Ronin: The turn-based platformer that’s like very anxious chess - Games Weekly

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ronin: The turn-based platformer that’s like very anxious chess

My helmet-wearing avatar in this turn-based action platformer is dead. Again. This time, it’s because she was shot in the heel. I sigh. Reloaded. The old man must die. Sleep will slumber alone in my bed until my job is done.

In Ronin, you play an acrobatic young woman out to murder five nefarious-looking figures from her indubitably dysfunctional childhood. You accomplish this through a mix of stealth and turn-based carnage, along with an optional dollop of Tarantino-flavoured style.

Set in a moody urban landscape, the preview build I played had three levels, all requiring me to initially either slip through computerised doors or break through windows. From there, it was a question of whether to go in sword blazing, or inch from shadow to ceiling in a bid to delicately murder smartly dressed henchmen.

The action moves from real-time to turn-based when combat is initiated. Each round consists of figuring out the best course of action: slashing through a hapless corporate employee, perhaps, or deploying a holographic duplicate to divert attention. The moment you make your move, the universe exhales. Bullets fly and robot samurai streak across the screen. After that happens, things pause again.
Ronin isn’t easy. Even a millimetre of error is enough to cost you a reload
The trick is in determining optimal positioning, and the long-term value of your actions. A quick kill can easily put you in range of the firing squad, but a stop-motion crawl across the ceiling may enable you to eventually take people down more expediently. Ronin helps you in these decisions with well-placed checkpoints and an easily decipherable interface. Enemy attacks, whether they are bladed weapons or flying projects, are telegraphed with thin red lines. Timers appear over a foe’s head when they’ve been knocked over, warning you of their imminent return to their feet. Yet Ronin isn’t easy. You need to constantly watch for these assaults. Even a millimetre of error is enough to cost you a reload.

Movement is dictated with the WASD keys. Jumping, however, is controlled with the mouse. Left-click and drag to draw an arc across the screen, showing where your character will leap. Move your mouse button past ceilings and walls to swap to the grappling hook instead. Sadly, this bit feels slightly fiddly, and perhaps even slightly inaccurate it isn’t always easy to tell if your character will land in a crouch, upright on her feet, or even if the jump itself will be completed in that turn. Murder and escape are more straightforward, consisting of hitting the appropriate button when they become visible among your options.

I like Ronin. It’s a smart game with smart ideas, and just enough teeth-grinding frustration to beckon me back to the fray time and time again.

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