Heroes of Ruin - Staff Review  

The Heroes Are Alright
by Michael "Wheels" Apps

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Fun battle system
+ Large number of character skill choices
+ Great multiplayer with voice chat
- Generic, bland visuals
- Only four different dungeon types
- Forgettable music and sound
Click here for scoring definitions 

   On the surface Heroes of Ruin doesn't appear to have a lot going for it. A third person looter for the Nintendo 3DS and veteran developer n-Space's biggest project to date, its look and feel aren't particularly original, and neither is its story at first. It heavily reuses assets and only makes use of four different dungeons tilesets in four matching locations in the game world. Yet, with an impressive suite of multiplayer features rivaling that of many console action RPGs and very enjoyable combat and character advancement mechanics, Heroes of Ruin brings to mind the old phrase "more than the sum of its parts." It may not light anyone's world on fire, but it proves to be a good time regardless.

    Heroes of Ruin begins with an intro to the world of Veil. A great conflict was stopped by the mysterious and powerful creatures known as the Ruin Lords. They eventually settled down to rule kingdoms, and it is one such kingdom that is seeking adventurers; its Ruin Lord has been cursed. The player sets off for the city of Nexus to undertake this quest. It's not a particularly original setup, but the story does a fine job of setting up the various dungeons the player will be traveling to. There's nothing like the depth of the RPG genre's best stories to be found here, but the plot does a good job establishing the world as the player advances through the game. It even has some fun twists at the end, though the characters are mostly underdeveloped. These types of RPGs are generally light on story and heavy on loot gathering and action. Still, Heroes of Ruin's story gets the job done quite admirably. It isn't the reason to play the game, but neither will it turn players away or have them skip cutscenes.

   The gameplay follows the standard and well established route that previous third-person looters have blazed. The player selects one of four classes, customizes his or her appearance a bit, and then it's off to the first dungeon. Gameplay focuses on wandering through dungeons, completing quests, collecting loot, and ultimately boss battles. Heroes of Ruin's combat is simple and easy to pick up, with one face button assigned to attacks and the other used for assigned abilities. Heroes also also features a multi-use button that blocks when held down and rolls when quickly pressed along with a direction. The four different classes provide a large number of selectable abilities and buffs, providing many different ways to customize a character. The four classes in the game are vindicator, alchitect, savage, and gunslinger, which, aside from that last one, are just fancy names for the typical tropes of paladin, wizard, and fighter. Though nothing is new with the character classes, they are well designed examples of their archetypes. Though skill selection is limited as a character levels up, it finds a great balance between allowing freedom of character development and restricting player choice from making an underdeveloped character. The only real downside to the selection of characters is that only one, the alchitect, is female.

Haven't I met you
                                        landsharks somewhere before? Haven't I met you land sharks somewhere before?

    Since the vast majority of the game is spent in combat, the variety of the classes and abilities keeps things interesting. Heroes even adds some nice touches so players don't have to spend as much time in menus managing equipment. Players can quickly hold down or up on the d-pad to quickly sell or quick-equip any piece of equipment without opening a menu. A list of stat changes for each item will show up as the player hovers over the item so they can see if it's worth it. What's odd is that these quick equip options are completely missing when purchasing equipment or being rewarded equipment for finishing a quest. It's good that menu usage is kept down thanks to these features, because equipment, quest, and character advancement menus are only accessible from buttons on the touch screen. Since these menus are more easily controlled via the d-pad and buttons, many players will find it incredibly annoying to have to pull out the stylus just to open a menu. With the start and select buttons both opening the same pause menu, there was at least one button available to be used for this and it makes for a strange omission.

The bosses are Heroes of
                                        Ruin's most exciting
                                        encounters. The bosses are Heroes of Ruin's most exciting encounters.

   Another issue of note is the game's difficulty. The game scales difficulty nicely based on the number of players in the game, but single-player suffers from some balance issues. There is an abundance of potions in the game's dungeons, which seems a concession for multi-player. In single-player, even when the game gets in the later stages, this just means the player has a near limitless supply of potions. Even on the final boss, players will be unlikely to use up their supply. Death can still happen from enemies that deal heavy damage quickly, but the potion supply means rolling and blocking will become pointless in favor of hacking away at enemies and healing when needed. This is a shame, as combat is much more engaging when both are needed. Those playing the game only in single-player may find the lack of challenge disappointing, despite the strengths of the game's combat.

    One look at any screenshot of Heroes of Ruins is all it will take to find the deficiencies in its visuals. The graphic style is unoriginal and outdated, looking like some long lost Warcraft game on the DS. The environments and characters look a bit better with the 3D effect turned on, with some nice depth added to environments, but nothing amazing. The biggest issue with the environments is their heavy re-use. There are only four different tilesets used for dungeons, and each is represented in six different dungeons. Though some have areas unique to them, most of the dungeons for a particular tileset look and feel almost identical. The monsters are the highlight of the game's graphics, most being well animated and interesting, especially the bosses. They are re-used far too much, as even some bosses show up again as regular enemies. As one might imagine, the music and sound effects suffer similar amounts of re-use. They don't suffer the same quality issues as the graphics, but are still standard fantasy fare and mostly forgettable. It's true that Heroes of Ruin is a lower budget game than many similar titles, but that doesn't forgive so much repetition in the audio-visual department.

    At the end of the day, Heroes of Ruin is a fun game with a slew of issues that prevent it from being great. A wealth of multiplayer options make it the closest to a console third-person looter you'll find on any portable system. While it can still be a fun single-player experience, the game is best played with a group of friends. Even so, with repetitive environments, monsters, music, and sound, it is not likely to be a memorable experience. Hopefully with more 3DS development under its belt, developer n-Space will be able to make a more worthy experience for such a great multiplayer setup, assuming they get the chance to make such a game.

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