Ruin Hands On
Developer: Idol Minds, SCE San Diego Studio / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / Played on: PlayStation Vita / Release Date: TBA / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Do you like Diablo? Of course you do, you’re a cool guy/gal. Do you want to play Diablo on the go? HELL YES YOU DO give me your money.
This conversation occurred between me and countless games trying to recreate the classic dungeon hack ‘n slash experience on portable consoles, but all fall short for some reason or another. Commonly, severe technological limitations or a lack of gameplay depth keep the experience one-note or sour the special sauce that can make those games so addictive. Ruin might just be the first game to really nail the premise.
Then again, Ruin’s premise isn’t as straightforward as enter a dungeon / kill many monsters. Rather than completely ignore other players, they’re an integral part of Ruin’s experience. Every player has a Lair, which they can customize, deck out with decorations, and even populate with monsters. Should you decide to enter a dungeon for some good old fashioned monster bashing, you’ll actually be visiting other players’ lairs (say that three times fast). Of course, unlike you, these players are jobbers and only exist so you can ransack their dungeons for experience and “essence,” which is the game’s universal currency through which you can craft equipment.
Ruin doesn’t use any boring server browser to find you dungeons, though. By measuring certain metrics of how you play, the game will pick out ten “rivals” for you. These are the dungeons you’ll ransack, and conversely they’ll also try to invade yours. By stocking your dungeon with the types of monsters and bonuses that work best against the player invading you, you can make their life a living hell and even win a lion’s share of the experience they tried to earn during their excursion. The game will even send you real-time alerts when your rivals are making a move, meaning that Ruin is a game that will always keep you on your toes.
Of course, the tension of player rivalry is all predicated on game balance, which the developers are tweaking very carefully. While part of the joy of Diablo is smashing the game balance as hard as you can, doing so in a game like Ruin would thoroughly alienate either the defender or attacker in any given situation. While I didn’t hear this directly from the developers, I got the sense that this balance will hinge on how differently the game’s classes play. I only played two of the game’s three classes — warrior and assassin — and they handled very differently. The warrior was equipped with dashes and combos designed to bulldog down enemies as quickly as possible. The assassin is basically the opposite, squishy and equipped to run away and attack from a distance. Translate it into defensive terms, and you’ll want to stock your lair with tons of rushdown enemies if you’re invaded by an assassin, and lots of ranged attackers if a warrior comes a’knockin’.
So far, these are all cool ideas, but what may make the difference between Lair’s novelty and staying power is the depth of its systems. For instance, all the ornaments you equip to your lair also change not only your stats but the abilities of your monsters as well. This gives you a cool double reward for finding new equipment; not only will your lair look much more badass and intimidating, but you’ll also perform better when taking other players to task. Your lair has three different areas as well: the sanctum, the forge, and the minion den. Items equipped to the forge and minion den enhance your stats and your minion’s respectively, but items equipped to the forge will buff the creation of new equipment. I can’t vouch for the depth of those systems, but it has the potential to provide the meaty metagame goodness behind the moment-to-moment monster killing.
From the clever implementation of social gaming to the solid hack ‘n slash combat, Ruin already feels like a quirky experimental game that we’d see a few years into the Vita lifecycle. Lucky for us, the game will launch either with or around the Vita, so dungeon fiends should keep a top ear out for it.