Stop what you’re doing right now and take a gander at your pile of 3DS games. Of your crooked stack, how many titles incorporate online co-op, or for that matter, even feature any significant connectivity to other players not sitting a few feet away? If “pretty much none” is your answer, don’t feel alone; Nintendo isn’t exactly blazing trials with its online functionality.
That reason alone makes n-Space’s Heroes of Ruin feel unique to its platform. A hack-and-slash title where loot drives player progression, Heroes of Ruin allows up to four players to explore vast dungeons crowded with frightening beasts as either a close-knit team, or loose band of adventurers. It’s difficult to not become enamored by the game’s seamless cooperative nature, but unfortunately, much of the wonder begins to wear thin as the remaining features prove to be middling at best. Moment-to-moment combat, as well as character progression and storytelling, do just enough to keep your hands tied to the 3DS, but little more. You won’t find much like it on Nintendo’s latest handheld, but it’s an inarguably generic adventure when separated from that device.
The story, too, does little more than gently push you forward from location to location. The ruler of the great city of Nexus, Ataraxis, is in pretty rough shape in the beginning of the game due to a powerful curse. The residents of his domain, as well as his family, have had little success bringing the king back to action, so it’s up to you to scavenge the world for a cure. Of course, twists, turns and a few malicious elves add a bit of variety to an otherwise bland tale, but the narrative never quite ropes the player in enough to care about what’s going to happen nexts. Thumbing through page after page of dialogue becomes the norm, and while some static scenes with voice-over work break the monotony from time to time, it’s just not enough to make any of the non-violent events taking place feel significant.
All the instances where you’re not building a character or busting up enemies can be ignored, though, and that’s what matters. After choosing between the four classes of gunslinger, architect, vindicator and savage and customizing a few aesthetic features, you’re dropped right into the Nexus. This city, which acts as the central hub, houses shops, quest-givers and entrances into various dungeons just waiting to be pilfered. It’s not exactly a massive area, but the Nexus quickly becomes a comforting location after a long day of collecting shiny trinkets on the battlefield.
A basic routine of accepting every quest in the Nexus, entering one of the four main areas to collect loot and returning to home base to reap the rewards quickly forms after little more than an hour. There’s a certain repetitive nature to it all, but like most other loot-driven titles derived from Diablo, the grind carries a strange allure that’s difficult to resist. Dungeons that range from arctic caverns to coral-encrusted tunnels help to vary some of the core dungeon crawling, but the amount of distinctions between levels isn’t great enough to make each area feel too unique. Differently-shaped levels coated in various hues only go so far in making you feel like you’re doing much more than hacking-and-slashing seas of fodder in tightly-guided tunnels.
Whether swinging a sword, twirling a firearm or keeping enemies at bay with spells, there’s fun to be had with the combat of Heroes of Ruin. Unlike Diablo where pointing and clicking is the best method to victory, Heroes of Ruin plays like an isometric action title that incorporates easy-to-use abilities and superior maneuverability. Direct control helps accelerate the action, and while some simple puzzle solving throws a few surprises into your gold-fueled trek, taking down both standard creatures and harrowing bosses is still the prime concern. Combos, techniques unique to specific classes, quick block and roll moves – there’s much more to this RPG than what you’ve come to expect from the genre.
Chopping enemies down to size is enjoyable, but the stunted difficulty and borderline broken economy take away much of the action’s punch. Only one difficulty setting is presented to players, and it’s one where health and mana potions are given out more frequently than fortune cookies at a Chinese buffet. Damage taken already regenerates at a pretty significant rate, and with powerful, stat-boosting weapons dropping often, both your offense and defense feel a little too great for their own good. Gold, too, is never a problem. With both stores in the Nexus and an online, player-driven marketplace at your disposal, it becomes painfully easy to hit the far-too-restrictive cap to your currency, and the troves of gold dropped by creatures in dungeons just makes that “expensive” sword at the shop seem too simple to acquire. I was forced to purposely buy the priciest baubles available before entering the newest quest area less than half-way through the game’s lengthy campaign, but with item drops being so consistently strong, the majority of newly purchased equipment became nothing more than inventory overflow in a matter of moments.
The only real challenges you’ll run into stem from the cluttered nature of the inventory and some indecisiveness on where to go next on your upgrade path. Random drops combined with that fact that each class has specific weapons and armor makes for a supply full of unusable equipment that can’t be sorted to your liking. You’ll end up selling (if you don’t currently have the maximum amount of cash) the majority of what was picked up in your most recent expedition, and the few pieces of loot that may actually help you will be buried under the piles of junk. The points earned from leveling in the dungeons do find some more practical use, but with your basic attack dispatching essentially everything that crosses your path with general ease, the order by which you advance your specific character’s traits doesn’t feel like a significant factor. That’s a problem in a game so dependent on character customization, and one that’s difficult to ignore.
Tune out the poor inventory management and easily conquered enemies, and there is a solid, simple-to-enjoy game remaining. Having strangers enter and exit your world whenever they please may seem like a simple, if not standard touch in many titles, but seeing it done on a 3DS heightens the experience a great deal. There’s little lag and few hiccups to break the cooperative immersion, and while there aren’t an endless supply of willing participants to help rummage through levels with you, it’s unusual to find yourself alone for too long once you’ve created an online game.
Heroes of Ruin does nothing better than anything else out on the market. It’s a visually insipid title with a standard narrative, effortless-yet-responsive combat system and basic character customization feature that does little to excite the player about creating a truly unique adventurer. Yet, the game’s online excellence on a console so barren of cooperative experiences still makes it worth a look. If you’ve been itching to slog through dungeons with either friends or strangers on your 3D-enabled device, Heroes of Ruin may be your only solid, if not generic, option.
Heroes of Ruin was developed by n-Space and published by Square Enix. It was released on December 4, 2012. A 3DS copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.