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RONIN Demo Impressions

by William Schwartz

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Developed by Tomasz Waclawek and published by Devolver Digital who seems to have a knack for unique and interestingly addictive games, Ronin allows players to strategically unleash their inner ninja-assassin. The game revolves around a motorcycle helmet wearing heroine who has taken it upon herself to defeat the heads of an evil corporate empire. The demo dives into three levels which introduce you to the various aspects of the game: platforming, jumping through glass, and attacking.

RONIN can be compared to games like Mark Of The Ninja as they are both ninja assassin type titles set in a 2D environment. That is pretty much where the similarities end. Ronin mixes the traditional side-scroller platforming with turn-based attacks and an arch based jumping system that proves to be a unique trait for the game.

Attacking, as well as the entire battle system is what sets the game apart as it allows for a turn-based system. Run- On Jumping at your enemies and knocking them down allows for a 1-2 move window for you to close in and go for the kill and each subsequent attack or killing blow adds to your chain combo, which after five attacks goes into ‘Limit Break’ mode.

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This allows for a special attack where you can throw your sword, dealing a final blow to your enemies as long as they are in range. The downside is that you have to call your sword back and if you are in a middle of a firefight this becomes difficult. The overall battle mechanics really shine when you are facing off against multiple enemies who take their aim at you via red lines across the screen and if one pierces through our heroine,that means the next turn will deal a killing blow. As if it wasn’t enough that you die in one hit, you have to jump out of the way to avoid the line of fire, literally, and plan your next attack. This allows for every encounter to be unique and become a layered game of chess that feels immensely enjoyable and intense at the same time.

Our assassin can jump, swing with their grappling hook and climb on the sides of walls which allows for traversal and the ability to plan out their attack. Once your enemies know you’re there though, some levels will go into a ‘lockdown’ phase which makes it that much harder to progress past doors without finding a key or going through rooms full of guards and robot-like samurai that slash across the screen. Many players will likely attempt speed runs or complete in the least amount of moves which adds an entirely new layer to the game.

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There’s potential that Ronin can be one of those lovely indie hits that seems to rear its head during the summer gaming drought if the demo is any indication. I enjoyed my short time with the demo but the full game promises fifteen total missions as you assassinate your way up the corporate chain. As long as the game doesn’t prove to be dramatically short and have the same replay-value as the demo, sign me up for more.

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