Publisher: Squeaky Wheel Studio Inc
Developer: Maccima Games
Genre: Strategy, Simulation, Villain Protagonist, 2D,
Official Site: https://www.maccima.ph
Release Date: Aug 25, 2020
Available on: PC
Where to Buy: Steam
The desire to be the bad guy has always been a popular topic that has been explored by several games in the last decade. Games such as Overlord and Dungeon Keeper have shown the immense success of exploring such a concept, and now a game called Ruinarch seeks to emulate this same concept and the success it can bring.
Released back in August, Ruinarch is a Steam Early Access game where players play as an evil overlord in a fantasy sandbox that feels similar to games such as Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld. The premise is also straightforward, You are an evil overlord, and you must kill all of the villagers on the world map to bring about your demonic invasion, and you can do this through a whole host of evil methods.
These can range from the more subtle such as quietly afflicting afflictions on villagers to slowly cause mayhem over time to the more extreme such as calling literal meteoroids upon the poor villagers. Along with casting spells and slowly corrupting mortals, you can also expand your dungeon with buildings that add more tools to cause problems for the villagers; we’ll get more into this later.
Overall my time with Ruinarch and my impressions of the core gameplay has been positive, and I think the developers have something exceptional here but needs more flushing out. That said, here are my overall impressions of how is Ruinarch fairing in its current Early Access development.
Be Evil. Cause Mayhem: Story Overview
The story behind Ruinarch is short and gets the job done, which is that you are an evil overlord who is trying to invade a mortal realm and murder everyone in sight. The rest is left up to the player to create, with how they will create the narrative with the actions they will take to bring about untold destruction upon the mortal realm. Overall, I think what Ruinarch has in terms of a story is perfect for the type of game it is because it doesn’t need an overreaching plot, just the simple jumping point it has to launch players into the game.
Like Rimworld, but you’re the AI: Gameplay Introduction
Now with the story out of the way, let’s move on to what is the meat and potatoes of Ruinarch, which is the wonderfully evil gameplay. To start, it’s for the most part how we initially described in the introduction, but far more in-depth with the scope of the experience it wants to provide players. The game also borrows a lot of elements from other games to help forge this unique blend of Rimworld with that of Overlord.
The heavy Rimworld themes come into most prominence with how Ruinarch looks overall and how NPCs and creatures interact with each other. However, this is where the similarity between the two games ends and where Ruinarch’s unique qualities begin.
In short, the gameplay can be described literally as “Rimworld, but you’re the AI,” but this is a very simplification of the gameplay; however, nonetheless, the statement holds merit, which is a good thing because the game is entertaining. You start with choosing a location for your demonic portal, and from there, your reign of terror and the destruction of the mortal realm begin.
Laugh, Murder, Lob Giant Space Rock: Gameplay Overview
After choosing a location, the fun starts, which is causing problems for the villagers, and you can do this through a variety of methods that include the two we already mentioned.
Then once you have chosen a nice spot for your hell portal, you will then pick one of three Overlords, all with their respective strengths and weaknesses. My personal favorite is the Lich because I love necromancy in literally everything it’s in. However, the undead in this game can seem a little useless and are only useful for guarding your dungeons and kidnapping.
Moving on, There are a lot of different spells and afflictions that can be chosen amongst the three Overlords that players can use to inflict harm and chaos. I liked the vast selection of both because it can make for some exciting evil shenanigans. For example, you can use one spell to scare villagers out of their homes and have them run into landmines.
With that said, I feel the many tools the game provides the player to utilize is one of the nicest and most compelling aspects regarding Ruinarch. It truly feels like a sandbox and, at times, reminds me of god sims like Black & White.
However, the game doesn’t just hand you the keys to the kingdom but encourages playing smart and being creative with how you cause destruction. This is also combined with the fact if you go crazy, whipping space rocks down on people, setting houses on fire, and stealing people’s mail, you will cause a divine intervention.
