Heroes of Ruin Review
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On 08/03/2012 at 12:00 PM by Travis Hawks
Advances in the study of loots are needed to make Heroes of Ruin be anything special.
It’s worth a shot if you’re a starving dungeon crawler.
The age old question of what makes a loot phat has yet to be answered. There is no magic formula for the presentation of said loots, nor is there an equation for the perfect mixture of merely acceptable loots and those that are in fact phat. Once researchers have uncovered the perfect recipe, applying this know-how to Heroes of Ruin might make it something fantastic instead of what it is now: completely and thoroughly decent.
Heroes of Ruin does some things admirably. Its online functionality is pretty impressive for a handheld, and its setting and story avoids being a complete Tolkien rehash or following every other fantasy trope we’re all sick of. In fact, there isn’t even drop of lava or a grouchy dwarf anywhere in this game! The locations you venture into aren’t necessarily groundbreaking (forest, seaside, snowy mountains, and the “soul void”), but don’t feel like the same trails I’ve stomped around in every other game of late. The story, too, has its satisfying twists and is set in a world with a fairly unique mythos where the cursed overseer is a benevolent sphinx. So, I have no real gripes with the narrative except maybe that the still-frame water color presentation in the expository bits made me a little sleepy.
With a decent story and an interesting world, all the game needed to add was a great combat system that strings you along with the periodic rewards of the aforementioned phat loots. Heroes of Ruin gets so very close to getting this right. In fact, I’d say the combat can be downright fun at times. The different attacks that you pump points into on your skill tree as you level up can be mapped to the three buttons not being used for your basic attack. This allows you to change up your load out (for lack of a better phrase) depending on the baddies you are facing at the moment, or you can just pick your faves and stick with them. There’s just enough auto-aim when you use your standard attack to make it feel like you’re in control and landing most of your hits, while some of the special attacks you acquire take a bit more expertise to use effectively. This balance keeps the fighting from being an exercise in button mashery.
If only the treasure and weapon drops you were hoarding from waves of defeated enemies were more tantalizing. Bless the developers’ hearts for giving it a huge effort, though. With the presence of inter-party trading, online shops, and street-pass transactions, the attempts to get people grabbing drops and selling them with the community are pretty creative. The issue with all of them is that the weapons and armor you’re supposed to be coveting rarely have much appeal.
First of all, it’s pretty difficult to visually see a change in your character when you equip new items. Many of the weapons are visibly different – and some even outstanding (guns shaped like fish!) – but the armor items don’t seem to make much or any aesthetic difference when you equip them. So, without that appeal, it’s up to the stats to keep you lusting after merchandise and the stats are far from mouth watering. When comparing items’ properties, you quickly notice that even the rarest items aren’t a huge upgrade… unless you aren’t a high enough level to use them yet. If you plunk down the gold to get that impressive high-level sword, chances are you can’t use it until you level up a few more times. While you’re striving for the required level, you’ll come across other weapons that are just as good as the one you spent tons of cash on, making you reluctant to even waste time browsing the shops at all.
When you do head to the shops, it’s easy to throw money at vendors after spending about an hour playing. Gold is plentiful as long as you break the occasional vase sitting around the levels to pick up bags of doubloons. This is the other issue with the loot: nothing has much value. I once completed a trade with a stranger in my party and threw in about 2,500 gold--about three times the listed value of the item. Although this rando was agog about my generosity, it really didn’t matter since I had tens of thousands more and was still picking up coins and other drops constantly.
That online trade was smooth, though, and was another moment that made me realize how completely awesome it was to be playing with three other people around the world on my little 3DS. Getting into a game with someone on your friends list is a snap, and if you want to find strangers to play with, a handy list of who’s working on which quest makes it easy to find someone at the same stage as you. The only gripe I have with any of the online features is the L-button doing double-duty as a voice chat button (held down) and to pick up loot (a quick tap). This just led me to turning on the mic many a time when I only wanted to snag a bag of gold. If I had to choose between this quibble and adding more buttons to the system, though, I’d rather things stay as they are.
The developer, n-Space, has also tried to give the community around the game a shot in the arm by tying accounts on heroesofruin.com to in-game profiles. To do this, you just set up an account on the site and snap a picture of the QR code onscreen with your 3DS camera to link your game. This worked great for me on about the fortieth try. After finally getting it set up (and there are other people grousing about the syncing process on the message boards), you can check out your character’s stats as well as plumb around looking at everyone else’s. There are also achievement-like awards you earn in-game and on the website that are added to your profile. All of this is sort of cool, but the site goes through phases where it is completely FUBAR; for instance, the leader boards seem to be broken, it’s hard to simply go to your own account page, and many links and buttons just don’t work. I didn’t even know what my character’s stats looked like on the site until about my fifth visit when they suddenly popped into view. If you buy Heroes of Ruin, I wouldn’t put a lot of expectations into the web interconnectivity.
Spending time playing with friends you meet online is the goal of the whole “ecosystem” – probably because they want you to feel compelled to keep socializing while playing through the short campaign multiple times. You can smash through this thing in less than eight hours without rushing and doing a decent amount of side quests. I didn’t collect all of the doodads requested of me my first time through, but grabbed enough junk for old ladies to get my fill of being an errand boy. Again, the only real incentive to do all of those trite tasks is a desire to complete everything available. The loot rewards are not a draw. The expectation seems to be that you will play through the adventure multiple times, perhaps once with each class. This might be fun with a significant break between each run through, but if you wait too long, the online community might evaporate. The quests don’t change based on your chosen class, so a replay is only appealing if you feel like doing the same missions again with a different set of tools. I thought the story itself was a good length and I had enough fun in those eight hours to feel satisfied, but many fans of this genre are expecting something much longer and will be disappointed.
Until the 3DS gets the big role playing game you’ve been waiting for, Heroes of Ruin is a pretty good way to fill that gap. Meeting up with your friends online to blast giant spiders and slice frosty imps while you sip a café mocha at Starbucks is pretty nifty. The fact that the game itself isn’t groundbreaking or especially memorable is a shame, but there’s still much to enjoy. If you find yourself looking for a dungeon diving experience, Heroes of Ruin will keep you happy while we wait for science to nail down the Laws of Phat Loots.