Regions of Ruin is an upcoming indie 2D pixel side-scrolling RPG game currently being developed by indie development studio Vox Games. The game made its way to Steam Early Access in October.
In Regions of Ruin players explore an open-world environment as they take on quests, fight enemies, rescue dwarves and recruit them to build your own settlement.
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The game features several role-playing mechanics that allows players to level up, progress through skill point trees and collect better weapons and armor. It is said to draw inspiration from the Elder Scrolls franchise and the indie pixel game Kingdom.
As one would expect, the game starts with a simple tutorial that aims to teach players the basics of combat, questing and collecting items to advance.
Once players finish the tutorial they are slowly able to start exploring the world by unlocking areas on the world map. Apples are used as a currency when unlocking new areas as this would be the amount of food your caravan needs in order to survive.
Unlocking and exploring the game's environments this way is an interesting approach to map exploration, but due to the artificial limit on how much food you can carry during the beginning of the game exploration starts off rather slow.
As players explore they level up their character and gain access to new skills and abilities that affect combat and players are free to decide how to distribute gained skill points by selecting one of several categories.
Ultimately, the game focuses on building your settlement with the resources you gather as you explore. It will also feature a main story campaign that is currently still in development.
The game's pixel graphics are aesthetically pleasing and the few lighting effects that are included are a welcomed addition. However, I would have still liked to see a lot more lighting effects to make areas feel more impressive. According to producer Alexander Poysky, this is is one of the things the development team is currently working on.
In the build that we played vertical environments were a rare sight and only ever made an appearance when we explored caves. This means that the majority of explorable terrain currently available is of the typical flat side-scrolling type.
Most of the current environments also felt a bit too similar, which affects the joy of exploration.
Luckily, the development team has plans to include more verticality by introducing tower levels, deep mines and more caves and it is also working on introducing additional biomes. The build we played featured several biomes, including woods, grassland, desert, tundra and swamps.
In the current build most of the environments don't feature enough variety to make them interesting enough to explore nor give a lasting appeal. However, the northern areas of the game's map covered in snow are slightly more interesting to explore because of their ambience.
According to Poysky, the team is focusing on adding more content. Building your settlement is said to be just one of the aspects of the game. The team has plans to introduce siege mechanics that will allow players to build military encampments that serve as a frontline in the battle against hordes of enemies.
The team is also still working on the game's main story, which is said to be about uncovering twelve beacons, fighting bosses, building your settlement and digging your way into earth's core and defending those dig sites from sieges.
The game's current user interface is a decent first approach but features several issues that can make it awkward to use. What plans the team has to improve it is still unknown.
First of all, the font used can blend in with the game's pixel graphics a bit too much, making it rather difficult to read and as a result affects the immersion when chatting with characters.
Second, some user interface elements are still downright confusing, such as the skill trees that don't convey progression or a sense of direction.
Third, the tutorial section is still in early stages as it is missing quite a lot of hints to help you on your way. Your journal tells you what your next move could be, but players are never actually directed towards it when they first start playing.
Fourth, the camera is generally zoomed out too far to be able to read the font from a distance. The game seems interesting to play with a controller, but this prevents it from really working well. An option to zoom in further wasn't available in the build we played but may be added in the near future.
Most importantly, exploring new areas isn't as forgiving as I would have liked it to be. When you die during a fight the game prompts you to load a save game instead of offering a respawn mechanic like many other role-playing games do. This makes you less inclined to explore new areas because you risk losing progress.
However, these type of issues are expected during the Early Access phase and should hopefully be ironed out once the game releases.
What really stands out thus far is the game's soundtrack. Although the soundtrack is still somewhat limited given the small number of tracks, the tracks that are available in the Early Access build set the mood surprisingly well.
My biggest gripe with sound design is that environments don't feature many noteworthy ambient effects yet.
This means that players won't hear wind gushing, trees swaying and birds chirping. This is incredibly important for pixel graphics games because these have to somehow make up for what some may consider a "loss of detail".
Just like environments and content, ambient sound effects is something the team is currently working on.
Despite these issues, the game is actually interesting enough to keep an eye on because it has the potential to become one of the better indie pixel role-playing games if it is able to provide more content that gives a lasting appeal.
Over the past couple of weeks the development team has released multiple title updates as it continues to add more content and features.
The game is currently on sale for $14.95 US from its original $16.99 US price tag, which may still be a steep price for those who aren't interested in supporting Early Access titles. Those who are will find a small community of players discussing the game and its features on the game's Steam Community hub.
Region of Ruins is expected to launch in 2018 for PC, Linux and Mac. Depending on its reception, it will also be making its way to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
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