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Review: Regions of Ruin

This style of action combat, requiring speed and coordination, doesn’t suit me and it’s also not what you’d expect when you think of dwarves, all of this applying to platforming as well. Nevertheless, there was something about Regions of Ruin that made it seem interesting enough and I had also seen that later on you’ll end up quite insanely overpowered, so I expected to no longer be frustrated by needing to use skills I don’t have once I’ll get through the early part of the game, which indeed proved to be the case. Of course, what to me was a good thing may well be a bad one for those actually looking for this style of gameplay, but the higher difficulty settings may help them to some extent.

But, when it comes to the positive aspects, I should probably start with the number of locations. I see numbered files going up to 253 and that seems quite right, and while a small number need to be pointed out by NPCs or discovered in some other way, most of those locations can be accessed at any point, requiring only some food in order to explore that area of the map. And those locations are just about varied enough to keep things interesting much of the time, and I rather liked the caravan master’s little comments too, often pointing out what to expect when you talk to him once you get to a location, though it’s true that sometimes what he says is generic or even wrong. And yes, you can actually continue after finishing the game, if you left something you’d still want to explore, since going through all or even most locations is not required.
And then there are the puzzles as well. There are those involving runes too, but those are usually simply a matter of finding the right sequence somewhere, so what I’m actually referring to here are those involving switches and/or moving ruins. They’re to be found in the locations with beacons and a few more important treasures, so there aren’t many of them, but they can be interesting and just tricky enough, especially in case of those required to reach the later beacons.
In addition, the few siege locations add a tower defense aspect, and since they’re clearly marked, I’d recommend saving them for moments when you may need to go through a number of similar locations in a row or start to feel bored by regular locations in general. I left it quite late to try even the first one, and only got to the last two when I had almost finished the entire map. Do make sure you have enough room in your inventory before a siege though, and that resources aren’t too close to the maximum either, if you want to be able to pick up all the rewards at the end.

This next part will likely count as a bad thing for many, but for me, seeing as I don’t have the skills for this game’s combat style, ending up overpowered was a good thing, as was the fact that you could in effect become so before actually becoming powerful enough to easily defeat the enemies in combat, by being able to get rid of them without actually fighting them. And, of course, nobody’s forcing you to make use of these methods if you would rather fight, and even I decided not to let companions do my work for me, in fact hiring a single one and setting him to be defensive and wait, only making use of him when necessary, before I could do everything on my own, and during sieges.
Speaking of companions, apparently they were hired for a single journey at first, until an update changed that and hiring became permanent, turning it from something very rarely worth doing to a way to very easily clear out all areas without even having much of a need to move, much less fight, if you so desire. But, again, that’s all your choice, and even if you do get some you can, usually, have them wait out of the way and keep going on your own, while if you later decide they are necessary you can instantly teleport them to your location with the press of a button. Either way, the experience gained is not affected by having companions or their involvement in a fight.
As for being on your own, you’ll find sneaking extremely powerful, and that brings a layer of tactics into the combat. Later in the game, after obtaining certain powerful sneaking skills and bonuses, a little care will pretty much turn you into a ghost, being able to clear an entire area before the enemies can see you, and you will constantly be sneaking in order to do just that, but even early on you can make great use of it at night. That’s another thing that may perhaps be worth noting, that a game that is otherwise quite simple does have a day and night cycle and takes it into account for sneaking, but that is indeed what’s happening and you’ll find that even early on you’ll be able to defeat enemies that’d crush you almost immediately in any sort of actual fight if you wait for night and position yourself properly.

As for positive odds and ends, I’m not exactly making a point out of it because it doesn’t exactly make for good reading and there are some other issues as well, but you will end up with a fair amount of lore in your compendium, explaining what happened in the past, the current state of the world and also the traits of the dwarves depicted in this game. Other than that, there’s a fair amount of humor, which sometimes works, and the developers seem to have made a point of giving particularly funny names to bosses and funny reasons for the bounties showing up on the board. And it’s also nice that stamina is no longer used once an area is cleared, even if you get back there for a bounty, so you can dash all you want in order to explore and also while fighting a character with a bounty on their head and their minions, since the locations are selected from the areas you have already cleared.

When it comes to negative aspects, I’ll start with those having to do with the positive ones mentioned above and say that there may actually be too many areas and it can get tedious to keep visiting them after a while. That doesn’t mean I’d have wanted less content, but I’d have much preferred to have the same amount of content, or of course even more, separated into fewer larger areas. Improved saving would have likely been required in that case, but that’s an important problem that I’ll get to later, and it affects even small areas anyway, since there are some spots where you can get stuck and, while you can always travel away if not in combat and then get back, you will lose anything that’s on the ground.
Then, not sure if this fits here, but since moving platforms are part of some puzzles and I mentioned those above, it is a problem that you need to keep moving as well when you are on such a moving platform, as otherwise you will remain exactly where you are until it will move away and you will fall. That makes no sense and strikes me as nothing other than bad coding.

