Lone Ruin: Into the Heart of Corruption

Those new to the twin-stick shooters could find Lone Ruin to be a good starting point

Lone Ruin: Into the Heart of Corruption
Source: Hey Poor Player.

Arcade-style games have made a comeback in recent years, with the twin-stick shooter leading the way. It's a great style of game for small developers - the core gameplay loop is simple and recognizable, but there's still lots of room to iterate and innov9ate.

Lone Ruin is an early entrant for 2023. Built around a dark fantasy concept, the introduction of magic adds a few interesting elements to the formula. But don't let the dark aesthetic fool you - this is not a hard game, and indeed it's likely to appeal more to newcomers to the subgenre than to the old hands.

The titular Lone Ruin is all that remains of a civilization lifted to greatness through magic. Now what's left is a lifeless husk run through with corruption and teeming with twisted abominations. As a nameless mage, your goal is to reach the heart of the ruin and put a stop to the corruption at all costs before it spreads out to the surrounding world.

Source: Author.

Lone Ruin certainly has a gloomy, perilous setting, and the graphics reflect this. The color palette is dark and chilly, and the visuals feature a mix of elements - 2D sprites for characters and projectiles, 3D assets for the backgrounds. The backgrounds are oriented almost as though they were in an isometric view, which takes a minute to get used to but doesn't affect the gameplay at all.

Magic doesn't just play into the story - it's baked into the gameplay as well. The player has four slots for spells, of which two are filled at the start of each run: A genre standard evasion move and the player's choice of eight offensive spells, ranging from a short-range projectile burst to a rail gun-like charge blast. There are many additional offensive and support spells, and all of them can be upgraded.

Source: Author.

Picking spells that work well together is a major tactical consideration. The enemies are a varied lot, and the player needs to have options for many situations - spells to hit enemy groups, long-range attacks for enemies you don't dare get close to, and maybe something to slow or stop the enemy advance so you don't get surrounded. Upgrading the spells you already have is equally critical, particularly on the highest difficulty level where enemies can turn into real bullet sponges.

Lone Ruin is technically a roguelike, but the randomized elements are pretty light compared to something like Slay the Spire. There's no visible map and no need to plan a route. Rather, at the end of each stage, the player is given a choice of two rooms which can contain either a shop or a battle, with the battle rooms displaying the reward to be earned. There's no specific clue as to what the fight will look like, except that rooms with bigger rewards also contain more enemies.

If that sort of play isn't to your taste, Lone Ruin also features a survival mode. The goal here is to last for ten minutes against increasingly powerful waves of enemies, earning powerups by collecting the gold dropped by random enemies. Survival mode starts off slow but it gets harried after a few minutes, so don't get overconfident.

Source: Author.

Now we come to the difficulty discussion, an important topic with twin-stick shooters. Lone Ruin is definitely one of the easier twin-sticks I've played recently - far less challenging than something like Godstrike or DEATHRUN TV. It only took me a little over an hour to finish the main game on the default difficulty setting. This makes it well-suited for beginners, but those more experienced in the subgenre will want to turn the difficulty setting to Hard if they want to be challenged.

In sum

Lone Ruin is a twin-stick shooter with some very light roguelike elements. It is best suited for anyone who's interested in twin-stick shooters and wants an entry point that isn't too frustrating.

Lone Ruin is available on Nintendo Switch and on PC via Steam. A key was provided by the developer.


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