Look, being honest. I’m about to go on a tangent and the post hasn’t even started yet. Yesterday evening my brother finished Final Fantasy VII Remake, which makes it my turn to play through. I got to kick that play through off this afternoon- and let me tell you, tearing myself away to do the necessary work (I should probably say ‘work’, because really… It was selecting an indie game, playing it for a bit, then coming here to write about it) has been incredibly difficult.

I’ll be back in there ASAP after writing this I can tell you that for sure.

But now I feel like I might be giving the wrong impression about this post. Because I’m also pretty excited by what Krikket has put together here. She had observed the struggle some of us in the blogosphere had gone through recently to come up with topics, myself included for a few days there. She also observed a few people (again, myself included) struggling, for a range of reasons, to pick something to even play.

Combine those observations with yet another: That a number of indie developers are being very kind to the gaming community over this rather difficult time… And well; Krikket’s idea for a challenge is born. It’s really not too hard — review a game that’s currently being given away free on itch.io.

Partly because I’m difficult, and partly because the last thing I need is yet another avenue through which to obtain games… I decided to take a slightly different route and review an Indie game I already have.

Regions of Ruin

I haven’t completely abandoned the principles set out by Krikket though. While yes, this game is typically commercially available, the developer decided to give it away (permanently, for those claiming it within the available window). Over 1.3 million people took advantage of the offer and picked it up.

And despite the influx of people who may’ve had only a passing interest in the title being able to pick it up — a phenomena which often results in a higher proportion of negative reviews coming through — Regions of Ruin is maintaining a ‘Very Positive’ rating with 86% positive reviews.

But this is jumping ahead a little.

What is Regions of Ruin?

The conceit of the game is that you’re one of only a few remaining Dwarves. Extinction is a very real possibility and those few that do remain have been scattered with no real home.

It’s up to you to bring your people together again. Bring them back from the edge of extinction. And to build a place for them, from humble beginnings through to a bustling developed village. It’s a colony builder, essentially. Dwarves will come with their own skillsets, allowing you to fire up a forge. Start an apothecary. Run a tavern, or a library.

You will have a slew of more general works you can send to nearby regions to collect necessary resources after you’ve cleared them out of any dangerous denizens.

At this point, I have a tent and some sticks. Not exactly the high life. But those sticks allow us to cook and the tent stores our stuff.

Where things get a little different from usual is that this is all presented as a 2D sidescroller. Which you could be forgiven for thinking it then sounded very similar to Kingdom.

But we’re not done — there’s more!

While, like Kingdom, you can hire mercs/guards to fight with your town — your own character is pretty nimble for a dwarf. There is an RPG system behind your character too. Several different stats, skill trees and gearing slots are available. You can even get rare armor, weapons and charms to further power up your combat prowess. Either from the carcasses you leave in your wake or from your town’s runeforge — should you find someone willing to teach you the art required to build one.

Clearing an area, ready to be drained of its resources for your town — and possibly bring any Dwarven rescues back home with you — will require you to fight in an action-platformer 2D style. You can jump. You can dash. And depending on how you specialise your character, you might even favour tossing the odd axe.

By this point, I was starting to look into the Throwing skill tree — and in the background you can see I have a forge (although a very basic one) over on the left, and a Tavern over on the right bringing in a fairly steady coin income stream.

So, How Have I Found It?

It comes across really rough to start with. A less (markedly less) pretty version of Kingdom. But I actually bought Regions of Ruin quite some time ago when it was still in Early Access. I didn’t play it much at the time though; I played it a while and decided to put it down until its full release.

Turns out — that was quite some time ago now! Feb 2018.

In any case — yes. Quite rough. Shield blocking makes you move at a snails pace; the melee range feels incredibly short. Contact damage is a thing. Dashing is great, the full range of motion is i-frames. But when you can use it in combat seems a bit wishy-washy. Likewise with your power attacks. There is a stamina mechanic, and raising Constitution seems to smooth that out fairly quickly.

Further contributing to that rough start feeling is the limitation on workers vs. the resources you need to get your town started. You need to explore land (which has a food cost, for your scouting party) before you can visit it yourself, and that cost goes up fairly significantly the further out from your home you go.

Just before adventuring out to find some linen necessary for building the Apothecary. You can gather fairly large batches of resources yourself from the areas you fight in, before needing to decide whether or not to use one of your workers to further gather from it.

Fortunately, these early game rough edges pass by fairly quickly and you begin to feel a little more in control of your destiny and where you might wish to explore next.

My time with the game has still been fairly limited — so I couldn’t tell you whether or not there is a late game crawl as well. But from what I’ve seen so far? And given the fact that even on sale, the asking price is only $15 NZD? It’s not too difficult to recommend to others who share a taste for colony/town builders, RPGs and who ideally also have a penchant for action-platformers. Although… that latter term should perhaps be clarified to state there is no Super Meat Boy level action going on here. So perhaps side-scroller brawler would be more accurate!

Certainly it is a rather eclectic mix, and it might not be for everyone.

But I quite like these genre blends — and given the generosity of the developers in the circumstances, I’m more than happy to select Regions of Ruin for Krikket’s Indie Game Challenge.

Here, I’ve explored and traveled rather far from home and into the Desert to the east.

This was a post for Blapril 2020, the annual blogging event (albeit usually as Blaugust), brought forward to help bring a sense of community during the challenging time of COVID-19. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.

The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year round!