I’m going to admit something: I don’t use my Nintendo 3DS as often as I should. God knows I still have a backlog of decent games to work my way through, not to mention access to the e-Shop. I suppose it’s just because there’s a larger amount of games I’m interested in coming out on consoles and PC. When I heard about Heroes of Ruin however, I was intrigued. A dungeon-crawler for the 3DS with a heavy emphasis on multiplayer? Yes please.
The basis for Heroes of Ruin’s story is simple, featuring a mystical creature called Ataraxis, the founder of the city of Nexus, who has fallen into a coma. You, the hero, are one of the many adventurers who attempt to wake him. To its credit, it actually gets quite interesting through the plot device of – gasp! – betrayal, although most of the characters are forgettable. Your character is one of a pick-and-choose nature, with the game giving you the choice of four classes (Vindicator, Alchitect, Savage and Gunslinger) and various appearance options. It’s no Skyrim, but it’s impressive for a handheld title. The graphics aren’t bad either, giving some decent detail to your character, and developer n-Space even add in one of personal video game fetishes – changing your character’s appearance according to what they are equipped with.
Gameplay is a hack-and-slash fest, which is standard for the genre. Attacks are pulled off with the face buttons, with three of them that can be mapped depending on which abilities you’ve chosen from the rather sizeable skill tree. Dodge and block are, annoyingly, both mapped to the same button and not nearly as responsive as effectively necessary, so a better strategy is usually to just run away and quaff potions when you need to. Most of the time quests will comprise of ‘Find person A’ or ‘Find me X number of Y’, all available from the Nexus hub, which makes gameplay repetitive after the first few areas you visit. Keeping in theme with the repetitive nature of the gameplay are the otherwise decent voice clips and the tutorial messages that constantly flash up, even four hours into the game, with phrases such as “Some attacks are unblockable! Stay clear!” Gameplay is a little more interesting once you factor in the real meat and potatoes of the game, the multiplayer capabilities. While I obviously didn’t expect Heroes of Ruin to be as populated as, say, Diablo 3 (I think that would have been a big shock to everybody), I thought it could be a real turning point for online play on the 3DS. Is it? Sort of. n-Space has put a fair bit of thought into how online play will work; essentially, you can team up with up to three other players and work your way through various areas. The experience is made as smooth as possible due to the ability to start a singleplayer game and allowing players (including yourself) to drop in or out whenever you want. No loading screens, no booting you back to the main menu. When I did have others to play with, I noted that the game was very comfortable to play; there was no noticeable lag and importantly, no 12 year-old shouting expletives at me. Other thoughtful little things, such as a timer counting down if someone intends to leave for the next area to allow them to gather the party, are also a neat touch.
Heroes of Ruin also favours a multiplayer adventure over a lone warrior affair, as seen by the fact that enemy levels don’t scale depending on how many are in your party, which makes battles much easier or harder. Then of course, there’s the loot factor – it wouldn’t be a dungeon crawler without loot! Players can share their spoils very easily with others, thanks to a menu that can be accessed with the tap of the stylus. Herein lies a problem though; the developer assumes you’ll be playing with others of different classes and thus leave monsters to drop loads of loot that you’ll never be able to use and, if you’re really lucky, some that you can. A brutal economy indeed. The Trader’s Network, a feature accessible via Streetpass, attempts to alleviate this somewhat, with the game swapping items that you don’t need with items that another player has that you can. It’s silly to assume, unless you’ve saved and closed your game in a hurry, that you would be carrying useless loot around given the number of inventory slots you have. Furthermore I couldn’t find anyone who plays the game, although I’m willing to concede that this could just be because I live in good ol’ Brisbane. Heroes of Ruin does have a couple of other neat tricks up its sleeve, which are both great ways to build a strong in-game community. The first is the ability to register your account on the game’s official website, allowing you to show off your character and take part in web challenges. These challenges come in two different flavours: daily and weekly, with weekly requiring a bit more skill to complete. Bragging rights aren’t your only reward, with successful challengers given Valour, a special currency that can be spent on elite armour and other loot, which can only be bought from a special vendor.
Despite its best efforts, Heroes of Ruin isn’t the online gaming revolution it has set out to be, although it should be commended for its solid online elements such as challenges and for utilising the 3DS’s features. As a handheld dungeon crawler, it’s decent enough, but if it were released on any other console, it would be quite forgettable. n-Space has good ideas, but fleshed out with a little more meaning, it could have been the different between an ok game and a memorable one. My advice is that if you’re going to play this game, make sure you play it with friends or people online. That in itself is a great way to boost the overall experience a little higher.