Square Enix looks to give 3DS dungeon crawlers what they're missing.
At PAX East 2012, I had the chance to try out Square Enix's n-Space-developed action RPG Heroes of Ruin. While reminiscent of Blizzard's immensely popular Diablo series, Heroes sports several technical innovations that make it a 3DS title to watch as it nears its June 26 release.
Heroes of Ruin thrusts the player into a dark fantasy world inhabited by evil monsters such as spiders, zombies, and witches. The goal is to make it out of each dungeon level alive with a group of up to four players. Each player's character has a health meter and a magic meter; health diminishes as you absorb attacks, and magic is used by performing certain special attacks against your enemies. These abilities let you slay baddies, solve puzzles, and collect loot along the way.
Levels are displayed from an isometric perspective (hence the Diablo comparisons), giving you a good view of the action and what other party members are doing. Environments are also somewhat interactive, with destructible walls leading to hidden rooms containing extra treasure. Our demo took place in a lush forest area featuring green vines, flowers, and fallen trees. All levels are randomly generated, so while they look good, they can also look a little generic at times.
The game's controls are fairly simple, utilizing the 3DS' Circle Pad for character movement and its face buttons for attacks and potion use (you can map specific potions to face buttons for quicker access as well). The touch screen is primarily used for inventory management and a map of your immediate area, while also displaying the location of fellow party members. The map automatically fills in as you walk through a dungeon, which is especially helpful when you need to backtrack.
The game's real strength lies in its multiplayer capabilities. While it remains to be seen how much fun Heroes will be as a single-player experience, n-Space is going out of its way to ensure that players can run through dungeons with their friends no matter where they are. Heroes of Ruin will feature both four-player simultaneous online play and full Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) support, allowing adventurers to form four-person online parties and communicate using a 3DS headset. The n-Space rep that we spoke with assured us that the game takes no appreciable performance hit when playing online with four players.
One advantage of playing with four players is the ability to balance classes in an ideal fashion, and Heroes of Ruin has several classes to choose from. I played as a Gunslinger, a dual-wielding range DPS class that specializes in support, while fellow staffer Alex Culafi played the Vindicator, a warrior-type melee class. He walked up and punched monsters in the face, while I picked them off from the back row with my twin pistols.
The Gunslinger features a cool-looking "bullet spray" attack that sets enemies on fire, draining them of their life and slowing them down. This maneuver allows your melee party members to move in and mow the monsters down as they attempt to put themselves out. Gunslingers have a regular gunshot attack that is relatively weak, but they also possess a charged shot that can take out several enemies at a time if things get out of hand. It's a nice set of abilities overall, with the class feeling powerful and effective despite the fact that it attacks from a distance.
With literally thousands of loot items in the game, inventory management could have been a real headache. Fortunately, there is some streamlining of the loot management process that makes evaluation of newly-acquired gear quick and easy. Instead of having a new item – say, a piece of chest armor – immediately added to your bag, the item and its stats are shown to you on the screen when you pick it up. At that point you have the option to immediately sell it or immediately equip it, avoiding the constant acquire-hoard-dump process that many RPG-style games suffer from.
Heroes of Ruin looks to be a solid entry in the action-RPG genre that fans of games like Diablo and Gauntlet Legends should keep on their radar. The ability to play, chat, and score loot with three other players online should make it a unique offering in the burgeoning 3DS library.