It’s The Little Things That Matter
The Nintendo 3DS is receiving something unique with Heroes of Ruin, something a Nintendo portable system rarely ever gets: a multiplayer-centric dungeon crawler bursting at the seams with tiny extras in every department. It was a bold and risky venture for developer n-Space and publisher Square Enix, but could easily be a bridge for many different gaming audiences to give the 3DS a shot. However, not everything it does is praiseworthy.
Here’s the story: When the old Empire fell to civil war, the kingdoms of Veil, fueled by ceaseless rioting, were on the verge of extinction. This bloodshed lasted for a hundred years, and, when humans could not find a peaceful resolution, it was up to the dragons, sphinxes, and other powerful beasts to intervene. These Ruinlords founded new cities out of the rubble, with the great Sphinx Ataraxis seated at the head. However, a mysterious curse caused Ataraxis to fall into an unshakable slumber. You are one of the heroes venturing to see the sleeping beast and find a cure.
You have a choice of four classes, each tied to a specific race. The pious feline Vindicator is a paladin of sorts, wielding blades and casting blessings. The other melee-focused class is the barbaric Savage, with frenzied rage attacks to tear up foes. The ranged Gunslinger is a human nomad who uses cunning as well as firearms to dispatch foes. Finally, there is the elven Alchitect, who brandishes a polearm and casts elemental magic.
With a completely unique skill set for each class, there is enough diversity for multiple playthroughs to still feel fresh. Divvied between powers, buffs, and passive skills, there are fifteen in total, and each can be upgraded three more times after purchase, with new benefits. You cannot, however, reassign skill points, which binds you to your choices, but there’s still a great deal of options, so if you’re fond of a particular class, you could play multiple characters with different powers, perhaps one built for solo play and another for co-op.
The multiplayer aspect is stressed as the style of choice for Heroes of Ruin, to the point that online four-player co-op is the preset. There’s also a friends-only option, as well as local and solo play, that you can choose every time you load up, allowing you to swap in and out of groups with little effort. You can fine-tune your search to those in the same Act of the story, but there are no regional or language settings, so you may get stuck with non-English speaking teammates. The 3DS voice-chat is very poor, sounding almost like a transistor radio. Luckily, the strategy is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require the chat function. Playing with friends is recommended, as dropped loot becomes the property of the first player to reach it, and grouping with strangers will likely require you to do speed runs through the dungeons.
There are a couple persistent camera issues you’ll have to deal with. First, although you can adjust the zoom, it only goes out so far. With the field of action condensed, enemies get the jump on you with little notice, making ranged tactics more difficult. Also, the minimap on the bottom screen stays centered on your character and adjusts to the location you’re facing, making it confusing to get your bearing. Most of the other controls are decent enough, albeit a tad heavy, but the R shoulder button is touchy and annoying. It functions as both the block when standing still and dodge when moving. The dodge triggers even at the slightest movement, and in the heat of battle when trying to block, you’ll oftentimes roll into a group of enemies ready to attack.
Nexus functions as the hub, where you’ll take on quests, purchase equipment, and chat with the opinionated locals. Managing your inventory is pretty slick and easy. Besides accessories, the gear is exclusive to specific classes, so anything not designed for you can go right into the sell pile. Vendors are also divvied into classes, making for a simple shopping experience. You can quick-sell items when in a dungeon, but unless your backpack is full and you’re nowhere near a Nexus transporting Waystone, you’ll make a much bigger profit by selling to the merchants. Newly acquired items are separated from those already viewed with a glossy glare. Although it would be nice to be able to equip purchased items and sell the old stuff in one easy screen, this is a small criticism against a robust and accessible loot system.
Quests are of your typical item-fetching and boss-killing fare, but are intertwined in a series for particular dungeons, making for a nice progression. There’s also continuous content with daily and weekly challenges, as well as a finely created website to upload your profile, track your progression, and view your standing. All of this gives you incentives to return to Heroes of Ruin long after you’ve completed the story.
The quality of the graphics, most notably in the character models, is not great, especially by Square Enix’s standards. Due to the high level of content, the smoothness of the controls must have trumped the visuals. It seems more reminiscent of something you’d find on the original Nintendo DS rather than its 3D counterpart.
That said, there are still some great environments here. Except for the barren frozen wasteland in the North, the rest of the world of Veil is teeming with life, with cultural ruins from the previous war, and all manner of flora and fauna dotting the landscape. Though you travel tight paths, your imagination will easily broaden the borders. Rushing underground rivers and encroaching tree roots are just a couple of the beautiful design touches that makes every inch of every level worth exploring.
The game definitely looks best with the 3D slider at full, allowing the world to stretch vertically. You’ll truly feel like the overseer, looking down from above and controlling the heroic actions of your character. It also makes the already heaving ecosystem that much more lively. Your biggest concern will be the system’s poor battery life, as online campaigns and the 3D effect drain the juice in less than three hours.
The musical score fits right in, not overpowering the action, but adding ambience and crescendos at just the right time. They are brief, and staying in one area for an extended period will get redundant, but they sound good nonetheless. The speakers on the portable don’t do it justice though, with waves of scratchy static escaping during heated battles when four other players are using blaring attack powers.
Aside from the mediocre narration, the rest of the voice acting is limited to salutations and goodbyes from NPCs, and taunts and flourishes from your respective classes, all of which are cheesy and overplayed but still give a true representation of the characters attitudes.
A few fantasy RPGs have made their way onto Nintendo’s new handheld, but Heroes of Ruin is the first with a truly Western feel, hence it launching in the UK and U.S. before Japan. With an addictive loot system, easy matchmaking, and continuous content, there’s a lot right on the surface that would justify the reasonable purchase price. Delving fully into the game, you’re bound to find many small nuances, some you’ll find pleasing while others might cause you to complain. But as the time passes and you find yourself continually picking up your 3DS for another quick solo dungeon or a full afternoon with friends, you’ll realize with pride that Heroes of Ruin was a worthy choice to add to your collection.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The character models are far below standard, but the many creative touches and detailed backgrounds make the environments pop. 4.2 Control
Slightly heavy with some lengthy casting times and poorly mapped block/dodge. It forces a little more strategy, but in a hack and slash, that’s a good thing. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nicely synthesized music, but the tracks run too short. You’ll snicker at some of the voice comments, but you’ll grow tired of them eventually. 4.8 Play Value
The campaign is relatively short, but every dungeon is randomized, each class plays differently, and with daily challenges and easy co-op, there’s a lot to keep you playing. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|