Overhead hack-and-slash action RPG’s, otherwise identified as “Diablo clones”Â, have a somewhat stormy relationship with console gamers, at least as far as sales are concerned. It’s not that games haven’t come out in the console market; games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, Champions of Norath and Dungeon Siege III have been coming out for over a decade on consoles in some form or fashion. However, half of the above games were commercial failures, and there are more before and after the above that have died a slow, agonizing death in the console market, so to say that the genre can be a problematic one for console developers is an accurate assessment. Heroes of Ruin is another attempt from Square Enix to draw some interest from the genre, and it has a couple of good things going for it, including their name brand being attached and the fact that the game is releasing on the 3DS, a system that is still looking for some solid releases to bolster its roster. Its developer, however, is n-Space, a company known for handheld ports of licensed console games… and the video game adaptation of Hannah Montana: The Movie. As such… they’re fighting a somewhat uphill battle here for legitimacy, one that Heroes of Ruin could easily assist with, if the end product is worthwhile. Well, a demo is up on the Nintendo E-Shop, so before the game comes out, we decided to spend some time with the demo to see what could potentially be expected from the final game.
1.) Heroes of Ruin allows you to pick from four character classes to play as: the Vindicator, which is a warrior/paladin class, the Gunslinger, which is a rogue/ranger class, the Alchitect, which appears to be a magic casting class, and the Savage, which would seem to be a brute force class. The demo only allows you access to the Vindicator and the Gunslinger, who play differently enough to imply that all four classes will have some unique elements to them that make them interesting to play as. Both of the provided classes seem viable, at least in the demo, and you can build a party of four players online or locally if you want to play as one of the squishier classes, so you can recruit a meat shield or two (or vice versa) to help you out. You can also just straight go it alone if you’d rather (or you have no one to play with and no internet available), which seems to be viable enough from the demo, though how this will play out in the final game is uncertain at the moment.
2.) When you create your character, you’re given five options to customize the character: skin color, hair style, hair color, player color (for trims and capes and such) and character name. As with similar games in the genre, changing equipment will change the basic appearance of your character regardless, so you can still make a character all your own with some effort, but the customization options aren’t bad for a handheld title. There are several different skin and hair options for the available classes, and while the player color generally just distinguishes the decorative aspects of your character, it’s fine enough. Compared to something like Champions: Return to Arms the customization options are a little limited, granted, and it would’ve been nice to be able to choose a male or female version of the characters over being forced to pick a default, but you can do enough with the system to make your own unique character, and it’s nice to have the options at all, frankly.
3.) The game makes a good point of showing you how to play; while there are only a few minor tutorials that pop up, the bottom screen is all about filling in your knowledge of what does what. The analog stick is used for moving your character around the game world, while the D-Pad is used as a quick action palette, allowing you to instantly equip items from the ground by pressing up or sell them by pressing down, as well as allowing you to use health potions or energy potions with the left and right directions, respectively. The B button is your standard attack command, while the three remaining face buttons allow you to map up to three special actions to them, depending on your class and build of said class, and you can swap them easily enough with the touch screen. The left trigger is your standard interact button, while the right trigger allows you to perform a dodge roll when moving and block when stationary or after the dodge roll, if you want to try and reduce your damage. You can also access most everything you’ll need from the touch screen, including the inventory, your quest log, and your skills with minimal difficulty, and the screen even includes a map that fills in as you navigate the environment, which is very useful.
4.) The demo dumps you into a forest zone, which looks fairly nice relative to what the 3DS can handle. The ground textures aren’t exceptionally detailed, but the more involved decorative elements, such as archways and stone walkways, are, and the environment is full of decorative plant life and interesting designs. The enemy types are sufficiently varied at this point, as there are several different spiders, undead minions, ethereal beings and more to face down, and the models are different enough to be notable. The music is generally solid, alternating between ambient background score and powerful orchestral compositions, and it fits the tone fine. There’s also a decent amount of voice work, between the little quips from your characters and the acknowledgment voices from NPC’s, though the unimportant NPC’s repeat voice work, sadly. The game doesn’t have any noticeable slowdown when several enemies are on screen or special effects are flying, so far, which is also nice given the relative visual quality, and if the game can hold to this standard it’ll likely be a smooth experience.
