Is the world worth saving if it's already in ruins?
An insanely addictive, popular, and brainless genre like the Action RPG, the dungeon-crawling loot-fest popularized by the Diablo franchise, seems like a no-brainer for portable platforms. In this case, we're talking about Heroes of Ruin for the Nintendo 3DS.
Games like this maintain relatively short gameplay loops, where the rewards come frequently enough to urge players into one more dive. You exit a hub world for a quest, complete the quest in a dungeon, and then head back to pick up another quest and tech out your character.
Heroes of Ruin purposefully ignores any opportunity for genre advancement on Nintendo's system. It's goal is to present the genre as its known and loved and let a new generation come to accept it for what it is.
Heroes of Ruin does a lot of things really well, and some things just okay, with more than enough depth and entertainment per dollar. Chief among the things Ruin does well is the online functionality.
I feel like I say this a lot in 3DS reviews, but Square Enix may have just released the best online game on a Nintendo platform ever. This dungeon crawler features drop-in/drop-out cooperative play with no experienced lag or dropped connections. You can choose to start a public game, a private game, or join a game already in progress.
Up to four players can team up and voice chat while they're slaying monsters and fighting for loot. The multiplayer is seamless and requires absolutely nothing from the player, making it a breeze to drop out of should you need to shut your 3DS.
And really, don't close your 3DS unless you want to find a brand new game. I did this several times in the review process and felt stupid every time. This isn't a mark against the game or n-Space. It's simply something you should be aware of…. That I'm stupid.
Online co-op is a joy, not just with different classes, but when playing with your own class too. Every character has three mappable special attack slots that can be filled with passive or active abilities. My Alchimect can mix range and area of effect attacks with abilities that allow her to recharge health and power.
The Gunslinger is a ranged character with some neat spacing abilities. The Savage and Vindicator round out the roster focused on visceral melee attacks. The wide range of powers would mean nothing if it weren't for the ability to swap them on the fly in the middle of a dungeon.
Online, you'll see your compatriots with a small Pause symbol over their heads to signify that they're navigating ability menus or checking out the loot they just picked up. The touchscreen displays any and all information you could want, including a map, your attacks, items, stats, and quests.
For a dungeon game, Heroes of Ruin puts everything you need at your fingertips and ties it all together with a buttery smooth online experience. For an action game, it can leave you wanting.
Every character class feels slow, unnecessarily so. The attacks and abilities are no better. I don't know if it's some issue with the game's balancing or the 3DS hardware's capabilities, but I felt like I was pushing the circle pad harder and harder hoping it would motivate my character to move even a little faster.
Something feels off. I sometimes wondered if I was running low on health or if there was some stamina meter I wasn't paying careful enough attention to. The unresponsive block and dodge controls only exacerbate this.
Occasionally you'll pick up speed boost power-ups, but these are fleeting and diminuitive increases in your mobility. I hoped to see my Alchimect learn some speedy abilities, but if they exist, I never unlocked them.
The graphics are washed-out and fuzzy, less so in 3D, but there's a surprising amount of detail in the armor, weapons, and characters. I would have traded that all in for a bit more speed and fluidity, though. It's the feeling of wading through mud that detracts so strongly from the experience.
Heroes of Ruin is an excellent game if you're looking to take your Diablo addiction on the road with you. It's deep, replayable, and the online is instantly accessible. It's easily the best way to introduce a younger gamer to the genre, especially since it's so non-threatening and without the pervasive hellish slant. That said, those of you enjoying the PC originator and its incarnations thereof should steer clear.