If there's one genre of games that's been wholly underrepresented since the conception of portable gaming systems it's the action role-playing game. A type of game that is tailor-made for multiplayer PC gaming, the subgenre of dungeon crawlers has seen even fewer releases on portables. With classic games like Diablo setting the standards, scaling the experience down and porting it to a portable is an intimidating task that few developers have ever attempted. Fortunately for fans of the genre, developer n-Space and publisher Square Enix have teamed up to bring a solid new entry to the 3DS with the release of Heroes of Ruin. Inspired by many of the mechanics of the classics, Heroes of Ruin could be the game that opens the doors for the genre to finally make the jump from PCs to player's pockets.
Set 50 years after the War of Ruin, four heroes (each a playable class) are tasked with helping to awaken the cursed sphinx-leader of the city of Nexus, Ataraxis. The heroes can team up (local and online co-op multiplayer) or make a go at the quest alone, venturing through various parts of the world, to help piece together the mystery of who is trying to put an end to Ataraxis' rule. Nexus serves as a hub city as you embark to each area of the world from there, and upon returning do business with merchants, accept side missions, and expand on the game's narrative by chatting with NPCs.
At the outset of the game there are four different character classes that you can choose from to be your vessel as you play through the game. The two heavy classes are the Savage and Vindicator, who both rely on strength and might to help them on the battlefield. The two lighter classes, the Gunslinger and the Alchitect are more ranged characters, using artillery and magic respectively to stay alive. However, once you dig into the game, each character has a customizable appearance, weapons, armor, magic, and skill sets giving a level of individuality to every player no matter what class they are. This is something essential that you'll need if you decide to take your game online.
If you've ever crawled through a dungeon before in the third person, the gameplay in Heroes of Ruin should feel very familiar to you. Pummel foes with you weapons and magic as you and your team (if you're playing multiplayer) smash all different kinds of beasts, both big and small, in a handful of different environments spread out over the game's world.
Heroes of Ruin is one of the few 3DS games offer four-player co-op, something that can be played at any point in the story. You can drop randomly into someone else's game, or have a friend or stranger join yours to help you as you go from dungeon to dungeon. The addition of this help can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because an additional hero(es) can help you take down some of the overpowering beasts in the game, but it also means that you'll have to share your loot with them, but that can actually be a solution to one of the game's few problems: loot.
It's a bit of a causality of the genre, but Heroes of Ruin is overrun with loot – awards for defeating bosses, completing missions, and dropped by average enemies all over the battlefield. Unfortunately, your hero only has a small handful of inventory slots, which means that if you want to fully maximize every piece of armor or trinket or whatever is dropped, you're going to spend a lot of time in the menus quick-selling (a necessary feature for games like this) items so that you can constantly be on the lookout for the even the most moderate upgrade. Normal players may be able to overlook dropped items, but for the anal-retentive gamer out there, the limited inventory will be the bane of their existence while playing this game.
Outside of the limited inventory, there aren't too many downsides for Heroes of Ruin. Attention to detail and some snazzy bells and whistles (daily mission downloads via SpotPass, StreetPass item trading, and an online stat-sharing site) all set Heroes of Ruin apart from the competition. Sure, the story and character design may come off as a bit generic, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the well-executed single or multiplayer combat on the battlefield. n-Space have done a great job of crafting an enjoyable game, both online and off, that should appeal to anyone that has ever chosen playing Diablo over going out into their world and living their life - now you can do both.