Villordsutch reviews Ruggnar on the Nintendo Switch…
Ruggnar, new from PID Games and developers Swords N’ Wands, will no doubt have numerous dwarves downing their pickaxes and writing angry letters to those responsible for its release. A dwarf’s life isn’t all about gold and beards you know!? They also like Mithril and ale!
Ruggnar, on paper, and from the introduction trailer, appeared to have the ingredients to be a fantastic game, and I was smitten on what was to be delivered to my Nintendo Switch (also available for Windows PC). Here was a new title, with dashes of Sperlunky, but with the unique twist of zero enemies to be found. The only major worry involves such things as axes, lava pits, arrow traps, fireballs and oh and darkness. Permanent darkness!
The world of Ruggnar is a simple affair, traverse the darkness with a candle plonked on your helmet, gather gold coins, hidden items, find a key and escape the cave or room you happen to find yourself in. Occasionally you’ll come across a merchant to either buy cosmetic items to make Ruggnar the most dapper dwarf in the dungeon, enchants to help with your travels and more candles.
Everything above sounds just brilliant, heck they’ve even enlisted the vocal talents of Pierre-Alain de Garrigues (Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm along with numerous other video game characters) and Jordan Harrelson (My Time at Portia, Edge of Eternity), to push the adventure along, however not all is well within the gold-strewn mines.
The biggest issue is that the darkness isn’t imposing at all. “Ran out of candles?” Well that’s not a major issue, you can still bumble through each level without any real anxiety or stress. Granted the chance to save your progress and your hoarded gold is severely limited; that and your ability to see a little bit further is gone as not only can you no longer lob a candle into the darkness, and hope it lands on something solid, your field of view is slightly shorter too. Considering that “being in the dark” is one of the major things in this game, it really didn’t feel like it’s any real bother. I’ve played games in the past where when your light source is extinguished it brings on a cold sweat. Here, it’s a minor irritation as you know poor Ruggnar is just going to be stumbling a few more times as picks up the scattered gold coins.
Which leads me to the other complaint that really stuck in my throat. Obviously, PID Games and developers Swords N’ Wands are looking towards completionists here, as coins are totalled and there’s hidden objects within the level. However, if you happen to die and you’ve not managed to stumble into a candlestick save point, you’re going to lose every coin collected so far. There’s a big trick missing here, as where you die your gravestone is left behind. Personally I would have thought making it back to the gravestone would reward you with all past collected coins and items. Nope. Instead, your death marker sits there, occupying a space. Somewhat pointless. Now off you go and find everything you’ve collected all across the mine… again.
Which leads me on to cosmetic items, dyes and other whatnots. I completely understand the need for enhanced abilities for candles, but when Ruggnar is so wee, does it really matter what colour his beard is, or if he has a new helmet? It may sound petty to pick on cosmetic items, but when you’ve been stumbling through a number of slightly shaded caves, you start to think, ‘You could have spent more time sorting out….’
Ruggnar should be brilliant. It should give you the fear as your last candle is snuffed out when you accidentally trot under a waterfall, but it doesn’t. You should be holding your sack of gold, sweating and cursing, wishing you bought one more candle instead of that shiny brass helmet. However, you feel like you’ve just turned the brightness down a touch-to-much and instead of enjoying what both PID Games and developers Swords N’ Wands have delivered, you just make a beeline for the exit as soon as you find the key; coins and candles be damned. Shame really. There’s a good game here, it’s just marred by some poor choices dropped into the game. If there’s a Ruggnar 2 in the near future, hopefully the above odds and sods could be looked at.
- The core idea of the game is great
- The vocal talents can bring out a surprising smile as you play
- Simple enough to pick up and play with nothing overly complicated to learn
- No real anxiety in running out of candles
- The core idea of the game not being utilised to its full potential
- Pointless cosmetic system
Ruggnar is available now for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.