Heroes of RuinPosted at 12:00 am on 8th July 2012 by Martyn Locker
Heroes of Ruin could have been the Nintendo 3DS's must-have game; from what we were promised, it was poised to become the handheld's killer app. Unfortunately, n-Space's dungeon crawler doesn't quite reach 'classic' status, but that's not to say that the game doesn't hold its own as a unique title in the 3DS's library which makes every effort to push the boundaries of the console it resides on. What you have with Heroes of Ruin is an extremely ambitious, if somewhat unoriginal action RPG.
When you start up the game, you're tasked with choosing one of the four available character classes - each one with their own strengths, weaknesses and traits which will appeal to gamers with different tastes. To choose from, there's the Vindicator - a sword-fighting, hind-leg-standing, armour-clad lion; the Gunslinger - a jolly fellow with two guns and the ability to use bombs and the like; an Alchitect, who happens to have the ability to cast spells alongside wielding a large, axe-like weapon; and finally the Savage, which is a huge troll whose arms double the size of an entire Gunslinger. Each of the four characters play largely differently, although the plot remains the same no matter which one you choose. For the sake of this review, we played through as the Vindicator - simply because we couldn't choose one, and he was at the top of the list!
So with your character chosen, it's now time to customise its skin tone, hair style and colour, before giving your beast (or Gunslinger) a name. With nothing new for the genre shown off so far, the game's main menu is where you'll get a first glimpse at Heroes of Ruin's ambitions. If you're not too busy just mashing the A button to get into the gameplay as quickly as possible, you'll notice the "Join Game," "Your Alliance," and "Account Settings" options - all of which are centred around the vast online multiplayer focus in the game, and all of which focusing on implementations which haven't really been seen in a Nintendo 3DS game to this extent.
From the "Join Game" menu, you're able to join another player's game via online or local multiplayer to aid and help out with their quests. This is where Heroes of Ruin truly shines, mainly thanks to its adaptive difficulty levels - if you, a level twenty player for instance, join a level six player who's just about managing to take on a level eight boss, your presence will increase the boss's level to make the conflict much more challenging, yet also much more enjoyable than joining a random, low-level player and taking out their boss fight in a matter of strikes. It's the same the other way around, too: if you host a worldwide game for one to three other random players, there's no waiting around in a lobby until you find the players - you'll go straight into your single-player game until somebody decides to drop in; and when somebody drops out? No waiting around for a replacement, as the difficulty re-adapts and you're free to continue without a hitch.
Whether you're in single-player or multiplayer, the gameplay is obviously the most important aspect of the game, and whilst it starts out very enjoyable, it can become very repetitive over time; depending on your interest in the genre, you may lose interest in the game before its conclusion. The controls hold out extremely well, though, with the Circle Pad moving your character, the B button using the standard attack, before eventually unlocking and assigning new energy-draining Skills (attacks and abilities) to the A, X and Y buttons. Whilst deciding which attack to use, before unleashing it on the the often-Shark-headed enemies, adds a certain element of strategy, mashing the same buttons, occasionally holding and releasing B for a charged attack, does get very samey. On the D-Pad, you push left to use one of up to twenty health potions, whilst right uses an energy potion - one of each restoring two of the four bars in their respective meters. Whilst not a huge gripe, having to take your thumb off the Circle Pad for a second or two whilst you heal in the middle of a boss battle can drop you in even more trouble. Meanwhile, pushing up and down equips or sells any loot (weapons, armour, etc.) that's left behind from enemies or found in chests respectively, thus cutting out a lot of tedious menu-trawling should you so wish. It's worth noting that you do get a lower price for anything you sell on the go to what you'd get if you sell to a merchant back in the hub world, Nexus, but there's plenty of gold, with many useful treasure rooms to go around.
As we said earlier, the game is largely unoriginal, with inspiration seemingly being drawn from the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles: the game has 'Skill Trees', which are much the same as those seen in Monolith's Wii epic - you earn Skill Points as you level up, these are spent on the first Skill, the second Skill is unlocked as you buy the first, and so on. Unfortunately, unlike with the loot selling, there's no easy way to bypass this, so you'll want to learn the ways of the complex 'trees' as soon as possible if you want the upper hand in battle. Unrelated, there's even an enemy - the Wisps - which resemble the Nebulas in Xenoblade both in appearance, and in their tendency to explode at low HP.
On top of the standard adversaries there's also a number of boss battles. While the earlier fights are basically standard enemies on steroids, with higher HP and usually at a much higher level than the standard enemies, as the story progresses, some of the bosses become much more interesting - one in particular having you lure a dragon into breathing its ice breath onto a pillar, thus freezing it and allowing you to topple it onto the boss's head. There's also a selection of Zelda-style puzzles, including a clever word-based teaser in one of the latter dungeons which hints at an order in which you must kill a series of enemies, although these come few and far between.
Finally, the presentation does a fairly solid job of delivering the gameplay without making the game too confusing for those who might not be familiar with the conventions of the genre. The menus whilst searching for an online game do see a lot of confusing icons, but, both in-game and otherwise, there's always a little '?' button on the touch-screen which gives you an overview of what each icon does when touched. The top-screen can become somewhat cluttered with your health and energy bars, enemies' health meters and a list of abilities your opponents possess, but look past these obstructions, especially whilst playing in 3D, and this isn't too detrimental to the game on the whole. On top of this, the voice acting is all top-notch, although the same phrases repeated over throughout the course of the game does start to grate after a number of hours.
All in all, Heroes of Ruin is an impressive game which introduces a lot of new features to 3DS gamers. With four fifteen-hour campaigns, anyone with basic mathematical ability will know that there's plenty of time to be lost to the game; although sadly not everything's as well-implemented as it certainly could have been. We can now only hope that the game's disappointing sales across Europe don't deter Square Enix and other publishers from such ambitious games in the future, as the 3DS will be all the better for them.