Saturday, July 7, 2012

Heroes of Ruin (3DS) Demo Impressions

If you live in Europe and already have Heroes of Ruin, then these impressions most likely won't mean all that much to you. For those outside Europe and/or don't own the game, then sit back, relax, and read the relatively brisk impressions of the demo.

For the uninitiated, Heroes of Ruin is a loot action RPG, a genre that doesn't often get represented on handhelds. Well, n-Space has heard and read the demand, and they have developed this game for starved 3DS owners.

At first, you choose between two classes of characters (the full game will have four available to you). One class is a bipedal lion who utilizes up close sword attacks. The other class is a long range gunner, armed with two firearms to blast at foes. There is some customization to be had. You can set the skin tone, hair style, hair color, and cape color for your character. After this, you are whisked away to the name input screen where you can be xCoolGuyx or Awesome77 all you like.

You then get the choice between starting an offline or online game, or choosing to join someone else's game. Joining a game can be difficult if you try to barge into one that has three out of four spots full as the rooms fill up rather fast. It's best to join a room that's 1/4 full and go from there.

There is only one mission/level/dungeon/etc. in the demo, The Tangled Growth, an introductory area set in a heavily wooded and bushy forest. You interact with NPCs, the forest spirits, as well as to investigate certain quest-related objects using the L button.

Speaking of quests, talking to the aforementioned NPCs will give you quests on top of the main one of vanquishing the boss within the forest dungeon. There were a good handful of side quests to partake in, from destroying three mystical statues guarded by increasingly more aggressive enemies to finding eight wood spirits, strewn all about the level. Completing these not only gives you a neat piece of equipment, but you also earn a high amount of experience points.

Experience is gained through finishing off quests and slaying enemies mercilessly who stand in your way and wish to make your time in The Tangled Growth anything but pleasant. Enemies will also drop money, items, and equipment that can be sold or automatically equipped with a press of a direction of the d-pad. When a level is gained, you can use points to upgrade your stats: attack, health, and energy for magic. In the full version of the game you can have your character progress through a skill tree, learning unique abilities depending on the path they take.

The lion's "mane" source of offense is his sword.
The controls of Heroes of Ruin work relatively well. You attack with the B button. You can just tap it to attack or hold it to perform a charged blow. However, you're quite vulnerable whilst charging. Blocking is accomplished through holding the R button, and you can roll out of harm's way with taps of the R button as well. Special moves can be used with the other face buttons. However, these use parts of your energy meter, located on the bottom right side of the top screen. Your health meter is on the left side, adjacent to your energy meter. Health and energy can be filled with red and blue potions respectively that are found through smashing pots and other environmental objects. The maximum amount you can have for each is fairly high, and considering how plentiful they are, death really doesn't happen all too much in this early dungeon. And if you do die, you just respawn at the last checkpoint (a glowing stone embedded in the ground) you reached.

The environments of The Tangled Growth are remarkably detailed. Flowers bloom, roots cover the ground, and lighting effects such as sunlight breaking through the forest canopy are impressive. The 3D effect is really nice on the eyes, too. From my three runs through the dungeon, each run had a totally different design of where rooms were. Plenty of enemies can fill the screen (the most I saw was six or seven), and even with four players the slowdown was not overly apparent.

"On the count of three we'll draw, partner. ..3."
With four players online the game continues to be enjoyable. Players can pretty much go wherever they want; they don't have to stay together. This makes beating a dungeon hard in the demo, however, because without voice chat (no worries, it's in the final game), you can't tell your fellow adventurers where to go. Considering you all must be together to face the boss, this can be problematic. Online you have players messing about, running in circles, trying to attack one another in vain, and other odd behavior as you begin to impatiently wait to face the boss. Regardless, I can see this being great fun with friends you know from real life or an online community.

It remains to be seen if the full version of Heroes of Ruin will be as interesting as the demo is. There are better loot RPGs available on other platforms, but don't take that as a knock towards Heroes of Ruin. This is an entertaining game built on the limitations of the 3DS hardware, and it will no doubt find a niche with the 3DS user base. RPGs are in scarce supply on the system, so I'm sure those thirsting for a new one to play will make it their personal quest to pick this game up pending there is a competent end-game, plenty of replay value, and no bizarre design choice within the full game. SuperPhillip Central will be keeping an eye for the retail version of Heroes of Ruin when it releases in North America on July 17th.

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