Heroes of Ruin is an incredibly apropos title for Square Enix and N-Space's online multiplayer action role-playing game for the Nintendo 3DS.
From the moment the game concept was revealed, my hopes began to rise. A handheld Diablo-style RPG adventure? Online multiplayer for up to four-players, complete with voice chat? The promise of endless piles of color-coded equipment to collect and trade with your friends? If any game could make my 3DS a constant front pocket companion, Heroes of Ruin was it.
A dozen hours of drab dungeon crawling later those hopes had crumbled away to dust.
Heroes of Ruin
Released: July 17
Type of game: Isometric action role-playing
What I played: Completed main story in 12 hours, raising my Alchitect to level 27 (of 30) in the process. Played in both single-player and online multiplayer with random players. Tried each additional class.
Two Things I Loved
- Having random players join my game, fighting by my side and chatting via the 3DS microphone as we slogged through endless hordes of recolored enemies.
- Evolving the look of my character through progressively powerful weapons and armour.
Two Things I Hated
- Your character reaches level 30, and that's it.
- An inventory clogged with equipment I can't sell because I can't accept more money in my wallet.
Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes
- "On paper it's the portable action role-playing game Nintendo fans have always wanted." - Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com
- "What the hell do you mean I can't sell this crap?" - Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com
It's not that Heroes of Ruin doesn't deliver on its promises. It is, as advertised, a 3DS game that allows players to create a character from any of four classes -- Alchitect, Gunslinger, Savage and Vindicator -- and send them on an epic quest with up to three online entities. They'll earn new equipment and experience points, unlocking new skills and abilities as they earn power. They'll mix-and-match three of those powers, assembling their own perfect character build. They will engage is epic boss fights and solve the odd puzzle.
It's got all the elements of a great action role-playing game; they just don't come together well.
It doesn't help that the game's story and setting are completely dry and flavorless. The city of Nexus is a collection of quest-giving non-player characters and vendors with departure points that appear over the course of the story, granting players access to four generic dungeons. You've got watery caves, Elven woods, snow-covered hills and a mystical dimension filled with angels and demons. The only real personality here comes from random references to more interesting entertainment options -- there's a quest called Cruel Angel Thesis that'll make anime fans forget for just a moment that they're chewing on video game cardboard.
The bland environments are further broken up by levels, generally three standard levels followed by a generally impressive boss fight, at least mechanically. The actual fighting in Heroes of Ruin isn't much more than button mashing at the end of the day. Potions are abundantly available and instantly usable, and the game's sole difficulty level isn't that challenging in the first place.
Without challenge, slogging through the colourful creatures in Heroes of Ruins feels like filler for the main events. It's tedious and annoying, and creatures constantly respawning behind the player makes backtracking to collect quest objectives even more so.
Grouping with friends and strangers, makes the experience more bearable, but it doesn't seem to do anything for the difficulty. You'll get more creatures, but they aren't any more difficult than the ones you'd face alone. Boss fights don't seem to be scaled for multiple players either, lessening the challenge of these visually impressive encounters even further.
At least the grouping process is smooth. I've had no trouble connecting to any number of established games, and other players regularly popped in when I hosted my own. Waiting for other players to spend skill points and change equipment can get a little annoying -- a pause symbol appears over their head and monsters ignore them, turning on you -- but all in all the feature has functioned admirably.
I just wish there was more to do with it other than just fighting the same creatures. Players can trade equipment in the game, but there's really no point in doing so. Drops are plentiful, so you'll never find yourself in dire need. In fact, drops are so plentiful that by selling them you'll reach the game's gold piece cap of 99,999 before you're two thirds of the way through. This is particularly fun, as once you reach that cap you can't sell off spare equipment. You'll be dropping expensive armour and weapons everywhere you go. You're like Johnny Armorseed. You'll feel tremendously stupid.
Perhaps if N-space had included some sort of end game or new game+ to Heroes of Ruin there'd be more room for collecting and trading. As it stands, once you've completed the main story and a handful of side quests, you're done. There's no reason whatsoever to continue playing. The character you just spent a dozen hours building up into a living weapon is now a virtual paperweight. A ruined hero.
Heroes of Ruin had such promise, a promise that shines through during one particularly challenging boss encounter, in which N-Space tosses aside genre traditions in favour of a genuinely exciting and relatively unique battle sequence. It was the first time I cracked more than a tiny smile the entire time I was playing.
Then the credits rolled, and my journey was over.