There are few games that play it safer than Heroes Of Ruin. So much so that even those looking for a most traditional of fantasy loot-’em-ups may well be surprised by the lengths to which it goes to conform to expectation.
There are four character classes available, fitting the four different play styles typical to the genre. Vindicators are warrior types – sword swingers clad in heavy tank garb. Gunslingers are your ranged class – medium-armoured and nimble, they like to stay outside of scuffles and shoot in as much as possible. Savages have low defensive capabilities, but hit very, very hard indeed. And finally, there is the Alchitect – typical mage class; low armour, devastating area of effect spells.
Heroes Of Ruin is set in the World Of Veil. At its heart is the Nexus. Here are gathered quest-giving NPCs, shops to sell junk to and buy useful items from, and it is from here that you are able to unlock the various sets of dungeons constituting the game’s questing locations. The structure of the gameplay never really changes from the first moment you arrive in the Nexus. Gather a bunch of quests, upgrade your weapons and armour and head off to the newly unlocked dungeon, repeat.
While there is some variety to be found in quest types, these again fail to defy expectation and we found ourselves often craving something, anything, to happen which might show a spark of originality. Alas, everything always breaks down to ‘kill ten of these’, ‘gather five of these’, or ‘kill this boss or that’. None of which is in any way helped by the fact that each set of three or four dungeons (linked by their own sub-stories) are ocean, forest, snow, and so on. And while they may appear different, they are structured very similarly. Flowers that can be hit and looted in the forest dungeons are replaced by similarly purposed ice formations in the snowy realms, or shells in the ocean dungeons. The various locales and their themes, then, feel like the exact same experience reskinned, rather than as if any attempt has been made to imaginatively use their own unique properties.
But, even down to the individual clusters of dungeons, there is a great deal of repetition. Rather than a Lego-like approach to dungeon design in which tiny pieces are configured and reconfigured to ensure each part is unique, instead large, recognisable prefab sections are repeated over and over, lending the experience an unsatisfying and unerring sense of déjà vu.
Levelling up, obviously, leads to increases in base stats, and Heroes Of Ruin offers you the chance to get stuck in and decide which of your three primary base stats you wish to upgrade. For our Vindicator-class character, we decided his most important base stat was Might – how hard he hits things, essentially – and so consistently ploughed all of our upgrade points into this particular statistic. But that manufactured a new problem. By around level 15 or 16, our Might statistic was so high that most creatures we encountered died within one or two hits. We had eradicated all challenge.
As well as putting points into base stats, it’s also possible to steadily upgrade your character’s special attacks. For our Vindicator, these comprised a powerful overhead strike, the ability to imbue our weapon with fire, a charge attack and a passive damage enhancer. Each special ability has three levels to upgrade with points accumulated from levelling up. Since, however, each can only be upgraded upon your character reaching a specific level, there was never a shortage of points to do this. Putting control of this into the player’s hands, then, felt a little, well, pointless.
There is also a fairly fundamental problem that is less one of the game, but one of the device, exacerbated by the lengthy play times Heroes Of Ruin encourages. The 3DS becomes quite an uncomfortable object to hold over periods of several hours. And then there’s the 3D screen. While we found ourselves mesmerised early on with Heroes Of Ruin’s 3D dungeons, its columns and plinths that seemed almost to poke us in the eye as we passed by them, eventually they led to eyestrain – a discomforting, dull ache which finally forced us to switch the 3D off entirely.
Heroes Of Ruin’s approach to equipment and upgrades seems at first a rather odd one. Rather than have icons pointing to each equipment slot, we have what is really just a large list that must be scrolled through, items selected based on the way they affect the many stats shown on the top screen. Its implementation and use of the touch screen is distinctly lacking in user friendliness, graphical finesse and original thinking.
From a multiplayer perspective, things fare better. The game uses both StreetPass and SpotPass. Furthermore, as well as support for four players both local and online, you can also trade loot using the ‘Trader’s Network’. The best way to enjoy Heroes Of Ruin is most definitely with three friends, but to highlight this as a selling point would be to assume there are going to be people out there with three friends who also own the game, and that will get together and plough hours at a time into it. Realistically, this will rarely happen, and as a single-player looter, Heroes Of Ruin, fairly enjoyable though it is, fails to show the invention necessary to justify its own existence.