We’ve seen a renaissance of procedurally-generated dungeon crawlers over the past few years. It’s not really any surprise why: the advent and popularization of game streaming and Let’s Play videos mean that watching players struggle to adapt to whatever a game gives them can offer hours of entertainment. Titles like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon have proven extremely popular for both streamers and viewers. Today we’ve got a game that just might be the next streaming darling: Ruin of the Reckless.
Your climb up the tower will generally adhere to dungeon crawl standards. You’ve got a weapon which you can use to stab or bludgeon your foes; solid hits will typically send your enemies flying, which is a vital mechanic for dealing with crowds. You’ve also got a spellbook, which carries a limited number of charges that can produce impressive pyrotechnics and tons of corpses. As you kill enemies you’ll level up, earning points that you can spend on orbs that offer passive and active bonuses, so you might have additional abilities on top of that. On the defensive side of things, your only real choice is dodging. You can wear different types of boots that change your dodge in various ways; you might gain more or less short-range dashes, for instance, or turn your dodge into a jump. You’ll need all of this and more to survive.
Look, let’s not dance around this: as far as procedurally-generated dungeon crawls go, Ruin of the Reckless is up there with the blindingly-fast Overture as one of the more difficult I’ve played. Your character is frail, dying in only a few hits, and begins with very little offensive capability. The enemies are numerous and your most effective ways of dealing with crowds are limited and difficult to replenish.
Your only hope is to find better gear, but even then some gear is cursed, sticking to you and leaving you unable to get rid of it; while you don’t need to check gear for curses as you might in other games with this mechanic, in times of duress you may have to deal with the bad juju just to scrape by. Ruin of the Reckless is mean, and it’s also very, very fast; until you get on the game’s level, you’ll want to get your will ready.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t tricks you can pick up, though, and as with the best dungeon-crawlers, progress in Ruin of the Reckless is all about learning as you go. The rapier, for instance, is an awkward stabbing weapon that will get you hit many times as you foolishly thrust into groups of enemies. With practice, though, you’ll realize that combining dodges with rapier stabs allows you a great degree of mobility and evasion, drastically enhancing your surviability. The scythe, meanwhile, offers a lot of area coverage but leaves you with a weak spot against quick enemies that can dash in between your swings.
Learning when to deal with cursed gear is also critical; the curse on a really solid weapon or set of dodge boots might be worth it, for instance, while picking up a cursed spellbook is unwise as those can run out of charges and you’d be unable to replace the empty book. There’s a lot going on in this game, and it really tickles the brain to think about all the possibilities and how to deal with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
What’s more, there’s a difficulty customization system available that lets you tweak the game to your liking. By collecting Chaos Cards throughout the dungeon, you can alter how the game plays in various ways. Want more money to spend at the various dungeon shops? You can do that. Want harder enemies for some god-forsaken reason? You can do that. You can even change your starting gear…or choose to not start with any, if you’re feeling especially masochistic. You can even play with a friend if you can find one that’s feeling up to it.
As for presentation, well…Ruin of the Reckless has possibly the best soundtrack in any game I’ve played since the classic Lyle in Cube Sector. I’m one hundred percent serious. Sure, the graphics are cute and effective in the usual faux-retro way, but that’s not the highlight here; it’s all about the music. Ruin of the Reckless has a sort of electronic/synth soundtrack that keeps you in the enemy-dodging dungeon-crawling spell-casting zone the entire time you’re playing. It’s magnificent.
You’re going to need nerves of steel and the patience of a monk to take this one on. Ruin of the Reckless is an appealing game, both visually and aurally, but it requires you to learn and adapt to get the most out of its intense brawling. If you’re willing to stick with it – and if you’re a fan of The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon, I’d expect you are – then you’re bound to love Ruin of the Reckless.