When it comes to companions, the reason why I said that you can usually have them wait out of the way is that they’ll always appear next to you when you enter or exit a building or when you load a save. That’s just a little annoying if you want to do something on your own, but may be more of a problem in the opposite scenario, if you want them to do something while you do something else, or even hide away.

As for the writing, it would be nice if the content of the books would have something to do with the benefits gained after completing and studying them, but that’s not usually the case. But the text issues themselves are perhaps more frustrating, and I’m not just talking about typos or the little oddity in the fact that eight pages can be displayed for each book, regardless of the number of entries, which may at first give you the impression that more needs to be found if they’re not filled. More than that, I’m talking about the fact that the text quite frequently doesn’t fit the text areas and is simply cut off. You can barely see the start of the books’ titles, each entry ends with the book’s name and the entry number but that gets cut off quite a few times, and the actual content of at least one entry is cut off as well. In addition, the effects of a few items may not be displayed quite properly and many effects get cut off in the runeforge’s imbue screen, where not even the maximum essence is displayed properly, the last digit getting cut off. May also mention here that it took me a while to realize that “armor pen” is penetration, initially assuming it was penalty. And also the little fact that the resource display overlaps the corner of the journal, compendium or map if you don’t shrink the UI.

On that note, could have done with a manual, or better in-game help. Took me a while to figure out that the bar under the health status marked the progress to the next level, as I kept thinking it should be some graphical representation of health and couldn’t figure out why it kept increasing. And when I figured that out I was left searching for some other place where the actual health is listed, before realizing that it isn’t actually listed anywhere, so you have that text that lists your status and the injuries that limit how much you can regenerate, but the actual hit points aren’t listed anywhere. Some things about the skill tree and stats can also be a little confusing at first, and the clicker game could do with instructions as well.

Speaking of that clicker game in the tavern, it’s odd and it takes an awfully long time to achieve anything at first, and then it completely gets away from you when income starts coming in quickly, so you’ll just change something now and then and otherwise let it run on its own until you get the available rewards. But those rewards make it quite important to spend time on it early on, earning what you can as soon as a new metal is available, after you build another building in the settlement, before playing more of the actual game. And then, of course, once you do earn all the rewards, you’ll never touch it again.

I mentioned the problems with saving before, and there are plenty. It’s all in a single .json file, so I guess you could also edit it if you knew what you were doing and it’s at least a good thing that the file in question is in the game’s folder and not hidden somewhere in the user folder, as so many games infuriatingly tend to do, but you just have three slots plus the one for the autosave made whenever you enter an area, not everything is saved and there’s no information about what’s in each slot. There’s a tiny delete button in the corner of each slot, if you can spot it and figure out what it’s for, but otherwise the first chosen name sticks and there’s no way that I could find to just rename a slot, so I kept finding myself loading each save when I got back to the game, trying to figure out what the most recent one was. And things that aren’t saved include the status of sieges, so even if you save after completing one it’d be as if you never started it, the minions killed when going for a bounty, any items on the ground, the time of day, as it’s always daytime when you load, the way any creature is facing, though this may help if you want some to look away from you, the position of companions, which I already mentioned, or that of switches, likely making any puzzle impossible and even getting you stuck, between walls or even inside one, if you save and load before completing all of it.

But more important is that controls could definitely be better. Of course, since this style of gameplay really isn’t my thing, it will always be a problem for me, but quite a few improvements could be made, and I’ve seen enough complaints about this to be quite sure that those who like this kind of games are bothered as well. And while this mostly has to do with combat, I’ll also point out that pathfinding is bad, watching enemies, or for that matter companions if you don’t teleport them to you, being possibly quite amusing for a while. Also, ladders are always weird, being treated simply as a series of tiny platforms.

Another technical issue that affects gameplay is that clicking to pick something in a menu also acts as if you clicked in the game, so normally, if you click, such as to save, you’ll attack the instant the menu closes. And sometimes the game will still register what you press after you Alt+Tab and act accordingly, though that’s not always the case and I couldn’t figure out what makes the difference. And I’ll also mention here that early on, when armor breaks so quickly, by the time something turns yellow in the corner of the screen to warn you that it’s badly damaged, it’s probably too late. And another issue is that friendly NPCs can get killed by enemies, which is most frustrating when it comes to bounties, which bring tough enemies to areas you had already cleared, where NPCs which may still be useful may be, and may even make them appear right next to NPCs that you couldn’t reach in time even if you’d dash right there.

