Sunday, July 29

Heroes of Ruin Review (3DS): Cheese, charge attacks and cloning

The hack-and-slasher of choice for PC gamers the world over, Diablo III dropped in May this year. I wasn't sold on it after a short trial, and came to the conclusion that maybe this style of RPG just wasn't for me. Fast forward just shy of two months, and the demo for Heroes of Ruin lay in wait on my 3DS memory card. After an enjoyable two hour romp with the somewhat unusual Gunslinger class, I decided to take the plunge. Was a different control method the only thing holding me back from enjoying the average, isometric loot fest?

First up, some disclosure: I haven't played through with all of the game's four character classes. I finished the game with the Vindicator class and spent a bit of time with the aforementioned Gunslinger. Vindicators function like your average Barbarian/Paladin class: big swords, big hits, no brains required. The Gunslinger is more focussed on ranged combat, but can hold his own in close quarters. The Alchitecht is your mage, while the Savage is another melee class with a focus on speed. Based on my experience with two classes, each felt sufficiently different and could warrant a second playthrough at the very least.

Whether alone or on the few occasions I managed to find company, the Vindicator could deftly deal with a veritable rogues gallery without issue. The standard attacks and a range of unlockable powers, buffs and passive skills made for a fortress of lion-flavoured muscle.  I'd even go as far to say that Heroes of Ruin is a little too easy, with death only ever being the result of extremely careless behaviour on my part. You can carry twenty health and energy potions at any given time; to make matters even less stressful, potion pickups are plentiful and mapped to the d-pad for ease of use. It looks as though the developers tried to water down the difficulty in order to avoid making co-op play a necessity. Given the 3DS' shakey online credentials, I appreciated this design choice and was happy to play despite the distinct lack of challenge.

Heroes of Ruin is exceptionally easy to play. I'd have thought this genre wouldn't translate well to the 3DS, but the buttons and touch screen input work just as well as a mouse and keyboard setup. Powers can be mapped to face buttons and the touch screen, roll and dodge are mapped to the right shoulder, and the left shoulder functions as a use button. I was genuinely surprised at how I was able to play for long stretches without any fear of cramp or any form of discomfort for that matter. The UI and menu system works well enough, but could've done with some work. Quest markers or anything other than a map are usually missing from proceedings, however, exploration is essentially a linear affair; so you'll finish most quests by default. The in-game economy is broken (with players unable to fence more than 99999 gold worth of goods), but since I bought less than a handul of items across seven hours of play, it never registered as too great a concern. The game is not without flaws, but they never get in the way of fun.

In terms of presentation, Heroes of Ruin exists in a realm of technical and artistic mediocrity. While the meat and potatoes (read: fantasy dudes beating the shit out of trolls and junk) looks great, the supporting cast and random dungeons do little to surprise or otherwise excite. The story is hilariously terribad with more double crosses than a spy movie parody. The settings are stock standard in terms of theme: underwater cave, ice, forest and post-apocalyptic wizard void. The soundtrack is also predictable fantasy fare with voicework that would make all but the most seasoned D&D player cringe. There's nothing here that you won't have seen or heard done better, but provided you've bought Heroes of Ruin for want of solid hack-and-slash action, you won't be disappointed.

Despite a lack of originality, personality and challenge, I can recommend Heroes of Ruin to lovers of hack-and-slash RPGs without hesitation. With varied character classes, pretty visuals and comfortable controls, I was engaged from beginning to end; I even had a few good laughs thanks to the wealth of cheesy voicework. There's also drop-in/drop-out co-op that works better than expected. It may serve to make the game even easier, but it's all the more enjoyable with company in tow. With a larger community and a more varied campaign, this would've been damn near essential. As it stands, however, the game is still well worth a shot.

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