Having just recently played through Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition from Square Enix, pretty much any other RPG is going to struggle in the aftermath. The latest in a long line of retro-styled JRPG’s from KEMCO has however landed, and I’m going to do my best to be a sensible, serious games journalist and review it on its own merits. However, Ruinverse pretty much works the same ground as the majority of other KEMCO titles from recent times – so join me in a world of monsters, demons and adventure.
The story of Ruinverse revolves around Kit, a young man who earns a living as a Transporter. No, not like Jason Statham, but rather by using magic to transport people and goods to where they need to be. Kit’s best friend in the world is Allie, a young lady who is a Hunter, and who has also taken Kit on as an apprentice. As they are exploring some nearby ruins, they accidentally activate an ancient monument, and Allie ends up with another soul inhabiting her body. This soul has no memory of who and what he is, and the two personalities can swap places by touching Kit. This soul swapping thing is a little contrived, and painfully unfunny when Allie tries to punish Kit by hitting, only to swap to “Alvyn”, as the new squatter becomes known. Obviously they will have to try and find out how Alvyn got inside Allie, and along the way they are drawn, as you’d expect, into a bigger story involving the fate of the world.
They also pick up some companions along the way, and that’s another big tick on the big sheet of KEMCO game staples. There is Lexor, an elf doctor who seems to fall in love with Kit’s skeleton, Toto, a fox-shaped beast who is a folklorist and the world’s worst swindler, and Nana, a dwarf soldier from the Royal Army. Nana has a weird obsession with Toto’s fur, and takes every opportunity to hug him, which he hates. At least this time around there isn’t any cheesy sexual tension generated, which is a plus.
What there is however is a very clumsy, ham-fisted attempt to address the subject of racism. The first time I read the phrase “Elf Supremacist” I had to do a double take, but there is a very clear subplot about how all the races in the world should be equal, and this is handled with the tact and care that we’ve come to expect from KEMCO – pretty much none. Other than that, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the story has all the grace and subtlety of a house brick. Even compared to other KEMCO games, this is not one of their better efforts story-wise.
Every other trope is present and correct, with dungeons to explore, an overworld to wander around, and the inevitable random encounters to battle through. The fighting system is turn-based goodness and works well, with all the various options that the games have shown us before. There are standard and magic attacks, items to use or the option to guard from attacks, which comes in handy. As you battle through and level up, every second level Ruinverse will award the characters some skill points to use, which can unlock new attacks. However, a new feature is the ability to level up attacks, so if you like Allie’s fire attacks, for instance, they can each be levelled up to level 10, getting stronger each time a new level is added. As you can imagine, levelling up Lexor and Kit’s healing magic is a good place to start.
Graphically the game is very much business as usual, with the obligatory sprites wandering around, all in a row and looking fairly cute. The monsters you fight are rehashes of ones we’ve seen before, but they do come in different colours to make them try and look like new foes. The sounds are as you’d expect too, with some stirring music and absolutely no speech to be heard. All in all it’s another KEMCO game, with all the baggage that entails.
There are some standout bits though, and it’s nice to see Allie having two souls being touched on in the battle system, as when Allie is in charge, her standard physical attacks are stronger, while Alvyn has more powerful magic attacks. Making sure that you switch to the right form at the right time does add a little bit of strategy to the combat. However, random difficulty spikes and the usual KEMCO control issues conspire to drag the score down.
In conclusion then, Ruinverse on Xbox is very much in that category of “just some JRPG”. It does nothing particularly bad, but it does nothing particularly good either. It has a decent story, but the subtexts are so obvious, and the twist in the narrative can be seen coming from miles away. But still, it gets more enjoyable the more you play through and whilst it’s not going to set the world on fire, give it a chance and you could do worse.
- Interesting story and two souls mechanic
- Lots of locations to explore
- Sledgehammer delivery of the "Elf Lives Matter" storyline
- Random difficulty spikes mean grinding is required
- Not one of the most gripping KEMCO titles
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - KEMCO
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
- Version Reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - December 2020
- Launch price from - £12.49