The story of a high profile developer at a big studio deciding to pack it all in and go indie is becoming more and more common, especially given the rise of so many smaller outfits thanks to iOS success stories. Tyler Hunter, an artist whose resume includes such big names as World of Warcraft, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Diablo III, is the latest to join the league of indie developers trying their hand at something new. Or in the case of Rack N Ruin, Hunter’s first title as the indie outfit LifeSpark Entertainment, spit-polishing something old.
The preview build of Rack N Ruin available to Electronic Theatre was undeniably limited, but it still offered a fair examination of the core philosophy’s of Rack’s adventure. An alien tasked with colonising planets Rack has proven to be a bit too trigger happy, blowing them up before getting the chance to enslave their in habitants. This is his last chance to get it right, faced with a new planet and new resistance.
The Rack N Ruin experience will undoubtedly be compared to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a fair conclusion to draw in terms of mechanics though it’s far too early to tell whether it can match the 16-bit classic in terms of consistent quality. Where it does have an immediate advantage however, is in the visual quality. The hand-painted world is of a very high standard throughout and the character design is simply fantastic throughout, be it generic foe or the boss fight Electronic Theatre witnessed.
There isn’t much in the way of plot development in this early build, simply a world to roam, dungeon to explore and a boss to fight. The videogame only suffered lightly from the lack of context as the action is straightforward enough to be entertaining by itself. With either the default keyboard controls or an Xbox 360 control pad the player roams the map engaging in real-time combat, collecting items and discovering hidden areas. Stumbling across the entrance to a dungeon will lead to your first instance of puzzle solving, which typically involves using telekinesis to move blocks in the surrounding area onto switch panels; it’s not entirely deep at this point, but as stated above this is a very small slice of what is expected to be a much bigger videogame.
As the combat is real-time the will need to learn the appropriate use of each weapon, spell and accessory quickly. There was no tutorial to speak of in this early build (aside from the most basic controls) but thankfully most aspects were very self explanatory. The bomb does high localised damage, the lightning bolt can chain between enemies, the fireball is slow but heavy and the bat is swung like a bat. Context is certainly needed for that last one.
At present Rack N Ruin feels like a solid foundation for a bigger adventure, which is exactly how the preview build has been pitched. There’s little here that deviates from the well worn path aside from the visual design, but at the very least it’s pointing to an enjoyable if very familiar experience. Of course, Rack N Ruin isn’t due for release until next year so it’s highly likely that the team at LifeSpark Entertainment have got a few tricks up their sleeve for the grander adventure that lies ahead in the final build.