My reaction when Heroes of Ruin was dropped on my doorstep by the helpful Fed Ex man (and not the evil UPS one that leaves my guitars sitting where anyone can snatch it. Jerk.) is oddly representative of my entire experience with the game. I saw that I had a delivery from Square Enix and thought immediately “Oh man, it’s gotta be Kingdom Hearts 3D!” completely oblivious to the fact that Heroes of Ruin comes out next week. “Oh yeah….that comes out next week…..” I said as I opened it. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was actually kind of excited. As I’ve been covering the game over the past several months, I wanted to get my hands on it.
Although, clearly the game had slipped my mind. An afterthought, if you will. Unfortunately, that’s all that Heroes of Ruin sort of feels like.
I usually like to start off reviews with a story about the game, like you just finished reading, and then I usually jump into the story of the game I’m playing, given that the story of any given game is usually the most important to me. I would have loved to do that here, but I’ve completely lost the details of the story of Heroes of Ruin. All I could gather is that there’s some sort of sphinx, as in the mythological creature. He used to protect the town of Nexus, but he’s recently come down with some horrible curse. Your character, one of which you create of your own (admittedly limited,) design, takes it upon himself to find out what’s troubling the big ol’ guy and get the town protected again.
There are other aspects to it such as ancient legends, some sort of undead civil war between the ghosts of an elven forest council, an imprisoned wizard and otherwise dumb royalty, but I couldn’t pick most of it up. The game is horrible at telling a story that the player can actually grasp. There are details, sure, but none of them are really made to be relevant. It feels as though the entire plot is just loosely thrown in to try to hold things together and motivate the player, which isn’t accomplished. But with a game like Heroes of Ruin, the game could afford to get away with having a weak story if the gameplay is addictive and fun.
Thankfully it is.
After sifting through half-a-dozen pop-ups when the game first starts asking you about StreetPass features, co-op features and inviting you to link your game with a website account, you choose your class. The warrior-like Vindicator, the long-range specialist the Gunsmith, the magical Alchitect or the barbaric Savage. Thankfully there are four save slots, so you can get away with having one of each character.
The game itself plays like your typical dungeon crawler. You have the hub world of Nexus, which houses several NPCs bearing side quests, as well as the various shops to buy new equipment and other helpful items. You enter a level, kill baddies, occasionally do some (very) light puzzle solving, collect all the random loot found in chests and dropped by enemies, you fight a boss and head back to Nexus. Turn in the side quests you managed to complete, sell your useless loot, stock up on new items, rinse and repeat until the end of the game.
The game does little to break up the monotony associated with a dungeon crawler. Granted there are four different locales, each with a set of 3-5 levels, which is more variety than, say, Torchlight, but at least Torchlight had some very cool design choices. It speaks volumes that the only creative enemy in the repertoire are the humanoid shark pirates. The remaining adversaries are uninspired imps and golems and goblins and wolves. WOLVES. Throughout the entire snowy mountain area your most encountered enemy are simple wolves. C’mon guys, you’re better than this. This just feels lazy.
Adding to the frustration are the occasional technical glitches here and there. The framerate takes a noticeable hit when things get a little crazy, which is a bit understandable, but I was confused when I started getting hiccups when I wasn’t even fighting an enemy. It wasn’t often enough to ruin (ha ha, see what I did there?) the experience, but it’s an annoyance. Same with some odd audio problems. Aside from background sound effects randomly cutting in and out here and there, many effects just sound horrible. I thought my 3DS was going to explode. I plugged in a pair of headphones I use for recording music to see if it was simply a fault on the 3DS hardware, but lo and behold the sound was still distorted and blown out.
Thankfully, I do have something nice to say about the game. Although the main story doesn’t take very long (I clocked in just under six hours with a single character from start to finish), there’s a very high amount of replay value. Aside from the always addictive aspect of always finding better loot and ranking up on the leaderboards, there are daily challenges fed right into your handheld from the Internet. These are the usual “kill X amount of enemies on this certain map” or “earn X amount of achievements in one day.” These reward the player with Valor, which is used to buy, you guessed it, rare loot. There’s three daily challenges every day, and a monthly challenge. These alone will give players a reason to keep playing, until of course, the player becomes godlike.
I encountered a problem towards the end of the game. I had amassed some pretty damn good armor and weapons that everything I was picking up was incredibly inferior. Even the things in the shops could not compare to my awesome sword of awesomeness (note: not the actual name of the weapon.) A handy tool is being able to sell things instantly from your inventory menu instead of having to carry everything through the end of the level to when you return to Nexus. Since I was selling nearly everything towards the end of the game, I managed to collect so much money that I had actually hit the money cap of 99,999. This meant I wasn’t allowed to sell my stuff. The game physically would not let me. I couldn’t send certain items to the online marketplace or send the class specific items to the shop so I might switch it to another character later on because I wouldn’t be able to take in the money the person on the other end once they had purchased the item. It’s an unbelievably stupid hurdle that should never be encountered in a game like this.
If you haven’t been able to tell from the trailers, Heroes of Ruin also has a massive emphasis on playing with up to three of your friends. In fact, the game presents co-op as the default option. The same aforementioned technical issues are present in terms of distorted audio and framerate drops, and there’s the added annoyance of the 3DS mic not being great for speaking over the internet, but other than that everything holds up online. Which is a pretty big deal considering there aren’t a terribly large amount of 3DS games that have even broken into online play at all.
As much as it seems I have negative things to say about Heroes of Ruin, I enjoyed my time with it, and plan on playing through the game as the other three character classes. The biggest problem working against the game is the pure generic look and feel of the game. Those six hours I spent with my character in the story were peppered with frequent breaks by how badly I wanted to go do something else. Not out of dislike for the game I was playing, but out of complete lack of motivation to continue forward.
I’m also confused that the game feels like it’s made for children, and the emphasis on the whole social network-type structure of the online portion of the game seem to support that, but the game is rated T. So that’s kinda weird too.
I find it difficult to recommend Heroes of Ruin, but I don’t find it embarrassing to tell people it’s worth their time. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the game (aside from the odd “too much money” problem I had,) but the game has no WOW factor. You could do much worse than Heroes of Ruin, but with so many other great choices in the 3DS library, you could clearly do better as well.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided to us for review purposes.
There's a lot of potential here. Heroes of Ruin doesn't have anything majorly fundamentally wrong with it, but the game fails to keep the attention of gamers.