Review

Rauniot review - blessed are the bleak

… for they shall inherit the Earth. Or Finland. Whichever comes first.

Kieron West

Review by Kieron West

Published on Tue Jul 09 2024

As a species, it seems we're obsessed with the idea of being wiped out. Bombs, natural disasters, tripods from Mars - no matter how the end-times are brought about, there's compelling stories to tell about the people left behind to pick up the pieces. In Rauniot, the Finnish word for ‘Ruins’, it all kicked off in 1975. The opening narration lays out an incredibly bleak table-cloth - one that prepared me for a world of pollution, cannibalism, and good old nuclear fallout.

Rauniot isn’t just Finnish in name, though. Set in Lapland, the game’s isometric 3D world makes it feel more grounded than the point-and-click genre’s usual 2D offerings, while a strong sepia filter washes away any comfort you might otherwise get from a beautiful landscape or northern light.

If it weren’t for the Finnish-only voice acting and occasional untranslated word, you’d be forgiven for drawing comparisons to Wasteland or Fallout. Rauniot’s end of the world isn’t concerned with blue-and-white nationalism, though, and with loneliness being the throughline, you’re not going to run into a radioactive reindeer or any zombies.

The green-brown hues might remind you of every shooter from the 2010s, but they’re elevated by a stylish, near-photorealistic art style to create something truly impressive, if not wholly unique. I found that the animations really stood out, with FMV cutscenes lending an uncanny 2000s Resident Evil-y charm, while moment-to-moment gameplay provided genuinely impressive and incredibly lifelike movements from our protagonist, Aino.

Mild puzzle and story spoilers ahead!

A wicked-cool car, grim determination, and the ability to kill anyone she meets with nothing more than a second of hand trembling. In a word, she’s compelling. We’re given bits and pieces of her backstory before it all comes unceremoniously spilling out at the end, but there’s certainly enough depth for a follow-up or prequel if Act Normal Games has the stomach for it.

The story provides 5-6 hours of gameplay, but is forgettable. I often found myself wandering from place to place with more questions than answers, finding the environmental storytelling more impressive than the sudden twists near the end. It doesn’t help that you’ll occasionally zoom into Aino’s eyes as she slowly comments on whatever she’s searching; speedy readers trying to skip a line will find that these scenes end abruptly, a pretty bizarre inclusion.

I can’t blame Aino for not being an especially chatty protagonist - there’s only so many times I’d want to say ‘this place is a mess and I’m depressed’ before it got old, but the game’s puzzles could have benefitted from more clues. At one point, I had to prepare a small train cart for a journey; it had enough fuel to move around for the previous puzzle, but not enough to leave the depot. I added some more fuel, was told ‘it’s empty’ again, and was convinced this was a playthrough-ending bug. The forums told me to fill it with fuel three more times and get on my merry way, but there was nothing in-game to indicate that this would work.

Before we get too deep into the puzzles, the game’s top-tier fast travel system deserves commendation for saving so much time and providing charming sketches of each area in Aino’s notebook. Other characters also rely on drawings to relay information, with a darkly funny moment coming from a character needing to re-draw the nose of a man that had most of his features melted away by a molotov cocktail.

As great as the art can be, there are a few moments where it works against the gameplay. A huge blast door and nondescript tunnel had me convinced one area was a dead-end, but alas, a tiny brown panel on a large brown wall housed the next main puzzle. It wouldn’t be a problem if the game gave you an option to highlight all interactable objects in a given area, but I suppose the hotspot-hunting helps put you in the shoes of a desperate scavenger.

Another puzzle involved a keypad. Some buttons prompted a beep, others didn’t, and while Aino had nothing to say, this inconsistent beeping was somehow an indication that the wires were faulty and would require a drill to get through the keypad’s screws. Some of the final puzzles also involve a lot of dial-turning and trial-and-error which weren’t super compelling.

I should stress that those are the exceptions; a majority of the puzzles flow nicely and leave enough room for the ever-important ‘a-ha!’ moments. Still, it was a shame to see a handful let down by obtuse mechanics, clunky grammar, or rough translation - something that my low-spoiler hints should help with.

If it wasn’t obvious, Rauniot has a dreary setting, but Finland isn’t that bad! You won’t meet many people, but they’re all willing to help with various puzzles and words of advice, making the melancholy wasteland strangely comforting. Don’t expect a sepia-tinted rainbow, though; if the tragic backstories and occasional corpses don’t tip you off, the ability to shoot those friendly faces and the shockingly dark ending certainly will.

I was surprised that the game let me get away with willy-nilly murder, but it suits the setting and has some pretty direct consequences. Believe it or not, popping the heads of everyone you encounter isn't great for making peace with your maker or, indeed, any friends. Some puzzles are made more convenient by going guns-blazing, while others get harder. It makes replaying a lot more enticing than it usually is in these games.

All in all, I found Rauniot very enjoyable. The story might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re ready to step into the darkness, you’ll find a uniquely Finnish interpretation of the apocalypse with visual polish and multifaceted puzzles to impress both newcomers and veterans in equal measure.

Thank you for reading, or as the Finns say: "Kiitos, kun luit"

Puzzle Difficulty

Just right

Puzzle Satisfaction

“I am SO smart”

Story

Atmospheric

Overall

Recommended
About the author
Kieron West
Kieron West

Kieron has written video game guides since 2018. As a game designer and completionist, he understands video games on their deepest levels and loves helping others see everything that games have to offer. He even makes games of his own under the name WestyDesign.

Buy me a coffee

More Articles