Whenever Square Enix have come to Nintendo systems in recent years, there’s usually a huge gasp of excitement followed by a big sigh of disappointment. However, unlike the previous Final Fantasy spin-offs, Heroes of Ruin is a Western-developed online Action-RPG that tries to bring MMORPGs to the 3DS. Does it succeed? Well, let’s find out.
The setup for Heroes of Ruin is fairly simple. After picking a class, name and appearance, your character finds themselves on a beach next to a ship that’s run aground. You run around a small, linear area finding crew members and items so you can complete the tutorial quest and return to the main hub.
This tutorial mainly serves to introduce you to the game mechanics, and you’d think that the linearity would be so as not to confuse new players, but unfortunately it runs throughout the game and never seems to let up. Now there’s no problem with linearity, and a dark, oppressive maze is certainly a useful way of scaring the player, but every area the player can travel to seems to be a web of similar-looking tunnels and it’s not unlikely that you’ll get lost. The developers have tried to lessen the effects of this by placing waypoints around the levels, which you can use to travel back to the hub world, but it doesn’t make things any better when you’re traipsing across a map several times to complete a mission.
Still, while you’re wandering around, you’ll have the pleasure of looking at the lovely lighting effects. Beams of light shoot in from the ceiling, wet floors reflect nicely and the shadows are more than the usual dark circle underneath each model. It’s a shame, then that the game doesn’t show off what it can do graphically in any other way. Character models are no more advanced than those of a DS game, gunfire is simply lines being thrown across the screen and explosions look more comic-styled than you might expect or want. 3D graphics are nice, and add to the sense of depth or height when walking along a suspended walkway or something, but it’s never really a necessary, a problem with 3D in general since developers will always have to accommodate those who can’t perceive it.
One area where the game manages to succeed is in implementing the online play. When you join or create an online game, you set the amount of people you want in your party. This makes it different from a standard MMO because instead of wandering around a huge crowd of people with coloured names over their heads, your game world acts as a little pocket dimension for you and your small band of friends to run around. Because of this, there’s very little perceivable lag, even on quite poor connections, and it’s sometimes useful to mix up different player classes for the occasional challenging battle.
The range of classes available to players is what you’d expect from most RPGs – the warrior class, that charges in head first, soaks up damage and chops up enemies with a big sword, the ranged attacker who sits at a distance blowing enemies’ heads off, and the mage who does pretty much the same as the ranger but takes less damage and uses more particle effects. There’s very little of the flexibility you’ll see in games like World of Warcraft and it’s unfortunate, since the features of the 3DS could allow for a great deal of interaction. This issue is compounded when you actually get into combat – playing as a ‘gunslinger’, we ended up spending most of our time ploughing through enemies in melee since the typical aggressive AI is programmed to charge headlong into you as fast as possible.
The NPCs don’t fare much better than the enemies, acting like typical MMO population and standing completely stiff with exclamation marks over their heads until you come to help them. Heroes of Ruin isn’t the only game to be guilty of having lifeless NPCs, but it does nothing to help with an already empty and cramped world. When spoken to, they universally say ‘Hello’ or some other generic greeting, before giving the main part of their dialogue in text form, then have their parting words voice acted again. This creates a very weird effect where NPCs who don’t have anything to say (which is most of them) will have conversations with you consisting of the phrase ‘Hello, see you later’ rendered in a weird impression of a number of British accents.
What voice acting there is during cutscenes etc. generally follows this pattern of generic lines read in boring voices and there’s generally just not much to engage with or get excited about. The music on the other hand is generally successful, reminiscent of (of all things) Metroid Prime, which used its music to great effect in creating its alien atmosphere. It might well work just as well here – the problem is that we don’t get to hear much of it because the voice of your character and the sounds of battle are turned up so absurdly loud you’ll think there’s something wrong with the console.
Heroes of Ruin is, at its heart, a game with a great concept that just doesn’t pull it off very well. Mixing elements of Diablo-style dungeon crawling, World of Warcraft group quests and Phantasy Star Online’s pioneering use of a new platform for MMOs, all the ingredients of a fantastic game are there. With a little more care and creativity put into the level design and voice work, a larger variety of character classes, equipment and enemies, and a more flexible and flowing combat system, this could have been a standout title in the 3DS’ library. As it is, it’s at best a short term distraction and at worst a waste of money.
If you’re looking for an engaging handheld RPG, get Tales of the Abyss or Paper Mario instead. Heroes of Ruin earns a disappointing 3/10.
Do you have Heroes of Ruin or want to tell us what you think? Leave a comment below!