If you’re reading this, then I’ve somehow managed to pull myself away from my latest obsession: the generously purple, isometric twin-stick roguelike Lonely ruin. While the main three-tiered ruin may feel too short for some, I’ve found it barely dampens the everlasting fun; the creative possibilities of randomly distributed powers and items prooffers surprising moments of synergy and emerging strategies. Replayability remains fresh and reflexive. Throw in two difficulty levels, a horde survival mode, and a leaderboard that will entice you even if you’re not the competitive type, and this is one game I’ve happily installed on my Steam Deck with no intention of ever uninstalling it.
Now available on PC and Nintendo Switch, Lonely ruin feels like a twin stick remix of Hades drenched in black light. In the “Ruin Run” mode, you descend through three layers of eight rooms each. The last room of each tier is reserved for a boss fight. You fight against waves of enemies using a combination of randomized powers and items you grab when you clear a room. The action is fast-paced, forcing you to combine different skills and stat buffs to emerge victorious. With clear language for every power or asset and an aesthetic that is as helpful as it is so, so beautiful, Lonely ruin excels at guiding you through its mechanics with a relatively low learning curve that builds to rewarding mechanical depth. It’s very easy to get sucked into it, and just like that, it’s after midnight and you have work in the morning.
You start every run in Lonely ruin featuring an interchangeable Dash ability linked to your lower left shoulder button and a choice of eight skills brought to you by a mysterious stranger eager to warn you that it’s dangerous to go alone (I’m told this is a reference to a popular game or something). But you don’t have a basic “attack” as in Hades. Instead, you attack with one of four interchangeable skills that can be earned by completing a room. And as a twin-stick game, you won’t be using your gamepad’s face buttons for your skills; everything is tied to the shoulder buttons (although you can remap this in the settings on PC).
In each battle zone, you fight your way through waves of bad guys that spawn from clearly marked zones that indicate the arrival of enemies in Hades. Some really only pose a threat in large numbers, while others like the small ones Demise monsters (that’s what I call them) can shoot at you and require more direct attention than the easily dismissed bats and lesser foes. Some enemies, particularly bosses, can spit out enough attacks to create infernal sequences (which makes sense considering developer Cuddle Monster Games’ first title, Hell is other demons) but it doesn’t tip too far in that genre. It’s a nice touch that remixes the ongoing gameplay just enough to keep it from getting stale.
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As may feel familiar Hades fans, completing each room will give you a new choice of rooms with powers to acquire. You don’t get the power right away; instead, it’s a preview of what power or item you’ll earn upon completion of that next area. Sometimes you will see a room that promises two rewards, which also means more waves of enemies. Other times you have the choice to enter a shop as the next ‘room’, where you can purchase upgrades, additional powers, or items to improve your stats with gold acquired from slain enemies or by upgrading your skills. to sell.
And this makes up for it Lonely ruin‘s “loop”. Grab an ability at the start, defeat the enemies in the next room, choose what power or item you want next, rinse and repeat. And your skills each have their own quirks, upgrade paths, and different ways they can be combined with other powers and stat buffs. Since they are randomly generated and you can sell existing powers or items you have for gold, you’ll find yourself thinking several steps ahead and making choices based on what has worked or hasn’t worked for you so far.
I tend to start every run with the Chain Lightning spell because as the name implies, it chains over enemies and easily vaporizes the lesser enemies to aid in mob control. But what powers come next is entirely up to RNG; you make choices based on how you want your build to turn out in the end (although I’ve observed what I think may be some subtle upgrade paths; it’s hard to know for sure how much randomness is behind each option).
An example of a “build” could be you grabbing the Blizzard spell, in addition to upgrading your Dash ability that lands an AoE (Area of Effect) attack, which slows down enemies in your wake. Blizzard also lets you lay down an AoE with cold damage; now you have two ways to create difficult areas for enemies to pass through. Pick up an item that causes defeated frozen enemies to explode, and your area denial becomes an additional AoE threat to advancing enemies. This is in addition to two other abilities, which can be anything from my go-to Chain Lightning spell to something like Barrage, which seems to take inspiration from Devil may cry‘s Virgil, which allows you to summon blue swords around you that you fire at your enemies.
This barely scratches the surface. There are many other skills, each with exciting upgrades that can increase their damage, increase an AoE’s radius, decrease their cooldown, or cause status effects such as burning or freezing. On one run, I grabbed Beserk, which pauses all my active spells for extra speed. I combined this with the Scythe ability (which functions as a melee attack and is not a spell) and after dropping some instances of Blizzard to reduce enemy spawning I went berserk and was able to zip around and clear the rest with quick melee attacks.
All of this awesome, highly malleable action takes place in environments that just look amazing. The game has an enticing “is it 2D or 3D?” check it out with a color palette that reminds me very much Hyperlight drifter. It also features a wonderfully dynamic soundtrack that ranges from satisfyingly chill soundscapes to thrilling beats (seriously, I need to figure out how to replicate this one bass hit I keep hearing with some of my own audio equipment. Sheer deafening). .
And while I can empathize with people lacking in length a bit – and would never say no to more rooms, bosses or enemies in the future – I think the replayability and motivation to climb the leaderboard more than make up for runs that can feel pretty lively once you get the hang of it and can zoom through the normal difficulty (although the game defaults to hard mode on launch, FYI). Cuddle Monster Games already has revealed some of his ambitions for where the game can go in the future, so there may be more to look forward to. And if so, well, you can bet I’ll be writing about it.