Though many may consider Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS as the platform’s most ambitious effort at online functionality, I believe Square Enix’s Heroes of Ruin can now take over that coveted spot. A collaboration between n-Space and Square Enix, Heroes of Ruin is an action RPG not unlike the Diablo franchise. In addition to that, the game sports a four player multiplayer experience with full voice chat and collaboration, as well as totally “random” dungeon layouts.
In terms of the gameplay, what I can say is that Diablo fans will feel right at home. In the game, you travel through various dungeons with several simple attacks — my character, part of the tank-like Savage class, had a basic punch attack, alongside various unlockable and upgradable special attacks. Other examples of classes include the long-ranged Gunslinger, the warrior Vindicator class, and the magic-focused Architect class. With this comes a limited but effective character customization system, with all pieces of armor and weaponry becoming visible when equipped. Being an action RPG, there are also the standard tropes within it, like leveling up, stats up the wazoo, tons of armor and weaponry to equip, all with its own unique dungeon-crawling feel.
There is a story mode (involving confronting evil and resurrecting a nearly dead ruler), but this takes place in the back seat to the gameplay, which is very fun and surprisingly polished, despite its simplicity. The game is made up of four main areas (water, forest, snow, and one I don’t want to spoil) with several levels within each. The big draw to this is that although the quests remain the same, maps are randomly generated upon each new playthrough. I had a hard time believing this at first since everything played so cohesively, but upon further playing I realized that the level is likely compiled of a bunch of smaller pre-designed segments organized in an almost-random fashion. I won’t knock it though, it works.
Inside of these dungeons are enemies, various sidequests, minibosses, secret rooms, and larger bosses usually at the end of the main run-through. In most cases, defeating an enemy will result in a new piece of armor and weaponry becoming available as a reward and this is what I believe to be the root of why the game is so addicting and fun. Because there are so many different ways to progress your character, you will be frequently adjusting your characters equipment to make it more powerful and more in line with your vision. This is absolutely great, as it makes it feel as if the game is beckoning to you “One more mission! One more mission!”, this certainly happened to me causing me to finish the game in just three lengthy sittings. With that said, such features would not be successful if the game was not well designed. The combat and exploration is fun, the enemies feel varied and challenging, and most of the bosses are an absolute blast to fight, if not a bit too easy at times.
As stated before, the game also sports a hefty online component. The entire game can be played cooperatively with up to three other people, and I can now safely say that the online is absolutely flawless, even while I was playing with a friend based in Europe. In addition to quest collaboration (which makes the game feel much more alive and fun), Heroes of Ruin contains voice chat, and although the quality isn’t absolutely perfect, it’s certainly admirable to see in the title, something not even present in Mario Kart 7.
Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, and Heroes of Ruin is no exception. The well designed game is covered in an ugly coat of paint, as graphics look almost last-gen and the sound is exactly as unmemorable (albeit pleasant) as you would expect. The story is interesting but becomes incredibly convoluted at times and features some terribly corny voice acting. Marring it especially, however, is the lack of post-game content. Bosses can not be refought, quests aren’t really re-playable, and proper exploration can bring you to near-100%-completion when all is said and done. And that “said and done” does not refer to 100 hours of gameplay either. To get to that point, you really only need to play for 10-12 hours, painfully short considering the amount of effort put into the online experience. Even though the game is well-designed and fun, and I may do second and third playthroughs in the coming years, the lack of extra content leaves me sorely disappointed.
I really want to give a glowing recommendation to Heroes of Ruin. I had a blast playing it, the online is excellent, and it might be the most addictive experience on 3DS, but there are severe problems that can not be ignored. The short campaign with little replay value (outside of playing a new game with another class) is so detrimental that I would consider calling the move crippling. I personally believe everyone should try Heroes of Ruin, but at full price, it’s tough. Very, very tough.