Review: Rewards for the Risk-taker in Ruin of the Reckless

Ruin of the Reckless is a forthcoming rogue-like retro brawler from developers Faux-Operative Games. In it you play as lost soul Stargrove or Stella, and you’re tasked with climbing to the top of a treacherous tower for the chance to have one wish granted. After a closer look at the rogue-like genre and an interview with developer Charles Webb, it’s time to share our thoughts on the game.

Ruin of the Reckless’ tower is no ordinary one. Aside from being incredibly dangerous, it’s also clouded in mystery. Faux-Operative explains that “it is a beacon of sorts, attracting the souls of those who both lived and died with recklessness in their hearts.” You awaken there after your death, and after a brief existential crisis you’re confronted with the cold truth that if you linger too long your soul will rot and you’ll become one of the many monsters you fight. The temptation of having your wish granted is just that; there seems to be no guarantee of a reward, only a myth, a vain hope, relayed to you by other characters in the game.

Beyond that, the story remains out of focus. As developer Charles Webb explained in his interview with Gamer’s Almanac, what’s there can be teased out by the attentive player who is willing to take the time to listen to what characters have to say. The game also boasts multiple endings, but I’m not ashamed to admit that the game is so challenging that I’ve not yet been able to see them (an experience that the developers suspect will be common.) The promise of learning more about these characters at the end, though, is part of what keeps you playing.

The interactions you do have with the characters are endearing. For example, Pauliver (your tutorial guide) is a penguin knight that comments on your progress as you ascend, and has different things to say based on how high you’ve gotten. Not including the bits of lore dropped by the developers during their kickstarter campaign or in their community Discord, so far the game doesn’t appear to tell much about the backstories of the spirits in the tower or the characters in the lobby, but you get a very clear sense of their personalities through charming (and often mocking) dialogue. Speaking or trading with characters can also yield rewards, like zenny (currency,) gear, or chaos cards. So while the story might not be this game’s main focus, it’s definitely worth going out of your way to interact with the folks in the lobby in between runs to see what details you can uncover and get a hard-earned chuckle or two while you’re taking a break.
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Ruin of the Reckless’ loading screen, showing the full height of the tower as well as your progress.
Ruin of the Reckless, developed by Faux-Operative Games
Ruin of the Reckless is an intentionally difficult rogue-like and as a result not for the faint of heart. You have the option to play local co-op with a friend, but resources are shared and you can be struck by friendly fire, meaning it’s not necessarily easier to play that way. Whether alone or with a friend, it is by no means a casual gaming experience, and though that shouldn’t discourage new or non-gamers from giving it a try, all should be warned that it will take practice to succeed at this game. Though Ruin of the Reckless’ tutorial could focus a little more on combat (specifically to give you practice with the game’s right stick aiming mechanic and power orbs) it’s clear enough in its coverage of the GUI and the game’s main items: weapons, consumables, spell books, and power orbs. It does fail to mention trinkets, which have certain effects on your character, but these are secondary to the other gameplay elements, after all, no matter how useful they may be. After you’ve left the tutorial and started the climb, the game’s only save point seems to be on the third floor, which lets you skip over the first two levels if you’re not in the mood to play them again. After that the game shows no mercy in terms of loss of progress. You level up as you climb, allowing you to hold more power orbs, but level progression, zenny, gained items, and orbs are all lost after death.
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Chaos cards laid out upon the chaos mat.
Ruin of the Reckless, developed by Faux-Operative Games
The only thing you don’t lose when you die are your Chaos Cards, collected as you play for completing certain challenges. They allow you to modify your gameplay by changing difficulty, equipping a unique set of starting gear, or shifting the rules. Some examples of these are the baby chaos card, which makes levels easier, or the demon chaos card, which increases the amount of treasure you find but causes you to be hunted down by a demon. The many power orbs and chaos cards available bring to mind Supergiant Games’ masterpiece Transistor, which had a similar system of varying gameplay by equipping different powers, setting limitations on yourself and increasing the difficulty of encounters for rewards, and required more than one playthrough to unlock all abilities.

The game does suffer at times from being overly complex. There’s a lot to keep track of once you start your climb, which means you can easily forget to use one power while you’re too busy focusing on keeping enemies at bay. Power orbs that float around levels do all have distinct icons that you can learn and then later identify as you play. On top of multiple orbs though, you might also have a weapon, trinket, spellbook, and consumable potion or scroll all on hand at once with no paused inventory menu to stop and take stock of things. The game’s shop allows you to review item descriptions before you but them, but what they have in stock is random, sometimes creating gaps in your knowledge. A glossary, library, or museum mechanic, perhaps located in the lobby, could help alleviate this problem by letting the player have a chance to learn about the many items they’ve collected so far in moments of lower stress, since it can be deadly to stop and read descriptions while you’re in the middle of a fight. A system like this is in place for chaos cards, which can only be equipped in between runs, and as a result it’s much simpler to keep track of their meanings and effects. Of course, once the game is fully released, fan-made guides and wikis will surely appear to comprehensively list all item effects, but it would be nice if this sort of function were built into the game, given that it relies so heavily on the use of its items.
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Stargrove talking to their heroine counterpart, Stella.
Ruin of the Reckless, developed by Faux-Operative Games
Ruin of the Reckless has a clean design that helps the eye cut through the chaos. The developers didn’t go for pixelated graphics, but the overall color scheme and the enemies still harken back to older titles. Stargrove and Stella are unique and well designed, and the game offers you a small level of appearance customization as well by letting you change the race, hair, and outfit colors of the character all at once, similar to the color sets in brawler games like Smash Brothers. It’s the soundtrack that really helps Ruin of the Reckless achieve its goal of having a retro style, though. The music has a classic and immersive feel. It doesn’t vary too much from its main melody throughout the game, but it is catchy enough that it doesn’t need to. The shopkeeper’s tune, for example, is a sort of muzak version of the main tower tune, which serves as a subtle reminder that the shop might be a place to stop and rest, but you’re still in a dangerous place.
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One of the game’s procedurally generated levels, riddled with enemies and traps.
Ruin of the Reckless, developed by Faux-Operative Games
Ruin of the Reckless’ replay value is quite high as long as you have the patience to not walk away after facing failure. Procedurally generated levels means you don’t get tired of seeing the same maps, and new enemies appear as you get higher in the tower. Because the gameplay is touch it stretches out the length of the game considerably, meaning you likely won’t just play through it once in a snap and then let it gather dust. The ending changes based on the character you play as and the difficulty level you have set, which means there’s motivation to get to the top more than once. Chaos cards create unique variability to gameplay with the opportunity for many different combinations, meaning you can customize the game to keep it interesting.

Ruin of the Reckless ends up as a simultaneously maddening and satisfying challenge. The game favors those who are reckless, willing to try different styles of gameplay, and move fast. It’s got a unique art style, great characterization, a retro feel, and enough to keep you interested and likely coming back to the tower many times. If you’re willing to take the risk, and able to stay alive, then the tower is yours for the taking.

Ruin of the Reckless will be available on Steam (PC) and Itch.io on April 26th for $14.99. For more information about Ruin of the Reckless, visit Faux-Operative’s official website. To hear more about the game from the developer’s perspective, check out our interview with Charles Webb.

Are you ready to play recklessly? Comment your thoughts about the game below, tweet at us, or contact us to let us know how you plan to tackle the tower in Ruin of the Reckless.

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