It doesn’t take a killed NPC to break a quest though. There don’t seem to be problems with the main ones, but otherwise there are plenty that are broken, to various degrees. There are some that show up as completed the instant you get them even if you didn’t already do what’s required and some that don’t register as completed even after you do, or register as completed but give no rewards of any kind even if the journal says you received something. There are also missing journal entries, either completely blank or, amusingly enough in one case, simply placeholders. Also found a couple of NPCs with exclamation marks above them, which would indicate that they had quests to give, but they said they had nothing for me to do when I asked. And, throughout the game, I was led to expect that the rabbit queen will show up somewhere in the north if I’ll kill enough rabbits, but she never did, and I must have killed thousands, and returned several times to northern areas where any rabbits would appear.
In addition to that, there are quite a number of quests which are not completed in the same area where you need to turn them in, but which will not mark that area, so you’ll complete them and then have to wander around, trying to find the quest giver again and get the rewards, and there are also no marks for places with rewards you didn’t access yet, for example because you need to find a phrase or the correct sequence of runes elsewhere, so you’ll find what you need and then possibly have no idea where to use it anymore, both of these being quite different from not marking where you need to go for the quest or solution itself. That also happens, quite often, but letting you explore and discover the solution yourself is a good thing while this is just frustrating.

Another important bug has to do with smelting, as for some reason the forge takes into account the resources you have the moment you access it, then deducts any resources used and sets all resources, so even those it couldn’t possibly use, to the result once done, which obviously means that any resources gathered by workers while that menu is open are lost. Of course, later on you’ll have nothing to do with the resources found and end up with dozens of unexploited locations, since it’s so easy to get the maximum amount even with fully upgraded storage and the bonus from the clicker game, but while you’re still struggling to get enough, this can be quite a problem.

Since I mentioned workers, I guess it makes some sense, but it’s still odd to see how inefficient they become as the numbers increase, the amount gathered increasing for the first four, then there’s a double increase when you get to ten, I guess the fact that it skips eight being another bug, while the following thresholds are at 14, 20 and I guess what is intended to be every 6.(6), rounded up, after that. Not that there’s much point in having this feature anyway, since the time that passes doesn’t matter, so you can have one worker start gathering and leave the computer until he finishes if need be, which also means it’d have probably been better to just do without the whole rescued workers concept and simply allow the player to decide where to gather from, and possibly also how much in case of wanting to avoid hitting the limit, and have it happen instantly.
Another oddity would be the randomized amount of materials recovered when dismantling equipment, which just means you’ll be saving and reloading a lot, and considering the small amounts obtained from dismantling compared to what’s used for forging, I see no reason why the full amount couldn’t be offered each time, or at least why it wouldn’t be determined by the level of the blacksmith. It’s also odd that the same materials are used for all weapons, differing by weapon type but being limited to the simpler ones, with the better metals only used for armor, and that all weapons, regardless of type, dismantle into two wood and three iron. And that’s another little bug, since the amount listed is two wood and two iron, just like for a shield type it says four wood but the maximum is actually five.
Also about the blacksmith, it’s nice to be able to craft equipment, but that precision clicking game used to determine the quality is annoying, and I never crafted anything other than to test how it works. Never imbued anything in the runeforge either, as I could make do just fine with what I found and later in the game you can find some items imbued with more essence than the runeforge’s maximum anyway. But speaking of the runeforge, it’s also odd that there’s no button to imbue, the only button that exists being for disenchanting, while double clicking an item switches to imbuing, while in any other building double clicking does the same thing as the button available.

As for other odds and ends, strikes me as using too much of the CPU for such a simple game, and there were times when it refused to start, the process running but nothing happening, though if I forced it closed and tried again it always worked that second time. Then, I always wondered why pressing any key was needed for the menu to appear on the start screen. And thought something broke when I first saw that experience was no longer an integer, before getting used to it. It’s also a bit frustrating that time doesn’t pause when you have a “window” open, such as the inventory or a building’s options, and if it did then that bug with the forge wouldn’t matter either. Still on design choices, I wondered how come bronze is better than iron. And being able to raise one attribute by one point when you level up quickly becomes completely irrelevant when equipment offers such large bonuses. Also, last but most definitely not least, I sure hated the dwarves’ attitude towards nature and trees, being so bothered by “green things” and saying that the only purpose of a tree is to be cut down.

Overall, you could do worse than Regions of Ruin, especially considering the price it may have on sales, but it is nevertheless a pretty simple game with plenty of technical and design problems. The developers put in a fair amount of content and had a few interesting ideas, but seem to have just kept pushing forward while seeking solutions, often not fleshing things out or polishing. In many ways, it doesn’t just show that it’s their first game, but actually feels rather like the draft of one.


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