, the creators are planning active development because the end credits roll too soon to justify its current price tag within the genre known for its perpetual play.

Lone Ruin is available now for $14.99 on Nintendo Switch and PC.

Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Lone Ruin.

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