Dungeon crawlers replete with loot, when crafted properly, tap into an instinctive need to collect gear and tear down enemy after enemy.  The right balance of cooperative gameplay, intriguing customization options and a host of exciting locations and enemies can lead to a thrilling adventure. Developer n-Space’s Heroes of Ruin seeks to accomplish this lofty goal, and though it certainly succeeds in certain aspects, a lack of engaging mechanics prevents it from being a must-have title.

The land of Heroes of Ruin is home to a few all-powerful ruin lords who are revered as gods.  When one of them, Ataraxis, falls ill in Nexus without any known cause, his subjects are at a loss.  Many have tried and failed to save him, but it seems an unknown warrior – the player’s character – may just be the one to rescue him.

Heroes of Ruin’s story may drive much of the action and the locales the player will visit, but few interesting characters and missions actually populate the world.  A prince with daddy issues, a smarmy female antagonist, and villains blinded by power; they’re all present and accounted for, offering little new in this fantasy realm.  A plethora of NPCs stand around the hub world waiting to say quick blurbs of dialogue, but none of it really impacts the experience.  The idea of Ataraxis’ plight is a good one, and the world appears to be rife with potential, but Heroes of Ruin simply cannot capitalize on its creation.

Once you're docked in Nexus, Heroes of Ruin begins to show the scope of its world.

When it comes down to it, though, the story may not be as important an aspect as the gameplay.  Heroes of Ruin offers Diablo-like dungeon crawling on a handheld system, and here the game both succeeds and sadly falls short of its lofty aspirations.  It’s certainly commendable that the game pushes the multiplayer experience so fiercely – the title defaults to a 4-player online setting, and with four save slots, the incentive is there to replay with each class.

Players can choose from the dual-wielding Gunslinger, the magical Alchitect, the stalwart Vindicator and the barbaric Savage for a relatively short adventure.  Moving from the hub world to several other locations, each with a number of dungeons, players will have to complete a number of main and side quests.  Most of these tasks are the standard collect x of a certain item or defeat so many enemies, with several dungeons culminating in large boss battles.

The game is certainly more engaging to play as a multiplayer affair, as the chaos that engulfs the screen allows for more entertaining visuals.  Having players gang up on a horde of enemies can provide a real sense of power, but even going alone, players will likely never experience much difficulty.

Mages, goblins and...Stonehenge?

I died several times during my playthrough, but these defeats never came as a result of hardship, but rather due to carelessness.  Heroes of Ruin is rarely challenging, particularly with the plentiful amount of health and energy potions at the player’s disposal.  These can be collected so frequently, and the stock of 20 each is more than enough that I found every foe a breeze.  Though multiplayer may have players more focused on the combat, challenges become even easier when multiple characters are hunting down wolves, ghouls and even dinosaurs.

Plenty of armor and weaponry will drop along the way, allowing players to mix and match their warrior’s garb for improved stats.  Yet as long as players are mindful of periodically updating their inventory with the superior options, there’s little that stands out among the dozens of items.  The a bountiful number of amassed items can be instantly sold wherever the character is, so there’s no need to worry about picking up more loot.  Sure, it can be fun to scrounge around for the best equipment when multiple players vie for treasure.  Regardless, one of the game’s main facets, its inventory system, requires little attention or strategy.

Unleash a bullet hell on your opponents with the Gunslinger's special attacks.

Whatever players have dressed their heroes in and armed them with, the game normally requires rapidly mashing the “B” button as players progress.  Special abilities can be mapped to the other three face buttons, as an additional customization option, but the need for them feels more cursory than essential.

And in a way, that sentiment best describes Heroes of Ruin’s greatest sin – it features a number of great ideas that don’t excel as far as they could.  Without a captivating loot system that demands attention, there’s little drive to the combat, which does not feel like a varied system.  N-Space’s ambitious online play is to be commended.  It runs smoothly as players drop in and out of the fray, running without many hitches.

Why do we have to follow the giant spiders? Why couldn't it be follow the giant butterflies?

Despite this, the game’s muddled graphics look ripped from an earlier era and not optimized for the 3DS.  The worlds improve slightly in 3D, as the added depth does bring the forests, caves and other locales to life, but the awkward animations and flat textures become more noticeable.

This dichotomy describes Heroes of Ruin in a nutshell.  For every point the game gets right, it fumbles the execution on another.  Smart use of 3D can’t save the ugly forest floors.  A well-implemented multiplayer scheme fails to hide the ease with which players can progress.   The host of customization options only highlights mechanics that don’t encourage experimentation.  Heroes of Ruin could have been great, and there is promise behind many decisions.  Sadly, n-Space’s ambition may have been greater than the game allowed.

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Strong online multiplayer
+ Interesting world and lore established
+ Plenty of content to explore…
- …But there’s no urgency to actually see it all
- Disappointing environment detail
- Gameplay is too easy and the inventory systems are not enticing enough

 

5 and 5.5 are mediocre. These aren’t necessarily bad games, they just don’t do anything that is worth caring about and not worth the time of most people.

Heroes of Ruin was developed by n-Space and published by Square Enix.  It was released on July 17, 2012 and is available at the MSRP of $39.99 for the Nintendo 3DS.  A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.