GAME NAME: Heroes of Ruin
PUBLISHER(S): Square Enix
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS
GENRE(S): Action RPG
RELEASE DATE(S): July 17, 2012
Expectations were high when publisher Square-Enix originally announced Heroes of Ruin for the 3DS. Reading the ambitious list of features was enough to raise my eyebrows and pique my interest. But as Uncle Ben (should have) said, “With great feature lists come great responsibility.” Would developer n-Space be able to pull off all of their bullet-points successfully, or would they ruin it?
Heroes of Ruin is a fantasy hack-and-slash adventure in the vein of Diablo. When you boot up the game, you are given the choice of four different characters to use. Each offers something different in terms of starting stats, magic, and weapon & armor choices. The characters all feel somewhat generic except for the Gunslinger, who was obviously created by a fan of the Dark Tower books, but feels out of place in this world. Your mission is to help wake the ruling beast of the kingdom who has fallen under a deep curse, and in turn end the war that has ravished the land. You can accomplish your goal by completing various missions handed out to you by the townsfolk and royal family in the hub city of Nexus. Not all missions are necessary to complete the game, though most you will complete by default just by navigating through the various dungeons. The game could have benefited by having some of these extra missions in dungeons away from the main ones. Most of the time, the energy spent walking across town to find the person giving the mission isn’t worth the lame loot you receive upon completion. The reason I say this is because loot is everywhere. Enemies will drop it. Plants will drop it. Treasure chests will drop it (though there’s not many of these). I do like the ability to instantly equip or sell at a reduced price loot items on the fly. It’s a smooth & intuitive process and helps keep the game moving between quests as you don’t have to sort through all your items to figure out what to keep or sell. Also nice is the ability to use a life or energy potion on the fly using the D-pad. You won’t have to worry about running out of anything because gold and portions are in abundance. Nearly every plant or pod you destroy has both gold and either an energy or life potion. You can only hold 20 of each potion at once, so most of these are just used to quickly refresh slight damage you take. It’s rare that you go for a long time without a full bar of health or energy, especially since it can regenerate on its own too.
Combat starts out fun, but quickly grows stale. You start out with a melee attack and one basic special ability attack. Each time you level up, you can add or upgrade one special ability according to your character’s branching tree. These are basically your spells, and I found I usually only used them for boss fights. Most of the time you’ll use your melee attack. Occasionally you’ll need to charge up to break through a block or shield, but it can be frustrating holding the button to charge while your character finishes a regular attack animation (and gets pummled in the process). Most levels consist of mindless button mashing while you navigate the maze to the boss. The bosses are easy fodder at the beginning of the game, but some clever boss fights wait later (though still not terribly difficult). Ditto with the quests. I mostly got bored from them when I started, but they did get more interesting as I progressed.
Speaking of being bored, the loading times in this game are horrendous. Even when selecting solo play (with no online play), it can take over a minute from when you press the button to transport to a dungeon to when you can actually take control of your character. I know it takes this long because I actually timed it. With a stopwatch and everything. Load times after completing dungeons are slightly shorter, but there is no reason they should be that long on a cartridge game. If you play online, forget about it. You could go make yourself a sandwich before the game is loaded up. Of the nearly 10 hours logged to complete the main campaign, it seemed like 25% of it came while staring at loading screens.
Heroes of Ruin isn’t the prettiest game to look at, but there are a few “wow” moments. The reflections of the sun in ice patches and a later soul void level are the two that stand out to me. The rest of the environments are nothing special, especially when different dungeons in the same area recycle the same maze pieces. It doesn’t feel like you are actually someplace different because you are following the same set as the last level, just in a different order. The 3D effect adds another layer of depth that looks pretty good for the most part. It definitely helps more than hurts. In most areas you see about three different kinds of enemies used over and over. Maybe you’ll find one kind that blocks and one that doesn’t, but they look the same except for a slight palette swap. This is disappointing, as the potential for cool looking and cool fighting enemies in this genre is huge. Instead you get the same few things in different colors. The developers also use this same philosophy when it comes to character customization. There are four different options to change, from skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, and player color. The thing is, there are only six options for each category. Deep customization this is not.
This is also a game you may want to provide your own soundtrack to. The orchestral music is fine enough, except for the couple times when it made my speakers crackle even when the volume was low. Worse though are the voice actors that come with a side of extra stuffiness. Everybody takes everything so seriously and they repeat lines during combat over and over (and over). Even NPCs you talk to in town sound like rejected Downton Abbey extras and their departure greetings and tone don’t match at all what you were just discussing. The story doesn’t do them any favors, though. The only humor to be found is in the hilariously named weapons and armor, like the Dread Shrikeclaw of the Lion and the Ashtrhone Shinguards of Reverie. In addition, I found myself not caring at all what these people were telling me. It’s not like they give you any information needed to find some item or some dungeon or tell you how to defeat a certain boss. You could easily just repeatedly press the dialog-skipping A button over and over again and be fine. Which is pretty much the same idea behind combat.
I mentioned all the ambitious features that were announced for this game. There is four-player online drop-in/drop-out co-op play with voice chat. There is the daily and weekly challenge updates. There is the special StreetPass equipment shop. Given that it was delayed multiple times, I expected all of these features to run smoothly and the bugs to be fully worked out. Unfortunately, this is not the case as there are issues remaining, including a huge game-stopping bug. More often than not, I wanted to just go back to single player because my party couldn’t advance because one player refused to join the rest of us or because I got dropped at the beginning of the level while everyone else is somewhere in the middle. Voice chat is OK, but does cut out every once in awhile. If you find a good battle partner, there’s no easy way to add them to your 3DS friend list to meet up later, though this may be a 3DS issue. Once I encountered the bug where I couldn’t take any more missions after playing online, I became a strictly solo player. The daily and weekly challenges are basically achievement farming, like kill x-amount of this enemy or collect y-amount of gold. I stopped caring about these pretty early on. Unsurprisingly, there are issues delivering these consistently to players less than two weeks after release.
I had such high hopes for Heroes of Ruin. I thought the game would occupy my time for months on end as I killed tons of different monsters using all four characters with people all over the world. But instead I just get a heaping pile of disappointment that feels unfinished all the way around. Sure, it’s fun for a little bit, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. A 3DS hero this is not.