With the Nintendo 3DS there have been relatively few titles in which the online aspects of the game are heavily emphasised. There have been titles that have featured online play of course, but few have attempted to create a great co-operative online experience. With Heroes of Ruin, developer n-Space have tried to create a co-op hack-and-slash adventure for the console and while for the most part the game is successful, there are several issues that hold the game back from truly delivering on its potential.
The game takes place in a world called The Veil, which is recovering from a great war and the player is tasked with breaking the curse of a great hero from that war. There is a brief prologue dealing the backstory of the world and short cut scenes that pull the core narrative forward. The story isnít particularly noteworthy but it does do the job of getting the player from dungeon to dungeon to raid.
As soon as you begin a new game the player is taken to the now standard character creation screen where there are four different classes to choose from. The Gunslinger attacks from a distance, the Vindicator takes the heat away from comrades, the Savage deals raw melee damage and the Alchitect uses magical abilities to aid the party. After selecting the class there is then the option to slightly customise the appearance of your warrior. Those who have become used to the insane amount of character customisation from any other RPG from the last few years may be somewhat disappointed by the lack of variety in potential character appearances, as essentially every member you meet online will look very similar with minor hairstyle or colour differences.
After a brief linear prologue the player is sent to the main hub, the town of Nexus. From here players can trade with the merchants to obtain new items, sell off loot that they have no use for or pick up quests from the residents. The village functions in a similar fashion to Moga Village in Monster Hunter Tri as you return between your ventures into the dungeons that make up the meat of the game experience.
The core dungeon crawling starts off quite slow in the prologue but as you progress further into the game it does become increasingly fun fighting your way through enemies and exploring the areas to find loot and hidden areas. There is a constant stream of loot to collect as you down enemies and find chests and it doesnít take long to reach the playerís carry limit. Thankfully itís possible to sell unusable items immediately without having to go back to Nexus and sell the items to a merchant.
The combat is pretty intuitive as the face buttons control the playersí attacks and unique abilities. The B button commands the main attack which doesnít use up any energy, but doesnít deal the damage of the special abilities mapped to the other face buttons at the cost of using up different amounts of energy. Energy can be replenished by attacking with the main attack or using potions of which there is a plentiful supply. The R button can be held down to block attacks or tapped in combination with the push of a direction of the circle pad to roll out of the way from enemy attacks.
Menu navigation with the touch screen feels a little less fluid than would be ideal for a game that requires as much management of items and skills as this. Menus are accessed through hot panels located in each corner of the screen in a similar fashion to the quick item selection in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS and will bring up inventory, quest log or skill management. In each menu there are several commands on the right hand side of the touch screen that must be pressed after selecting an item or by using the corresponding face button. Generally there is a lot more tapping around the menus than would be ideal, although itís not really a major problem as most of the menu navigation can be done quicker with the use of the face buttons as mentioned before. Overall the menu design feels a little cluttered and some of the interfaces such as the skill trees could have been streamlined by making more effective use of the touch screen rather than having the actual tree on the top screen with just a list on the bottom one.
Character progression is essentially the standard RPG fare as players gain XP from defeating enemies and completing quests. Upon successfully levelling up players are given three skill points to distribute between Might (power), Vigor (health) or Soul (energy) and are able to select a new ability or upgrade an already unlocked power on one of their skill trees. The core player stats can also be bolstered with the various armour, weapons and trinkets found from loot pick-ups or buying from a merchant. There is a degree of comparing different items and what benefits they offer as some items may increase attack power, but reduce the amount of energy the player can use. The only real issue with each class is that they arenít the best balanced as it seems to be much easier to deal with hordes of enemies as an Alchitect or Gunslinger in comparison to the melee focused Vindicator or Savage classes as it takes at least a few levels for any real difference in attack power or defense ability to become clear for the player.
Uniquely for a 3DS title Heroes of Ruin features a large emphasis on cooperative online play. Each time when you boot the game up there are various options for online or multi-cart local play for parties of up to 4 players. Thereís the option to either begin a game and allow others to join as they wish or to jump into another playerís game. Joining another player who is further ahead than you in the story wonít progress your own story but will allow you to keep any acquired loot and level in a similar fashion to Borderlands. By playing with people on your 3DS friends list you can also level up an Alliance in order to gain unique rewards and can also trade items with others using StreetPass.
The game is pretty easy from the beginning and if anything gets easier as the player progresses through to the end. There are constant health and energy potions being dropped from enemies and broken pots and thanks to the generous limit of twenty being equipped at a time it does feel like a lot of the challenge has been taken out of the game. Energy isnít slow to regenerate anyway and with the addition of potions refilling large amounts of it makes spamming the more powerful attacks risk free as thereís no cooldown between each use.
Although there is incentive to go back and replay the campaign as another class, which is encouraged with the four save slots available, there isnít really any reason to carry on playing as a particular class once you reach the end of the game which can take between six and ten hours depending on how thoroughly you explore each dungeon. Beyond helping friends out online there isnít really any personal gain from replaying already completed missions in a group beyond getting more gear for your character. There are also daily and weekly challenges to complete for cash and XP bonuses, but once you reach the level cap there isnít really any reason to continue attempting these challenges. Although dungeons do change with each revisit from the several times I played online it only appeared to mirror the entire dungeon rather than constructing unique sections each time you run through them.
Even with the Nintendo 3DSís parallax effect turned off the game never runs completely smoothly, suffering from frequent frame drops during normal play even in less hectic moments. The visuals for the most part are decent featuring detailed characters and well constructed environments, although the slightly lower resolution floor textures do stand out in comparison to the rest of the aesthetics. The default camera is a little too close to the action for me personally and although there is a limited zoom out option it still feels cramped playing as a ranged fighter. There is a limited amount of voice acting used in certain cut scenes and when completing certain objectives. Overall the art style and soundtrack are fairly generic and donít really stand out in comparison to other similarly themed action RPGs.
Heroes of Ruin is overall an enjoyable action RPG throughout its fairly short length. Unfortunately the lack of endgame content or New Game plus feature ultimately makes the game a finite experience without starting fresh with a new character build each time you want a little challenge. The gameís online features are among the best yet to be seen on the 3DS and although the short campaign probably wonít have the replayability of a more random experience it still is a title well worth checking out.