Combining top-down space shooter gameplay with RPG storytelling and customization options, Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages is a far richer and deeper game than I initially thought. With a campaign mode that is, for the most part, co-op friendly and five other game modes that are entirely co-op friendly, there’s a lot of game for your buck. That depth, though, may just go a little too far sometimes.
I could likely spend this entire review simply talking about the different mechanics, ships, strategies, and gameplay modes present in Ring Runner, and never really touch upon “is it good.” There’s no exaggeration to my saying that I have put 8 hours into the game, and have only begun to scratch the surface of what’s here.
Ring Runner is a twin-stick space shooter with Newtonian physics at work to affect your acceleration and deceleration, trajectory, and all that fun stuff. Much of the campaign is set within what amount to arenas that vary in size and objectives. Some of the areas will be giant four by four grids that have you dodging around asteroids or space colonies in order to single-handedly take down an enemy space cruiser, while other areas are more akin to narrow corridors that require some degree of stealth to cross. In addition to the usual flying and shooting, you can build your own ship from one of five archetypes: Fighter (shooter), Arsenal (heavy shooter), Caster (AoE shooter), Rogue (stealthy shooter), and Grappler (melee). For each of these archetypes, there are about 10 different “hulls” (ship layouts) from which to choose. For each hull, there’s an average of nine different “equipment” slots that let you change everything from the engine (which affects top speed and rotation) and shields, to the weapons and miscellaneous utility features (like offensive/defensive boosts, or special abilities).
If you’re looking for a game that allows you to build a ship that absolutely suits your particular playing style, Ring Runner has you covered.
Ring Runner's backgrounds are some of the most gorgeous space shots I've seen in a game
On the multiplayer side of things, there are six different game modes that can be played against other people. Of those, five can be played strictly cooperatively against computer foes: Space Defense League, Zombie Survival, Wave Survival, Gladiator, and Spire Battle. Here's the quick run down of each:
- Space Defense League (SDL): think League of Legends/DOTA, minus the character leveling. Supports up to eight players
- Zombie Survival: fight off waves of basic “ship zombies” with a few special “zombie” types tossed in the mix. Supports up to four players
- Wave Survival: fight off waves of enemies that vary in hull, archetype, and attack strategy. Supports up to four players
- Gladiator: battle through as many of the game’s bosses as you can. Supports up to four players
- Spire Battle: destroy the other team’s base before they destroy yours. Supports up to eight players
If you’re looking for a game that has a lot of multiplayer modes, Ring Runner has you covered.
The different archetypes and weapons at your disposal allow for a lot of variety to keep things interesting, and the core mechanics of flying and shooting are both easy to pick up and tough to master. My first few hours with the game were spent unlearning much of the behaviors modern twin-stick shooters have taught us, e.g., you can start/stop on a dime, ammo is unlimited, enemy patterns are predictable. Just when I thought I got things figured out, I was given a different ship and everything changed. Instead of being a slow moving, missile slinging juggernaut, I was a small speedy vessel that relied upon getting in close to enemies to grab them and fling them into nearby asteroids. Every hull and archetype plays differently and finding the one that best suits you will take time and a lot of playing. Once you start messing around with the customization options, the game can start to feel a tad overwhelming.