5.) The inventory system is fairly user friendly, as it segregates the different inventory options by type, allowing you to look everything over in its own sub-menu instead of having to review the entire inventory. You can compare different armors, weapons and items right from the menu, and with the ability to quick-equip and quick-sell items you find on the ground you’ll be able to change up your gear without having to jump into the inventory if you’d rather. You can also sell items from the inventory as well, so no vendor is required to clear out gear you have no interest in using, which significantly streamlines the inventory management process. With healing and energy potions also hotkeyed to the D-Pad you’ll mostly only jump into the inventory to sell or manage gear, and the entire process is quite painless, which is great in general and for a handheld hack-and-slash, and it’s all rather intuitive and easy to work with.
6.) Leveling your character is also a pretty simple affair: you choose to upgrade one of three categories with points you earn each level, then choose to purchase or upgrade a skill from one of three categories: Might, which adds to your damage, Vigor, which adds to your survivability, and Soul, which adds to your energy capabilities for special attacks. You’re also able to buy one point in your skills across three different categories, based on the character you’ve chosen. Each skill tree offers different skills and you can either upgrade existing skills or buy new ones, depending on how high your level is, and depending on what sort of play style you’re working with. The options are somewhat simplified, as you only have three stats to work with and each tree only has a small handful of skills (around five) to work with, but there’s enough available to the player to be interesting.
7.) The demo showcased the quest system somewhat, and it’s generally user friendly and easy to work with. Several NPC’s offer you various subquests you can take on in addition to the main quest, and while you have the option to turn them down, there’s no real benefit to doing so if you want to improve. Most of the quests you undertake are simple, involving collecting items, going to specific locations or killing certain enemies, and completing the quests is often as simple as doing the task and instantly earning the reward associated, so backtracking is kept to a minimum. Only one quest requires any sort of backtracking, and this is mostly because you have to check in with a specific NPC to close out the quest chain, and the reward (a rather nice new weapon) is well worth the effort. Assuming the final product works in the same manner, where backtracking is minimized and quests are completed and rewards are granted as soon as the mission is over with, this will, once again, make for a user friendly experience that will make it easy for players to appreciate.
8.) The Vindicator class is one of the two available in the demo, and for the most part, it seems to be a Paladin/Warrior sort of class. The character is an anthropomorphic lion character, and the class type seems to present itself as pious and holy, which its class trees match. The class starts as a primarily Vigor-focused class, which plays into the idea of this being a Paladin, but oddly, the class uses a two-handed sword instead of the more obvious sword and shield combination a tank class would theoretically use, hence the Warrior comparisons. The Vindicator has three skill trees to pick from that tie well into the Paladin archetype: Crusader, which works with holy damage skills, Warden, which is a more healing based role, and Sentinel, which offers more holy damage and status buffs. Several skills the Vindicator has also allow for increased damage and temporary invincibility, also playing well into the theoretical tank role the class can take on, though it’s also a fine enough damage dealer overall.
9.) The Gunslinger is the other class available in the demo, which comes across as a sort of Ranger/Rogue hybrid. The class fights with bladed guns for melee and ranged damage, and its primary focus is on Might, making it a solid damage dealing class, albeit one that works best at longer ranges. The class has three skill trees to work with that tie into its ranged capabilities, while also offering a few surprises: Saboteur, which offers some solid damage dealing and stat boosting skills that can help with team damage and screw with enemies, Wildcard, which offers conditional buffs and oddball passive skills, and Commando, which features some heavy damage skills and passive effects. This class seems focused on dealing damage and messing with enemies, and it’s well equipped to do so, making it a beneficial addition to any party, especially when it can hide behind a strong Vindicator.
10.) Heroes of Ruin doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel, insofar as this genre goes, but it is very much a streamlined affair, and looks like a solid introduction to the genre that newcomers and veterans alike can enjoy. For newcomers, the game is streamlined down to its core essence, eschewing backtracking and involved elements (so far anyway) in favor of keeping things simple and active. For diehard fans, the game offers lots of killing and loot and doesn’t make the experience too onerous or overly complex. We’ll have a full review of the game up soon, so keep an eye out here for it.