Proving that Polish videogames need to be known for more than The Witcher, Ronin is a solid, if short, game, with stylish turn-based combat, a strong soundtrack and art design, and some stealth elements which require more brains than the typical sidescroller needs. Ronin puts players in the boots of a motorcycle suit and helmet wearing assassin out for revenge. There’s little else to the story, aside from some perfunctory information on the targets, though given Ronin’s short length and gameplay, this isn’t an issue. Ronin is far from a stealth game; level design makes stealth a limited option, with enemy placement designed to provoke open combat. As soon as players are spotted, a musical cue rings, a sound which in later levels becomes heart-racing. Being spotted, whether by civilians or combatants, often leads to one of them calling in troops to lockdown the area. Lockdown makes it difficult to move around by shutting doors and closing off much of the map, and it also fails one of the optional objectives each mission has – no lockdowns, spare civilians, kill all enemies – which need be fulfilled to earn points used to unlock new moves. When in combat, movement is limited to jumping and using the grappling hook to swing. Jumping into enemies, or closing in to kill them with a sword swipe raises the level of the combo meter. Depending on its level, the meter lets players use various upgrades, like throwing shuriken to disrupt enemies’ aim, which is indicated by the red laser trails marking their line of sight. These trails heavily ratchet up the tension;
with every turn, players need to dodge enemies’ aim, which often makes it a game of cat-and-mouse as you try to survive, until you can use your abilities to pick them off one by one, while trying not to be turned into Swisscheese. Given the narrow corridors and tight rooms that comprise many of the game’s environments, it feels like the legendary fight from Oldboy, only repeated every mission.
While Ronin has 15 missions, they are highly repetitious, and if not for differences in level design and enemy placement, they would be identical. Each target has several preliminary missions assigned to them which involve sneaking into compounds to find intel on a target’s location. The repeated use of this formula, coupled with poor use of checkpoints, and constant hints which can’t be turned off, makes Ronin feel unfinished. More variety in mission types, additional targets, and more story would have worked to give the game a greater sense of substance; though fun and engrossing, Ronin can be completed in a day. Its new-game plus does nothing to help, offering no additional upgrades. Nor do the ending variants mean much, considering that the story feels like an afterthought.
On the whole, Ronin’s shortcomings are few. While the game should be longer, its strengths in its soundtrack, art style, and combat, make for a fine game that is well worth playing.
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