Library of Ruina is not for the faint of heart. This is a very deep and complex experience. However the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of its gameplay systems and story. This is a deck-builder where you battle a variety of enemies through a linear series of tales surrounding a magical library. The battles are fun and engaging, if a little grindy, and the story is engrossing, yet it’s the introduction and meshing of these ideas where the game suffers a bit. However that’s never enough to damper the experience and so if deep deck-building RPGs sound of interest to you, this might be right up your alley.
The introduction that sets up the story, and the general gameplay loop, is immediately where Library of Ruina suffers the most. Frankly, it does a terrible job easing you into the mechanics of the battles and the context of why they are happening. In the story’s case, this may be intentional, building a sense of tension and mystery. But when combined with the terrible tutorial messages, filled with paragraphs of how to play, it’ll probably scare off many new players.
However if you can look past that, there is a lot to love here. The basic premise is that you are essentially a receptionist for this supernatural library hidden within a massive futuristic city. The “owner” of the library basically forces you into service, wanting you to fill the library with books in order to find the “ultimate one.” In order to do this, you must send invitations to various inhabitants of the city, promising them their desires if they can pass a trial in the library. You are the trial – after you defeat them, they get turned into books for the collection.
This leads to many interesting tales as you follow the hopes and aspirations of various citizens, learning why they came to the library in the first place. Each character is unique and slowly a greater narrative unfolds around them. It’s really great stuff and despite it being translated, it’s written incredibly well. They play out mostly in these anime styled stills with text at the bottom, with gorgeous character designs that do a lot of the heavy lifting.
It’s in these trials where the gameplay happens. You create a deck of cards that focus on two defensive moves – dodge and block – and three offensive moves – pierce, blunt, and slash. Each one has a power rating of 1-4 depending on how much energy they drain from you. That is a simple explanation and there’s an incredible amount of depth involved in building these decks; it’s this which is wildly satisfying.
The fights then play out as turned-based, with you actioning a move and then the enemy. There are various status effects and counters, but it never gets too complicated even as you get more cards. I always felt like I had a handle on how to play, even as the complexity rises in line with how much you are improving.
Although Library of Ruina does get quite hard and grindy, I’d be happy to put that down to me playing it wrong. However, it feels inevitable that at some points you will have re-grind fights that you have previously taken on. Thankfully they are generally fun to play and watch though, so it’s not too much of a burden.
The biggest issue with all of this is that the menu design and UI is absolutely atrocious to look at and navigate. This is partly because of the port over to the console, but finding things and checking stats is mind-numbing. Just the task of getting new cards is overwhelming, over-explained and cumbersome to get to. There is a general lack of polish in this area which I think massively hurts Library of Ruina’s overall appeal.
Library of Ruina has an audience but I’m sure much of that audience would have already played it on PC. Deck-building games are insanely fun and addicting, doubly so for one with a great narrative as well, so if you’re a fan of the genre it’s a no-brainer to get involved. However if you’re looking to just learn more about what these games bring, it’ll maybe be best to pass on this one till you’ve got a bit more experience.
The Xbox Store will open the door to the Library of Ruina