Publisher: Square Enix
The 3DS has been crying out for a dungeon-crawling RPG, and n-Space answered the call with sensational style. Not content with providing a full-fat loot grinding experience (featuring four classes, dozens of skills and over 80,000 loot drops) on a handheld console, they set about developing a new portable multiplayer benchmark: drop-in support for four online players complete with voice chat, clans and daily challenges.
To call Heroes Of Ruin 'ambitious' is an understatement for the ages, but amazingly, I'm delighted to report that it works - perfectly.
However, there's a fundamental problem. If n-Space actually managed to deliver on their heroic remit, how have I managed to find plenty of time to review Heroes Of Ruin in the first place? Read on to find out.
All the genre basics are present and correct. You'll select one of four classes (genre staples including a DPS melee character, ranged gunslinger, pure caster and tank) and embark on a 6-10 hour journey through plenty of isometric dungeons. Slick controls make for easy movement, dodge rolls and blocks, with a solid selection of powerful character skills - both active abilities, temporary auras, buffs and passive boosts - safely at hand with fully customisable face button hotkeys. A strong selection of randomly-spawning foes attack both at melee and range, providing a mechanically capable and consistently enjoyable gameplay experience despite repetition setting in fairly quickly. The storyline and graphics aren't much to right home about, but hey, we're here for loot and character advancement, not exposition and visual spectacle. Considering that there are 80,000 items to be nabbed and equipped, most of which are directly modelled on the character, Heroes Of Ruin certainly locks down the aggressively addictive nature of the dungeon crawling beast.
It's clear that n-Space understands both the 3DS and the finer points of the genre, which allowed them to address some of the key issues that often blight even the biggest-budget RPGs. Slick touchscreen inventory management lets players compare and contrast items before they're equipped, and junk them for money while in the field. Once back in town, each character has their own unique store to browse (so you won't be bombarded with useless items), and Streetpassed players populate an extra marketplace with useful items. The 3DS' dual screens prove to be absolutely perfect for a dungeon crawler, giving players access to a minimap and handy icons for inventory and skill panes.
All of this thoughtful iteration pales in comparison to Heroes Of Ruin's multiplayer, which is by far and away the most ambitious and impressive to grace a handheld console to date. You're able to start a local multiplayer session, public online game or friends-only session, with other players free to effortlessly drop into your world to lend a hand. Conversely, players can also hop straight into an ongoing campaign. Press-to-talk voice chat utilises the 3DS' under-used microphone to devastating advantage, allowing your party to properly coordinate combat roles and strategies.
n-Space didn't stop there. An Alliance (read: clan) system directly integrates your friend list into the game, rewarding friends who repeatedly play together with persistent buffs and stats boosts. Daily and weekly challenges, usually involving killing a large number of a particular enemy type, yield Valour Points: an elite currency that can be spent on unique armour sets and weapons. Heroes Of Ruin puts any number of home console and PC RPGs to shame, and sets a new standard for 3DS developers to follow.
Starting a public game does have its dangers. At any point, an overpowered character can warp into your world, steal your kills, nick the loot and disconnect, leaving you somewhat bemused in their wake. But these are problems inherent to the genre, not the game. In terms of major issues, then, it's worth noting that Heroes Of Ruin is incredibly, hilariously easy. Practically every crate offers up health potions to instantly trigger with the D-Pad, and should you fall (which will only happen if you put your 3DS down in the middle of a boss battle to make a cup of tea), death carries no penalty whatsoever. Since loot and levels are the primary draw, however, and Heroes Of Ruin is designed for short portable play sessions, I'm inclined to look kindly on the default difficulty level.
Heroes Of Ruin therefore provides the foundation for dozens of hours of addictive questing, for communities to rise up and friends to adventure to their hearts' content. Essentially, it should have been the last 3DS game we'd need for the rest of the year. So imagine my surprise when I completed the seven-hour campaign... only to discover that there's absolutely nothing else to do. Whereas most multiplayer RPGs hit their stride once the final boss falls, Heroes Of Ruin simply stops. Dead.
There's no harder difficulty level to pursue, and no option to replay the campaign whatsoever. Bosses don't respawn. Enemies and rewards don't scale. No post-credits dungeon awaits raiding parties, and no emergent threats need defeating. Your only option is to return to previously-cleared dungeons and plug away at the online challenges, facing off against woefully underpowered foes you've already killed by the hundred.
This needn't have been a problem. After all, you're free to jump straight into somebody else's game and replay the campaign that way. Sadly, though, there's little reason to do so thanks to a woefully low level cap. Chances are that you'll hit level thirty during your first playthrough, meaning that continued play is an exercise in utter pointlessness. n-Space's ambition appears to have deserted them at the very moment it mattered most, leaving Heroes Of Ruin neutered and impotent.
Combined with the simpering difficulty level, this makes Heroes Of Ruin's advanced multiplayer functionality completely futile. Why grind away at the online challenges for armour that you'll never need and experience that you can't use? Why build alliances with friends when your characters become clothes horses after six-to-eight hours? Why team up with other players when even the biggest bosses can't cause a single hero any grief? Why bother? It's possible that n-Space could deliver a patch to increase the level cap thanks to the 3DS' new firmware, but it's a miserably slim chance that even hardcore fans find difficult to believe in on the forums.
In the end, Heroes Of Ruin becomes a benchmark and a precedent... but another game will reap the benefits.
- Benchmark-setting handheld multiplayer: voice chat, 'drop-in,' challenges and alliances
- Capable mechanics and well-designed classes
- Compelling loot-driven questing... while it lasts
- Complete lack of late-game and game-complete content neuters the online functionality
- Simpering, limp difficulty
- Bafflingly low level cap
- Weak story and visuals
The Short Version: It's rare to see a game nail truly advanced features while bottling the basics so badly. Heroes Of Ruin lays the framework for a superior multiplayer loot grinder on a handheld console, yet n-Space's ambition gives out at the most inopportune moment. Without any game complete content, levels to aspire for even the vaguest hint of actual challenge, Heroes Of Ruin becomes a wasted opportunity rather than a new addiction.
It's a crying shame, because the 3DS' first proper loot grinder should have been the last we'd ever need.