Ronin – The Turn-Based Stealth Action Game You May Have Missed
Back in June of 2013, we were introduced to a wonderful little game called Gunpoint, a stealthy platformer with some puzzle solving thrown into the mix alongside a pair of BULLFROG “hypertrouseres” that allowed the player to throw protagonist Richard Conway across the room and through windows. And let me concise and clear, Gunpoint is fantastic. If you haven’t played it, do so now, you can nab it on Steam for £6 and even less when there’s a sale on.
Gunpoint was special in that it was somewhat slower and more methodical than most other games going around at the time. When you weren’t hurling yourself through windows, that is.
Jump forward to March 2014 and the itch.io Cyberpunk Game Jam, and a game called Ronin was submitted by “Teedoubleu.”
It was a little rough around the edges, making use of a fairly simple pixel art aesthetic, but the core idea was already there, baked into those blocky little characters. A turn-based stealth action game with an emphasis on positioning and decisive movement.
When it was submitted to the Game Jam, the game’s maker simply said, “I tried really hard to make a Gunpoint clone,” and it must be said that when it comes right down to it, he succeeded just as much as he failed.
Having played the game a few times since its release, I find myself agreeing with Gunpoint creator, Tom Francis, who says, “It’s clearly not a Gunpoint ripoff, because the core mechanics are so different. A lot of what it does copy is superficial, and that stuff doesn’t matter. But the jump is pretty central, and if that was directly taken from Gunpoint, I’m delighted. I wouldn’t want anyone to reuse Gunpoint’s artwork or music, but the ideas in it are absolutely there for the taking.”
Jump forwards to 2015, 2016 for PS4 owners, and Ronin has received a brand new lick of paint that changes things quite considerably. Where once you attacked pixelated men with guns, you now threw yourself headlong into combat with hired goons in suits, automatic-weapon-toting security guards, and cyber enhanced Ninja.
Where Tomasz Wacławek set out to make a Gunpoint clone, Ronin became a fairly unique action platformer. When the enemy spots you, the game takes on a turn based approach to combat wherein you have the opportunity to leap into action before the opponent opens fire, or in the case of the cyber enhanced Ninja, rushes your position to slice you up.
When you’re in the air, you are both at your most versatile and your most vulnerable, because from here you can fire a grappling hook or hurl your sword at enemies, but you’re also a sitting duck with a crosshair drawing a bead on you from every direction.
If you have what it takes to get through a mission while completing all of the objectives, typically kill everything, and don’t set off the alarm, you’ll be rewarded with skill points which can go into expanding your lethality further still. Executing stunned enemies, duping enemies with a holographic replicator, or wrapping a noose around an unsuspecting foe’s neck before dragging them towards the ceiling.
However, sometimes it’s the simplest tricks that work out the best. Throw yourself out a window, turn in the air and grapple in through the window below, and kick the enemy into a group of friends before handily dispatching them all with ease and contempt.
The contempt part is key, by the way. As the in-game hints are quick to remind you, this isn’t a stealth game. Kill everyone that isn’t a civilian. You may reasonably ask why you need to kill everyone, and the answer is simple. Ronin is a revenge story, wherein our heroine sets out to lay low five of the most essential members of a powerful corporate entity for which she reserves a particular hatred. With a photograph of their faces, she sets out on her journey for vengeance with sword in hand and nothing more than a motorcycle helmet to hide her identity.
The game is relatively short, spanning 15 missions. But they can present more of a challenge than you may think. It’s easy to become complacent with your abilities, knowing that you can handle yourself in a combat situation. But when your back is against the wall and the cyber enhanced Ninja are closing in on you, 15 missions can seem like an awfully long time.
Ronin was published by Devolver Digital and is available on Steam for the comfortable price of £9.99, so if you’re in the market for something a little out of the ordinary that’s both enjoyable and increasingly difficult, you may want to give it a try. And, for those of you who prefer to try before you buy (like myself), there’s also a demo available on the Steam page.
So go and give it a try already!