Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ronin [Bulwark Studios] - $0.99

Endless Runners don’t usually stay on my iDevice’s for extended periods of time. There’s not many that really keep the gameplay interesting enough, or have that special little hook that keeps me coming back to them over and over again. I will say that there are a few that will never leave my device; Polara, Cuddle Bears, Solipskier and Ski Safari are just a few. Well, luckily, there are still developers out there pushing the fun factor of Endless Runners to new heights. Case and point; Bulwark Studios, and the title, Ronin.

Ronin is simple, to say the least. But along with it’s simplicity, there are great leveling up, experience, score multiplier, objective and skill systems that keep the game insanely addictive. Starting off, you’re given one skill, the ability to turn into a wolf, allowing you to zing past enemies and further your distance. Along with this, you’re able to swipe up to jump, swipe down to slide and swipe right to bring out your katana and do some damage. You’re also able to use your sword while in the air, and while sliding.  

On top of this, there are 5 enemies. That’s right. 5. And that’s all the game needs. Two of the enemies can be dispatched simply by slashing at them while your character is automatically running along the path, those these two enemies are not exactly the same. One will come charging at you once you‘re within a certain distance of him, while the other sits and waits for you to come to them. This leaves 3 other enemies which you’ll need to dodge their attacks before taking out. One is an archer that will fire one arrow at you that you’ll need to dodge either by jumping over, or sliding under, before attacking. Another is a high level samurai that you’ll need to slide into and attack from below in order to take out, and the last enemy you’ll encounter is a large fellow that smashes the ground, sending a shockwave towards you which you’ll need to jump over, taking him out before you land and carry on your merry way. What makes the game challenging is the way that these enemies are mixed and shuffled together, resulting in you maybe having to jump over an arrow and then take out two basic enemies before encountering the archer, followed by the high level samurai, which you’ll need to quickly slide into afterwards. 

While doing all of this, you’ll need to be collecting orbs which will charge your skill bar at the bottom of the screen. Once you have collected enough orbs, you can use your skill by double tapping anywhere on the screen. The game is also split up into sections by objectives. You may need to free some innocent and captured townsfolk by slicing at the baskets they’ve been enclosed in, or to avoid the blackened orbs that will deduct from your score and take away collected orbs from your skill bar. You might also just need to collect a shopkeepers missing sake bottles or make it through a section without having any skills activated. 

As you level up, you’ll be awarded skill points which you can use to unlock various skills and perks. Among them, the already mentioned wolf skill, a daze skill that makes some enemies incapacitated, extra HP and more. There are also some skills which are upgradeable, making them more powerful, and allowing for you to make it further and score bigger. Also growing as you level up will be your reputation. This is where the score multiplier comes into play. As your reputation goes up, so will your score multiplier. However, you’ll only be able to enable the score multiplier if you disable some of your skills. Some skills will take away up to 2x from your multiplier, while others only .5x. As you level up, you’ll be able to pick skills while still keeping a multiplier active, but the only way to truly score big is to disable all of your earned skills and activate your full multiplier. This means playing through the game with only 2 hit points, and no active skills. 

The graphics and animations in Ronin are top notch, and with the beautifully crafted background moving at just the right speed to give you a true sense of progressing through the world, combined with all of the skills, multipliers, and objectives, it all comes together perfectly to provide an outstanding gameplay experience. The background music is also a huge plus for the game, adding to the feel and atmosphere of Ronin’s world. GameCenter is also supported with 3 leaderboards, one for your Best Distance, one for your Total Distance and one for your Highest Score. There are also 30 hard to complete achievements that will keep completionists on their toes and busy for a while. Lastly, the game includes iCloud support which seamlessly transfers data between devices, and gives players 3 separate save slots so that more than one person in your household can enjoy Ronin from start to 100% completion, and then some. 

With Ronin priced at only $0.99, being Universal and void of IAPs, giving everyone a level playing field on the leaderboards, not only is the game a steal, it’s a real rarity in the AppStore these days. Bulwark is on hand as well, responding to player feedback and issues on their Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as on the Touch Arcade forums. If you’re a fan of runners, Ronin is one game you need to get. The game also contains enough skill based gameplay to keep veterans of the genre busy for hours on end while still remaining simple enough to entertain even the most casual gamers. With there being not one thing that I can negatively say about Ronin, it’s an incredibly easy game to recommend and we’ll definitely be keeping our eyes on Bulwark Studios, and hope to see a lot more from this insanely talented developer down the road. 


Haven't played an endless runner in awhile, looks like I'll be giving this one a go!

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