So, how about that Diablo? It’s pretty popular, right? But with players raging against the third game’s ‘always online’ DRM and multiple service issues, it’s nice to have a new Diablo-esque game on market that merely greatly benefits from being taken online, rather than requiring it.
Heroes of Ruin is a far more basic take on the dungeon crawler than Blizzard’s latest. There are four classes, all of them fitting within standard hack-slash archetypes. As a Dark Tower fan I went straight for the gunslinger and his ranged attacks on my first play through, but you’re given four accounts with the understanding that you’ll want to try out all four. The game boasts simple combat mechanics, plenty of loot to be had, and – this is crucial – fully integrated drop-in-drop-out four player online co-op. It’s a bit sad that such a basic feature is considered a huge step forward for the 3DS, but there you have it. It even has voice chat, although no one in their right mind would use it through the 3DS’ microphone.
We encountered numerous issues online – drop outs, getting kicked immediately, having trouble finding a game that we were well suited for at our current level, that sort of thing – but if you get lucky and stumble into a great game with three other players, you’ll have a good time with Heroes of Ruin. That’s not because player skills complement each other, necessarily, or because the game is intelligently designed around co-op. There aren’t really ‘support’ roles to take on, potions are a dime a dozen, and stat boost powers only improve your own abilities, not those of your companions. But there’s definitely a stronger sense of visual feedback that comes from watching four warriors all going to town on an enormous enemy than there is when you’re alone.
If you’re playing by yourself, or simply leaving your game open and hoping that others will join, you’re not going to find anything particularly unique in Heroes of Ruin. Combat is pretty simple; healing and enemy potions are assigned to the D-Pad, while attacks, which can be unlocked and upgraded as you level up, are on the face buttons. Watching yourself slowly evolve into a badass, and seeing your stats rise with each level-up and new item equip, is suitably addictive.
But it’s the sort of addiction you might feel towards gambling, more so than the addiction you might experience when playing a genuinely great game. You press the buttons, and every now and then the game gives you something shiny, whether it’s an interesting enemy or a new toy to play with. Your inventory will fill up depressingly fast, though, and potions and money are handed out with such regularity that there’s no real need to track your progress on those fronts.
There’s a plot in here, but it’s all a bit rubbishy, full of stock-standard fantasy tropes and dialog that reads like it was written by an intelligent but under-read tenth grader. All told, the game has a very amateur feel to it. It seems to follow the same sort of efficient but passionless design philosophy we’ve seen exhibited in so many of Gameloft’s less interesting mobile efforts, even if the gameplay is better than that would suggest.
You’re going to have a better experience if you actually have three friends who are willing and able to sit down and play the game through with you. It’s in these rare scenarios that the game’s portability is going to come in handy, and it’s potentially going to prove a more interesting social experience than playing its better PC brethren. If you’re in the sort of position where you’re likely to play a portable game locally in co-op, Heroes of Ruin is a decent choice. If not, you’re likely to tire of it sooner than you’d like.