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Ring Runners: Flight of the Sages

Score: 81%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Triple.b.Titles
Developer: Triple.b.Titles
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Classic/Retro

Graphics & Sound:

Ring Runners: Flight of the Sages is a game about ships, A.I., Sages, and space. It follows that youíre going to see a whole lot of ships and space. The backgrounds are filled with nebulae and stars, making treks through space a rather peaceful, relaxing affair. At least it is until you meet some unfriendly enemy craft.

There can be a lot going on in the 2D plane of this game, and so the camera is often zooming in or out to give you a better view of the battlefield. This makes weapons and ships hard to follow sometimes, but itís manageable. Background objects that you can run into are boxed in with handy bright outlines as well. If all else fails, you can simply look at your little blip on the mini-map and navigate from there.

Unfortunately, as descriptive as the game gets about the different races that inhabit this vast universe, youíll only see symbols representing various characters, and not portraits. The descriptions are tantalizing enough to make you want to catch a glimpse, but youíll have to rely on your imagination.

The background music has an upbeat feel, with a sound that is reminiscent of early 80's arcade games and sci-fi movies. Battles bring on a more serious vibe, while at other times (those relaxing floating through space times), itís a bit more mellow. The soundtrack is actually a high point of this game for me.

Thereís no voice, but there is that repetitive sound that plays during dialogue text. Someone should really make a word for that. Anyway, the blippy-blippy-blip sounds become the voice for various characters, much like in games such as The Legend of Zelda or Okami. Itís done rather well in this game, and doesnít feel annoying. The main character you talk to is your internal A.I., who has a rather cute blippy-blippy voice, among all the different "voices" youíll hear. Thatís a good thing, because that A.I. is pretty chatty.


Most of the gameplay in Ring Runners: Flight of the Sages centers around your ship and its weapons. Ring Runners uses a physics system that takes into account the unique properties of space and the frictionless environment you encounter there. As such, youíll be able to slingshot yourself through space, all while turning around to fire missiles or dodge oncoming fire. It can get complicated pretty fast, but it can be very satisfying when you pull off a complicated maneuver.

The story centers around you, a mysterious pilot with amnesia and your trusty implanted A.I., which often makes quips about your amnesia and piloting skills. You get to know each other in your first quest, which involves finding snacks. Apparently your A.I. device, Nero, is powered by your blood sugar, so it is highly motivated by things like peanut butter cups. The writing is humorous (even beyond your A.I.ís snack fixation) and well done. The story is pretty much told through only dialogue - no narration. It gives the world a kind of immediacy since this means everything is based around your experiences. The story and atmosphere is helped along a bit if you read the novel this game is based on, Ring Runner - Derelict Dreams, but it stands up on its own without that previous knowledge. Reading the novel will, however, drive home that previous point about no character portraits. There are quite a few races and locations in the novel, and it would have been nice to see some of them in the flesh.

You earn Plex throughout the game, which will help you upgrade your ship, weapons, and other fancy bonuses. There are different styles of ships such as grapplers that can throw enemies and yourself around to your advantage. There are classic fighter ships that are all about missiles, plasma weapons, and maneuverability as well. Fancier still, some ships are all about stealth. Itís up to you as to how you want to play and deal with firepower and physics.

Things get even more interesting when you get your abilities as a Sage. The novel and game explain it all in terms of things like particles and subatomic spaces, none of which Iím going to pretend I understand, but it does sound pretty cool. These abilities can slow time, among other things, and produce a lot of cool effects. And of course, your abilities as a Sage are pretty important to the overall plot as well.

A variety of non-campaign gameplay modes will keep you occupied when youíre ready to try something different. These include some pretty typical Deathmatch and Base Defense modes. Achievements, also sprinkled with humor, can keep you coming back for more, especially since you can earn extra Plex from them. Multiplayer is an option as well, with even a local "co-pilot" mode where you and a friend can team up to pilot your ship. Suffice to say, youíll find plenty to keep yourself occupied no matter how you enjoy playing.


Ring Runners: Flight of the Sages can get very complicated, very fast. Juggling momentum, 360 degrees of aiming freedom, and several sets of defensive and offensive abilities is quite a handful. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a Xbox 360 controller to work with this game, but I can tell you it would help a lot. The game is still quite playable with a mouse and keyboard setup, but Iíd love the feeling of having it all conveniently mapped out to a controller, especially when the game supports it.

One of the hardest things to get used to in a game like this (if youíve never played something with space physics like Star Control, for example) is that you have to simply let go sometimes. Youíve got to let your inertia take you one way, and then make adjustments in another direction. When you start getting good at that, youíll make some nice loops that are perfect for strafing and escapes, but that chaotic factor keeps coming into play as well. Sometimes playing around with momentum and speed can work to your advantage. In the really big fights, it feels like youíre managing chaos itself. It gets pretty intense.

You can skip missions on Campaign, if you find them too difficult, which means you wonít really need to struggle through every mission if you simply want to get on with the next fight. You will miss parts of the story and bonus Plex, however, so itís not really a "win button."

Game Mechanics:

With all of the things you have to juggle in Ring Runners: Flight of the Sages, youíll be happy to know there is a good control system behind it. Keyboard or controller, youíll quickly feel the limits or strengths of each ship you come across. Some are quick and maneuverable, while some turn like a sloth stuck in a beanbag chair.

If the physics didnít make each battle different enough, the procedurally-generated enemies definitely finish it off. You can count on never having the same fight twice.

If thereís one little thing Iíd like to change about Ring Runner, itís probably the disorienting background scrolling. Simply spinning in place will cause the camera to swing around as if you are moving forward. Itís slightly disorienting, but definitely no deal-breaker for this game.

Ring Runners uses some tried and true game mechanics, but it is rare among games today. I remember playing games like Star Control over 20 years ago. Though I might have some rose-colored glasses, Iíd say the gameplay in this game doesnít quite feel as simple and addictive as that old game. It feels more complex, but this isnít necessarily a bad thing. It just take a little while to get over the learning curve. Iím pleased to see this kind of gameplay niche being filled today. But really, there's just so much packed into this game, it feels like any attempt to explain it just glosses over a huge part of it. Try it, play it, and give it ample time to pull you in. You won't regret it.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:

OS: XP, Vista, 7, 8 (32 or 64 bit), Processor: 2 GHz, Memory: 1 GB RAM, Graphics: Graphics: XNA Hi Def Profile Compatible GPU, DirectX: Version 9.0, Hard Drive: 250 MB available space

Test System:

Win7 64bit, 8 GB, Intel Core2 Duo CPU E7500 2.93 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

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