Go get lost in space
There came a moment in my time with Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages when I was faced with a decision. It was a choice I’d wrestled with countless times before, whether it was when I was mowing down enemies with an assault rifle or making a leap of faith. But something was different this time. The need was greater. So I told myself, “Dude, you’re going to need a gamepad for this.”
It was an easy purchase.
Triple B Titles‘ twin-stick space shooter is set up in such a way that countless deaths left me wanting to play more, fight harder, and eventually win. There were no ragequits or facepalms involved. It was simply a drive, a desire, to improve. The only times I found myself shutting the game down was when I had finally completed one of its many missions. It was an encouraging experience.
As a starship pilot of the rarest breed (that’s a Sage, for future reference), your story begins on the cold operating table of an abandoned space station’s medbay. I say abandoned, but you’re not technically alone as you soon find that an artificial intelligence neuro-Hud with a sweet tooth (Nero) has been implanted in your brain. Unfortunately, the space that Nero now occupies was also where you were keeping some choice bits of memory, such as your identity and your past.
As you pilot away from the space station and out into the vast reaches of space, your path begins to solidify and you’ll soon find yourself uncovering many secrets about some of the more dangerous bits of the universe. Good thing you and Nero have a twisted sense of humor or this might be a bumpier ride.
Ring Runner’s world hints at something deeper too. There is lore waiting to be discovered by those willing to look for it. Triple B’s developers also wrote an ebook to accompany Flight of the Sages for those wanting to expand their knowledge about Sages, Runners, and the galaxy at large.
In the opening stages of the game, you are given the chance to pilot the various archetypes of starship that are available to you, to give you the chance to figure out which playing style you find most suited to your success. It also serves as a clever way of teaching the player the basics of starship combat. The close-range Grappler is great for getting into tight scraps with enemy ships or grabbing asteroids to hurl at your opponents (just wait until you see the Space Flail), while Arsenal type ships employ the use of drones, turrets, and massive defenses. All ships have their specialties, and you’ll be given the chance to really customize your experience once you gain access to the Hangar.
Throughout the campaign, you’ll be steadily collecting Ring Runner currency, Plex, which is then in turn used to purchase new weapons, ship modifications, and full on starship templates. With five different archetypes and many more models of each, you’ll be given many options for how you want to bring carnage to the stars. Personally I prefer the Caster/Fighter hybrid with its high damage output and extra mobility.
But even a game with enthralling narrative and customization options aplenty needs to be responsive to your input. And a twin-stick shooter even more so. Luckily, Ring Runner comes through in this regard as well. While the floatiness of space flight will take some adjustment for those unfamiliar with the genre, once you’ve started in, there’s no turning back. Soon you’ll be blazing into battle with full afterburners, lighting up an enemy ship with laser fire, banking left at the last second to avoid their missiles, and then jumping right back into the fray to finish them off. The controls are easy to learn and while there will of course be varying degrees of mastery, the design is solid enough that your skills should steadily increase the longer you play.
Good thing too, because you wouldn’t want to miss anything Ring Runner has to offer. Each stage is layered with beautiful backdrops of the current solar system, asteroids, space debris, and even some city structures in the more populated areas of the galaxy. Light and shadow are used to stellar effect in the background (pun sort of intended) and weapon effects and explosions are even more satisfying.
Accompanying this is a score that instantly hooked me as the perfect soundtrack for space travel and combat. High tempo rhythms play you into regular battles while strong piano notes signify more dangerous events such as boss battles. Exploration is partnered with easier listening tracks to perfectly emphasize the atmosphere of a space epic.
Those pilots looking for a more human challenge can also set sights on the multiplayer modes such as Deathmatch and Spire Battle while Runners looking for co-op can delve into Wave or Zombie Survival (don’t worry, they’re not real zombies, just AI drones). If you really want to get into it, then combine co-op with competitive in the Space Defense League, a mode similar to the moba style of gameplay.
Simply put, Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages needs to be experienced. The amount of care and polish that went into the lore, environments, and overall atmosphere is both staggering and obvious. The completion of each mission and scenario only serves to encourage you to play more while the vast array of customization allows you to craft a personal experience along the way. Do yourself a favor and go get lost in space.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PC