Indie developers, Faux-Operatives Games, have created quite a project in the form of an immensely difficult roguelike brawler. The game, called Ruin of the Reckless, combines 16 bit graphics and a chiptune-like soundtrack with melee-focused combat and a soul-crushing difficulty curve. During my time with the title I have to say I had fun, but I can’t deny the fact that I was utterly beaten down by even the initial levels. This of course, begs the question: how hard is too hard? And what makes difficulty fun and worthwhile?
Ruin of the Reckless is a lot like banging your head against a wall, but for every brick you indent with your skull, you feel a slight twinge of enjoyment. Eventually, that twinge amounts to a pretty great feeling of accomplishment but by that time, the brick wall is ruined and your controller is in pieces on the floor. Even the game’s Kickstarter suggested the thing was near-impossible with the tagline: “can you escape the tower?”
Moving away from the difficulty for a second, the art style is great if you like that whole modern pixel thing. The characters, enemies, and NPCs are all very inventive and adorable while still feeling cohesive and threatening when necessary. And the music fits the vibe of the game perfectly. Just listen to the theme song in this trailer.
The aim of the game is to ascend to the top the tower you are trapped in to get your “one wish”. As a reckless spirit whose soul was taken from them, you can guess what that wish might be! As you play, not only can you find or buy items and spells to aid you in your quest, you find “cards” which are essentially passives that help you on your runs. These cards can make things easier or harder on a player but you choose which ones are active by going to the Chaos Mat in the lobby.
The cards are a big reason Ruin of the Reckless is fun. They range from giving you random armour to giving you an extra 10 seconds to clear each floor, or just straight up making floors easier or more difficult. You find these cards in the shop or just during your runs which gives you incentive to muscle through the beginning stages. It gives you a sense of progression even though if you’re anything like me, you haven’t beat the first boss yet.
Fighting is more than just close-range melee combat with the addition of spells and secondary weapon slots that often give you some range. Pair that with the ability to purchase potions and you’d think you’ve got a pretty sweet setup to clear floors with, but no. Enemies swarm you incredibly quickly and you have a very limited amount of spells you can use. The pickups can even be destroyed if you’re not careful where your punches land so that’s an added level of rage-inducing difficulty. The controls, however, are extremely easy to pick up and everything is very responsive in terms of how it feels to hit and be hit. When you die it’s always your fault, not the game’s, which is actually more frustrating.
Eventually, you start to learn which weapons you like, which pickups are helpful, and what enemies to focus first. It makes things easier, but not much. When you finally make it to a shop, it feels as though you’ve beaten a boss which is the furthest thing from the truth, but it’s still a victory. The cute shop music and burly owner are charming as well. It’s a nice little break between the onslaughts of panic and murder.
You don’t have to suffer through the difficulty by yourself though! You can take on this task alone or enlist the help of a friend in local co-op mode. But beware, friendly fire is no joke in this game. The fact that there’s no online co-op will likely deter a lot of people from buying this game and I can’t blame them, but I assure you that Ruin of the Reckless is just as fun solo. The world is full of personality. The shopkeeper judges you for what you purchase, the tutorial NPC chastises you for running through the tutorial more than once, and even the enemies get sassy after they’ve killed you. One little Ratcoon enemy even said “Take that, fiend! I’m the hero!” which gave me a lot to think about.
Since I still have yet to beat the accursed first boss, I can’t say much for end-game content, but with the addition of cards I can definitely see this game becoming something of a favourite among achievement hunters… and masochists… Once you’ve mastered the game with easy cards, playing through again with difficult cards would be like playing all-new content.
I do wish that there was some kind of online co-op and the fact that you can injure each other is maddening. And I feel as though the destructible pickups are totally unnecessary. Just let them float around. We need as many as we can get. A lot of players will likely be turned off by the sheer difficulty of Ruin of the Reckless but otherwise there isn’t much else to say in terms of negative attributes.
I suppose that overall, Ruin of the Reckless is for players who enjoy punishment. It is for those with the patience to replay the same few levels knowing that at some point they will have good enough items and enough luck to push through. The fun for me comes from the idea that every time I die I’m learning something new that will help me on my next run. That makes it all worthwhile. It is certainly fun if you enjoy this kind of torturous progression and the soundtrack and replayability make this game well-worth the $14.99 USD price tag. If you’re interested in Ruin of the Reckless, you can pick up a copy on Steam, Humblebundle, GOG, or Itch.io when it releases on the 26th of April.