This is where the game sends several angry angels after you that will start destroying your dungeon, so it’s best to play it safe and slowly and subtly spread your influence and terror. I approve of this system because it creates an exciting scenario where players have the power to wipe out all life immediately but are instead incentivized to be creative and also let the villagers do it to themselves.
This can be done by using the afflictions mentioned above, which are basically diseases and curses that can be cast on villagers and later triggered to cause all sorts of problems. Some of these include Kleptomania, which causes villagers to steal items and, in turn, make them angry and possibly start to kill each other.
But you can’t get by with just this affliction alone; luckily, you have afflictions like my personal favorite Vamprisim, which you guess it! turns people into vampires. This one, in particular, can have really interesting and downright hilarious results; for instance, at one point, I had two vampire villagers that kept knocking out the other villagers repeatedly and drinking their blood.
Decent Foundation but needs more work: Feature Overview
Overall, afflictions are a fascinating mechanic, but at some points, I can’t help but feel that something is missing in terms of functionality, and sometimes it can take a while to see the result of triggering certain afflictions. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable aspect of Ruinarch, and I hope to see it improved upon and more added to it in future updates.
Moving on, as we stated before, you can build stuff that amounts to various dungeon rooms that include a prison, a room that lets you make cultists called the Defiler, and a room that allows you to farm rumors or secrets called the Eye.
All buildings serve their respective roles as one would hope and expect, but some can be more useful than others. For example, the Eye room would seem like a must-have as rumors can be used to cause distrust and hate to build up and to cause all sorts of mayhem potentially.
Which the end goal is to hopefully create enough tension in a village so that they will do the work for you. Ultimately this processes, in my experience, that’s way too long and can be accomplished much quicker by merely utilizing the affliction mechanic, so you are better off just building either the defiler or one of the other buildings such as the kennel.
The Kennel allows the breeding of monsters that can be found roaming the map, which helps you spawn demons ( yeah, you can spawn demons, we’ll get to this in a minute). The Defiler building is probably the best currently in the game as it allows you to potentially turn one of the villagers into a cultist to perform tasks and to perform rituals to summon magic orbs, which are the currency in this game.
For the most part, these guys are fantastic and get the job done and can even poison and boobytrap their neighbors. Plus, if you get bored of them, you can turn them into abominations; beyond this, that’s pretty much everything there is to them. I honestly wish there was more to them, such as the ability to have these guys spread the rumors, convert other villagers, spread hate against the village rulers, and so on. In the end, cultists, although interesting, end up feeling lackluster, and I hope to see more added to them in the future.
Now let’s talk about those demons I mentioned earlier. These guys are your grunts and basic minions; there are also several types that serve different roles. For example, some give buffs in combat while others take on more aggressive and defensive roles. All and all, they seem impressive, but I found myself barely using them because I was more or less focused on the many other aspects of this game. They also seem pretty weak and get killed easily but still an interesting element on top of the all-around compelling foundation the devs at squeaky wheel built here.
A Compelling Foundation for A Proper Overlord Simulator: Final Thoughts
Overall, Ruinarch, in its current state of early access development, is an all-around compelling and engaging experience. The foundation for exciting mechanics and gameplay features is present, but at times, certain features can feel bare-bones, which is to be expected as the game is still in development. I think the game needs more work flushing out and the addition of more tools for the player to spread their influence over the villagers in the game. Also, more work could be done regarding the overall usefulness of cultists and how they function in Ruinarch. For instance, I would love to see them serving a larger purpose in creating hostile tension amongst their fellow villagers and spreading your influence by converting other villagers. Additionally, I would like to see a mechanic that would have non-cultists somehow find out about the presence of your cults and have mini wars erupt between the two factions.
Verdict: In the end, Ruinarch, despite its shortcomings, is a compelling game that blends aspects of a lot of popular games such as Rimworld with new fresh ideas that all integrate into a truly unique experience. I highly recommend giving this a game a shot if you are fans of colony sims or games similar to Dungeon Keeper. Overall I look forward to seeing how Ruinarch carries on its early access development as it has nothing but promise and potential.