Ruinsmagus, which was developed by CharacterBank and is being published by Mastiff for the Quest 2 and Steam VR, promises a full JRPG experience inside a VR environment. We played the Quest 2 version to see how it turned out.
The first thing that’s striking about Ruinsmagus is its visual style, which aims for an anime look that works very well inside VR. We’ve previously seen this in games like The Midnight Sanctuary and ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos, and it’s just as impressive here. With a relatively low level of detail, characters can be realized at a decent resolution with plenty of expression in their faces, so it feels very immersive when you’re interacting with other characters.
Ruinsmagus allows this art style to shine thanks to a cast of spirited and mostly endearing characters, who live inside a world that’s rich with lore and a narrative that is well written, with both lighthearted and more dramatic story beats to be found. You’ll start the adventure inside a small town, and before too long you’ll be heading towards a set of ruins to fight the monsters that lurk there and uncover the hidden secrets of the place. The entire adventure is on the short side for a JRPG, but at just under ten hours long it’s pretty decent for a VR title.
The presentation and narrative impress, the gameplay that blends everything together is less impressive, despite a strong first impression. Combat features plenty of magic attacks, with a standard (ranged) attack as well as two special moves at your disposal. You’ll gain access to new attacks over the course of the campaign as well, so spellcasting always feels fresh. In addition, you can dash and parry with a shield, as everything involves some kind of motion control you can have some pretty epic battles once you get comfortable enough to start combining abilities and attacks.
There’s a bit of learning curve to all this though, with too many controls mapped to the Touch controller to remember it all and have it be an intuitive experience. Sometimes you’ll just miss out on what you were going for, and in other cases you’ll perform actions on accident, which is always immersion-breaking – as is a clumsy throw because the motion controls aren’t cooperating.
These aren’t new limitations in a VR game, and over time you’ll get more comfortable at getting the motions right or just avoiding a potential conflict. What’s a bit more bothersome is that a lot of locations and enemies tend to repeat themselves a lot – another VR staple as the medium can struggle with a relative lack of resources. This makes for some surprising story beats, but slightly repetitive gameplay – which is where those eight to nine hours of gameplay feel too short to repeat itself this much.
We also noticed a few visual glitches that’ll hopefully get fixed soon, because as long as you look past some repetitive elements and controls that don’t always cooperate, this is a charming VR adventure that in more ways than one is a benchmark for what a JRPG can be in virtual reality.