Rubi: The Wayward Mira Early Access Preview

It’s an understatement to say that crowdfunding has been a facet of new media and new game distribution techniques. Originally a new and scary frontier for indie devs, the likes of Kickstarter, IndieGogo and Campfire have been utilized by large and small teams alike to give wings to bold and exciting ideas. Not every project works out the way it was intended, however, and some games are either disappointing, delayed or just seem to disappear entirely. People are wary of backing nowadays, because it either creates a monolith of false hope and expectations or it simply takes your money and runs. But not every project is a “Dark Souls Meets Animal Husbandry” mashup and, for some, the goal is both plausible and entirely feasible.

Rubi: The Wayward Mira is a passion project from a small team, helmed by Erik Halverson, who has been developing Rubi for the past three years. He’s joined by three other equally driven creators, who each bring an important element (soundtrack, artistry and animation) to make the ambitious Rubi what it currently is and what it hopes to eventually be. Rubi, our titular heroine, is a Mira, a magic infused humanoid race, who, oddly, cannot use magic. She makes up for it with implants that artificially control her mana, allowing her to survive and thrive. As the Mira’s home planet, Casimir, slowly decays from being drained of all its mana, Rubi and several other Mira suddenly find themselves teleported, inexplicably, to an unknown and lush world, which we know as Earth. Although Rubi is cautiously optimistic, it becomes very clear that there’s a dark force at work who is watching the Mira and slowly perverting them into something evil. Rubi then sets out to find what is the cause of these mutations and, if possible, how to save her people.

Rubi presents and plays as a Metrovania pixel adventure, with a lot of focus (at least in the demo) for exploration and some pretty great jumping. You have a skill tree that gradually unlocks additional life, weapons and abilities, and the items for unlocking the skills are scattered throughout the world. Rubi’s primary attack is a short burst shot that gives you a limited number of hits before needing to naturally recharge (although the skill tree allows this to be expanded). Various enemies are scattered throughout as well, and defeating them will either drop life replenishment or energy to charge up a crystal gauge. Once fully charged, you get a secondary point that I think is also important to the skill tree setup. It’s not clear, as this is an early, early demo that can’t even be considered an alpha.

However, there’s already a lot of promise peeking through with Rubi: The Wayward Mira. The controls handle incredibly well, a damn important priority for a Metrovania. Rubi can fire in all four directions, giving to some fancy footwork with the enemies that fly, bounce and come at you from all angles. Your jump is surprisingly long, but I never felt like Rubi was sailing off into the ether. When it came time for my boss fight, I still needed a couple of tries before I could conquer the rogue Mira, though that was a result of my own clumsiness and not the game being unfair. I will say that I could essentially pin down one of the weapon turrets that was floating after me by having it spawn near the ledge, so that it could only fire over my head. This did make things a little too easy for the first wave, but the appearance of a second turret put my nonsense to bed.

Graphically, Rubi has a great, slightly rough pixel appeal to it. Her idling animation reminds me a lot of early Shantae games, and she is fast on her feet and looks fluid. The world around her, even in the demo, is vast and shows a variety of potential terrain, from a bunker-esque underground cavern to the green and expansive natural topside. Enemies, which came in both monster and animal form, had their own quirks, though I despise the bats. They look great, don’t get me wrong, sinister black rats with shiny eyes, but they also have a fast and unlimited ranged attack that belies their size. The rogue Mira that I fought as a boss also looked incredibly cool as she winked in and out of existence, though the spritework that you can see on the Kickstarter page looks even better. If the game stayed where it was, I would be happy, but the potential that you see makes me even hungrier for more.

Lastly, I am already in love with the soundtrack. There’s a great amount of dynamic pianowork and some orchestral mix in that reminded me a lot of I Am Setsuna, one of the more modern examples of great RPG music. The pieces are short and repetitive, but they capture exactly the momentum and mentality that I would expect of Rubi. Someone marooned on a foreign world, already an outcast in her own society, now a stranger in a strange land, unsure of the future but determined to make one for her and her people. It made the atmosphere, it created the illusion that draws you into the game.

My only complaint is that, at the very end of the demo, you unlock what looks to be the most interesting mechanic for a Metrovania game, the short distance teleport ability. Think about that. In almost every adventure game that required serious map scrutiny, I would often come across a small expanse – maybe a wall, or a pit, or some wonky thing – that kept me from getting where I wanted to go, even though I could see where I wanted to go. Rubi gains the ability to overcome that, and you can immediately use it to find some cool extra items (and a frigging gamut of those bats) and then…reach the end of the demo. Curses! But it did exactly what it was meant to do: generate buzz and excitement for this game.

I sincerely wish the team of Rubi: The Wayward Mira luck on their project. The story is interesting but, most importantly, the game itself looks and feels GOOD. I want to play this game in it’s entirety, I want to see how powerful Rubi becomes and how the game pushes back against her growing skill to keep the difficulty in check. I’m curious how things will unfold for Casimir and the rest of the Mira, and I really hope that others do as well. If you want to take a look at the demo, the link is available on their Kickstarter page. In the meantime, I’m going to burn through that demo one more time: I still think there’s a little more to find…

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