Title: Lost Ruins
Developer: ALTARI GAMES
Release Date: May 13, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
The adaptability of Metroidvania-like games never fails to astound me. With how often titles of this general genre release in admittedly smaller scale projects, you’d think they would get tiring at a point. However, Lost Ruins demonstrates that there is much uniqueness yet to be instilled within this genre, even if there are a fair amount of stumbles along the way.
Lost Ruins has players control the amnesiac protagonist simply named ‘Heroine,’ who has awoken in a rather brooding underground. Soon after awakening, she encounters a girl introducing herself as Beatrice, the guardian of the castle they currently reside in.
The Heroine ultimately chooses to steel herself and face the dangers ahead to find answers regarding her puzzling predicament. Then after some more preambles, you end up exploring the castle while encountering a plethora of dangerous monsters and some other not-so-friendly faces.
The story and characterization of Lost Ruins are certainly serviceable as each of the characters has their fair share of entertaining banter. Still, unfortunately, none of these factors left a particularly persisting impact. The fundamental fault I found regarding these aspects begins with when first beginning. The ambiance is quite gloomy due to how the game attempts to instill this sense of survival horror. The environments are dingy and uncongenial, and the sense of the unknown is stark and in your face.
The gameplay enhances this mood, too, with enemies dealing colossal dealings of damage, your surroundings dishing out treacherous traps, and low health being a constant. The state of disconcertment the title establishes is effective, though, regrettably, it all haphazardly falls apart the further you progress. There is easily found equipment that is a little broken, to the point where they trivialize many of this game’s challenges.
For instance, there is Swimsuit armor you can obtain that nullifies lightning damage, and combining that with electric spells utterly demolishes foes in water. Synergies of this nature sound gratifying in concept, but the ease at which they can be acquired ultimately ruined the unsettling atmosphere the title attempted to solidify.
I ended up annihilating a boss with little thought, thanks to this method. This also served to negatively impact the character exchanges I briefly mentioned earlier, as the dialogue of the bosses you encounter seemed affixed to the harrowing tone the game initially presents itself with, creating this sometimes humorous disconnect between gameplay and story.
Speaking of gameplay, Lost Ruins consists of action-combat with lite RPG elements. There are weapons with their own identifiable swing speeds and other equipment with their own slew of altering benefits. There is certainly a variety of loot to find, though a very minuscule degree of it is worthwhile.
Much of it tends to be either identical or inferior copies to what you have already found, making the act of obtaining gear a gradually mindless chore. It also doesn’t help that currency is rather arduous to obtain, making the shop an almost questionable inclusion at points. I rarely found myself ever making use of money since I scarcely had enough to make any meaningful purchases.
Combat itself is also quite a mixed bag. In addition to the existence of easily obtained broken synergies, I mentioned prior, the act of actually fighting is frequently unfun. When performing combat, it becomes immediately apparent that the Heroine is deliberately designed to be sluggish with her swing speeds, regardless of weapon, alongside her dodges. This is not an inherent flaw, but it becomes one when the enemies seem to go against this movement philosophy. They are swift if fought against naturally, often seeming as if they are meant for a different type of game entirely.
Personally, I found the design of the Heroine to encourage learning avoidance and spacing with enemies of similar speed to strike back. This problematic design issue is even more pronounced when dealing with groups of enemies, as the only truly safe ways to deal with them are spamming spells and other tools.
Fighting enemies one-on-one is not nearly as deficient in execution since you can usually identify some windows of attack if you dodge, jump, etc., at the right time. Still, their jarring rapidity in groups compared to your own movement made combat an unfun and even unfair affair.
The message I got from this enemy design was to stay a cautious distance from afar and spam whatever long-range tools I could since going close-quarters was practically never as safe. I have no doubt it’s possible to prevail with melee, but once again, the inherent risk of going toe-to-toe with enemies that are directly opposite in speed to me was far too great. That, and I found the contrast in speed unfun to contend with.
Rather than being frustrated or irritated with the combat, I instead found myself trying to comprehend its design decisions.
I also have some other critiques, such as the game being a tad too linear, MP being a chore to restore, and more. I did manage to derive some enjoyment from Lost Ruins, though. The art style is gorgeous and expressive with all its pixely-goodness, and I presume the beauty of the art direction will be what many players walk away feeling content with. The girls were increasingly attractively drawn as well. Additionally, for as much of a mess as progression was, I still did enjoy myself whenever finding the not-so-hidden rooms and grew mildly amused by the dialogue.
Lost Ruins, at its core, just feels like a jumbled heap of ideas with a lack of fortified executions. The disheartening loss of the initial defining disconcerting atmosphere rids the game of its sense of identity. The combat did not feel adequately thought out when considering how broken some tools were, combined with how much more laborious close-quarters combat is compared to ranged.
Lost Ruins manages to stand out from others in the genre and establish itself as a unique experience. The masterclass of pixel artwork alongside the conceptually engaging gameplay ideas more than shows that much effort and care went into this adventure. Still, implementation is everything, and sadly, Lost Ruins doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what it wants to be. Opting instead to throw everything at a wall and see what sticks.
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