I’ve had a hard time deciphering what exactly is ruining Magus is in the last few months.
Early 2021 trailers suggested this beautiful adventure could be a text-heavy visual novel experience similar to Tokyo Chronos. Then, at Upload VR Showcase in December last year, we saw the first signs of combat and wondered if the game might feature some sort of Japanese RPG combat system. Now that I’ve played it, I can actually tell you what Ruins Magus is: it’s a VR dungeon crawler. And a very good one at that.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Ruins Magus at the moment is that it does it from its striking artistic direction to its fantasy premise feels like you are in an anime. You play as the newest member of the titular guild, a group of warriors, mages and engineers exploring a deep series of ancient caves carved into the belly of a giant mountain. Directly in front of the entrance lies Grand Amnis, a prosperous gold mining town that lives off the finds of your expeditions. This is also where you get new missions, shop for items, and talk to NPCs to learn more about the world.
Everything from the traditional character and set designs to the exciting Japanese voice acting is spot on here. Vendors sit in jewelry-filled tents and guards patrol the streets with exotic weapons in garb that could fit straight into a classic Final Fantasy game. Quest specifically doesn’t have any of those ugly texture meshes that tell you you’re playing a drastically scaled down PC VR port. Granted, it might not have the technical complexity of some of the headset’s more realistic titles, but it’s no exaggeration to say that this is one of the best-looking games on the system.
If there’s one thing that puts you off, it’s the oddly eyeless NPCs, who either mask their gaze with armor or, even more alarmingly, long fringes. It gives some characters an unintentionally creepy look, as if they are in a town populated by the extended family of the vengeful ghost in The Ring.
When you’re not exploring the city, take on one of the game’s 25+ missions and face off against enemies in the ruins. This is where Ruins Magus shows itself to be a surprisingly robust action game. Starting off, players have access to a simple fireball spell that’s cast with the right trigger, as well as two toggled special abilities that are cast with the right grip. One is another fireball that deals area damage, while the other is a charged lightning attack that covers a larger area the longer you hold it. On your left hand, meanwhile, is a shield that can be used to block incoming projectiles and, with the right timing, can even be parried with a pull of the left trigger.
Smooth locomotion mixes with a Blink-style dash mechanic, and you can also grab grenades and health potions purchased from the item shop from your chest. In other words, there’s a lot to consider here, and balancing the different attack types with the fast movement can be overwhelming at first. Ruins Magus’ button-heavy control scheme had me knotting my fingers trying to remember which combination of inputs did what, though I hope that learning curve can be tamed throughout the game.
I certainly hope that’s the case as this is a really exciting and physical combat system in its moments of clarity. Enemy attacks are large, bright projectiles that are easy to spot but difficult to terminate, meaning you must be ready to throw up your shield or charge forward immediately. I particularly like how some attacks even zigzag towards you, making it difficult to gauge when they’ll arrive and from what angle.
I played the first couple of introductory missions, each of which lasted at least ten minutes if you factor in the story sequences etc. There’s definitely a lot of potential for the combat to get even deeper and more challenging as you travel further into the ruins – towards the end of the second mission, more attacks were unlocked, and new enemy types threatened to be both harder-hitting and harder-to-hit will. If the game can keep up this pace throughout its campaign, it should be a truly dynamic and immersive experience.
Then I’m surprised. Ruins Magus isn’t the game I had in mind, but from what I’ve played it’s also a bit better than I expected. I’ll wait until I’ve played through the full game shortly before launch later this year to provide final impressions. For now, Ruins Magus is slated for release sometime this summer, with a demo arriving at Steam Next Fest this June.