Ronin is an intriguing side scrolling, turn based, combat game created by Indie developer Tomasz Wacławek, it borrows a lot from the art style of Gunpoint, the developer himself even recognised these similarities, but a unique combat system makes this an Indie title that might become a classic.
Ronin looks to be a game based around revenge, you control a katana wielding ninja whose goal is to take out a number of high powered menaces, who belong to a shady conglomerate that has scorned the main protagonist in another life. These five evil figures have a number of henchmen dotted around their multitude of complexes, your objective is to kill all of these henchmen, collect data from “terminals” and advance through 15 taxing chapters. Neutralising henchmen is one of the most unique parts of this delightful indie flick, combat is turn-based – but there’s no hints of retro RPGs here, the turn based system is implemented within an area of combat without any transition and relies on the player counting actions and planning ahead to avoid meeting their fatal end.
The combat system takes a while to muster, especially as your forced to use the click to jump controls when locked into combat – this can feel quite jarring at times but once the learning curve has been mastered it is easy to plan attacks and use the turn based system to your strategic advantage. It is when you have more than one assailant that the combat system becomes very interesting, it’s not an easy feat to manage attacks from multiple angles (especially when the aforementioned control limitation restricts what could be a perfect move), but the strategy involved in dodging attacks while taking down enemies demands some foresight and thoughtful planning – which are rare elements in an indie scroller such as this.
There are some issues with the combat system, namely with positioning. You can line up a jump to take out an enemy, execute the move perfectly and knock out the opponent – but if the character rolls slightly, or the enemy slides somewhat then you can not deliver the killer blow and your finishes is postponed for another few moves. It’s frustrating that you have to be directly over an enemy to apply a finishing move and in some instances the lack of the ability to use WASD during combat to alter fine margins is really rather restrictive.
On top of the irk caused by the particular nature of positioning there is also some inconsistencies in one of the better combat moves. When in mid air it is possible to fling your katana at a nearby enemy, cutting out the need to be close and finishing an assailant in one quick move – the issue is that the option is not always available, it does not seem to be based on proximity to enemies and is an option that appears sporadically while both airbourne and near an assortment of henchmen.
These slight flaws feel like a deal breaker after your first combat encounter, but once you pick up the controls you learn to adjust flight paths and read the space that your character will roll into, resulting in you being able to overcompensate and deliver a more telling blow; it would be unfair to deduct anything away from the strategically tense combat system that performs well as a whole due to these minor niggles, especially when they can be allayed with some practice.
Outside of combat controls are intuitive and rewarding, scaling buildings, smashing through windows, and sneaking through buildings is simple and responsive. The jump path that you are given is minimal, so the game does not make a habit of force feeding you information, you need to get used to angles and trajectory, which adds to the thoughtful nature of the title. While tackling enemies and securing terminals you have an underlying objective to avoid raising the alarm, but once again the alarm system differently here than in most titles. Simply being spotted will not raise the alarm, rather when you are in combat mode some enemies will begin a countdown, if you don’t tackle them in time you become swarmed with enemies – this format is a slight reprise in the game’s challenging nature that makes the title as a whole more workable.
All in all Ronin is a fresh take on the 2D side scroller, with an intriguing battle system and stylish graphics it should be well received by punters, that’s not to say that the game is without its flaws and there are some aspects of the combat system that are jarring and feel under-developed. As a whole Ronin looks to be an enjoyable Indie title that will give a fair few hours of enjoyment while the 15 missions are completed.
Ronin will be released for PC via the Steam Store in May 2015.