Many indie developers and publishers are nowadays making a name for themselves by releasing a game which while not being a blockbuster hit, still manage to attract a considerable amount of attention. The thing is, most studios seemingly disappear after a decent release, showing the unfortunate lack of ideas of that particular studios. Devolver Digital studios have shown time and time again how this “vanishing” factor does not apply to them, and keep themselves on the radar with quite an impressive number of releases, the latest of which might be the most remarkable yet.
The game in question is Ronin, a 2D turn based strategy action sidescroller. While the description of its genre might seem bombastic, it is all true to the game, which manages to mix an element of thinking and planning ahead with the action that you would expect from some brawler or hack and slash game. Getting the basics out of the way, the game stars Ronin, a girl who is on a mission for revenge. We are given a very slim plot as the only thing we know is that her father was killed, and she has a photo portraying a number of people, some of who will ultimately be your targets in the game. The mission layout is fairly simple to understand as well; you have two missions in which you have to gather intel about your next target, and on the third mission you go in for the kill. After that, a new target is selected and you head back into the cycle.
In gameplay terms, Ronin plays well with keyboard and mouse but using an external controller is recommended in order to pinpoint the direction of jumps and such. As for exact controls, I have not checked the PC controls since I played through the game with an Xbox One Controller, but whatever means you are using will not prove to be a disadvantage, unless one cannot aim a jump properly. This is not a game which does not depend on timing, so one can take all the time in the world to aim the jump properly. Attacking sequences then feature a set of buttons which pop up depending on the situation and the attacking options you possess. The game shows a red trail which pinpoints the enemy’s bullets’ trajectory, so players can plan ahead and move to safe locations, or take out an enemy which is not in the firing zone.
This is not a very difficult game to learn, but it definitely is a hard one to master, and this makes it that much more intriguing in trying to become the ultimate assassin. As proof of this, each mission features three objectives, which will be the same until the very end of the game; sparing any innocent civilians, avoid triggering any alarms and killing every enemy in the level. These objectives help the players to become better at the game, and completing them will also boost the player’s chances of becoming better by unlocking skill points, which you can then use on the Ronin’s skill tree to upgrade your resources.
Combining the Skill tree with the ability of meeting all three level objectives is incredibly fitting, and that feeling of satisfaction upon reaching the bike at the end of the level knowing you met all three is unmatched. As mentioned before, finishing a level while meeting all three objectives will grant one skill point, which can then be expended in the skill tree. The skill tree is very balanced since it provides abilities which are not gamebreaking, thus enabling the game to continue on an even pace as you progress. Rather, these abilities are almost necessities for continuation of the game, which means that the lack of these abilities may result in the player having to replay previous levels and achieving a perfect score.
Ronin also presents the player with a Limit Break meter, found on the bottom left of the screen. This mechanic is one of the most interesting features of the game, and its adept usage may give the edge in complicated situations. Basically, the meter is made up of five bars, which fills gradually as you stun or kill enemies. Stunning an enemy, which is basically jumping over bad guys, fills up one bar, while killing fills two. The different abilities which are unlocked through the skill tree become usable once a certain number of bars are filled, such as the Shuriken which stuns all enemies in range becomes available at two bars. Upon reaching five bars, you will be granted a “free” turn. Hence when surrendered and on three bars, killing an enemy blocking an escape route will create the space required for you to run off, with the free turn triggered after the kill to enable the escape. One must also state that the Limit Break meter fills out with consecutive actions, so each non-aggressive action will remove one bar at a time until it empties again.
In terms of graphics, the game looks very well but nothing which stands out too much. The surroundings are a bit bland honestly, and you are almost always fighting in the same areas, but when sucked in the game, players will rarely stop and notice the scenery. Audio-wise, Ronin provides an incredible soundtrack, one which I did not hesitate once or twice to leave minimized while doing chores. It follows the action very well, and helps players mesmerize themselves within the game. Purchasing the digital special edition of the game will net you the game’s soundtrack, and honestly it is quite worth it. I am a little bummed myself that my review copy did not come with a soundtrack! Maybe upon reading this Devolver are kind enough to give me the soundtrack? Pretty please?
Coming literally from the shadows, Ronin was a game which was on my radar but I did not really expect it to be the amazing game it turned out to be. New gameplay mechanics mixed with short but effective story elements, all wrapped up in a sick soundtrack will make this a definite contender for any related game awards this year end. I surely know where my vote is going!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.