Platform: Nintendo 3DS

First off, let’s get it straight that it’s going to be hopelessly difficult to not compare this game to Diablo. Although these games are different, they are still extremely similar, almost to the point that Heroes Of Ruin feels like a tribute to the Diablo series.

The prospect of a portable, top-down, Diablo style hack-n-slash RPG has been discussed for many years among gamers. Dungeon crawlers are arguably the most instantly fun videogames out there. Despite the lack of story, gamers are still captivated by grinding for more experience, rare loot and multiplayer co-operative experiences.

Anyone aware of my Diablo 3 review will know that dungeon crawling action RPGs have always had strong fundamentals which, in Diablo 3’s case, were changed and replaced with intrusive security measures that failed to add any form of support or entertainment.

Upon starting Heroes Of Ruin, I was elated to discover there was an offline mode, something which was disregarded in Diablo 3. As I sighed with relief, a grin pasted across my face, I dived straight in with my first character.

Introducing, RyukiAkira – “Savage” class! (Yes, I realize now that on paper, it doesn’t sound right).

PhotobucketBefore I go over my adventures, here is the breakdown of the story and how this game works.

Heroes Of Ruin takes place in a land simply known as “The Veil”. War has raged across the Veil for over a hundred years and out of the conflict several “Ruinlords” have appeared to bring a fragile peace and alliance across the kingdom. However, peace is threatened when Ataraxis, the ruinlord of a large city called The Nexus, is taken ill by a deadly coma-like curse. Mercenaries and heroes heed the call of the kingdom and decide to travel to the Nexus to find a way to free Ataraxis from his curse - That’s the story; it's as simple as that.

The story is told in a “pop-up picture book” style cut scene. There is little to no animation, as hand drawn 2D cutouts are rigidly moved about the screen like a poor man’s Jan Švankmajer stop motion animation. However, the musical score and decent voice acting bring the show to life.

To progress this story, you need to create a character picking from 4 class types; Vindicator – Basically a versatile combat class whom uses swords, he also has a giant lion’s head. Gunslinger – A human rogue like range class who uses guns. Savage – This is the class I picked - they are this game’s version of Diablo’s Barbarian class - They are slow and fight with their fists. Finally, Alchitect – An all mage class, who only uses spells.

Stats are extremely simplistic; you juggle your points when leveling up between Might, Vigor and Soul. Might, as you may have guessed, is your character’s strength and attack damage. Vigor is your character’s constitution and health points. Soul allows you to perform “Brickhouse” by the Commodores like it's second nature …as well as increase your spell/skill damage and increase your energy gauge meter.

The graphics are very cartoonish. I was going to compare it to World of Warcraft or League of Legends. I would say they look quite similar to Diablo 3, as they've embraced RPG's cartoonish roots instead of gritty realism.

All gameplay is centered around the main city, “The Nexus”. The city offers all services to adventurers, from equipment to side-quests. Once you are equipped and have accepted all the quests you want to take on, you report to the story quest NPC who'll warp you to the next dungeon you need to complete.

Combat consists of all regular attacks operating from the “B” button. Buttons “Y”, “X” and “A” on the 3DS can be macroed independently with the various skills you unlock using skill points awarded to you when you level up. Skills can have passive benefits, be powerful special attacks or help give status benefits to you or your party.

The “L” button is used to interact with NPCs as well as pick-up items. “R” button functions are used for blocking and rolling (I often found myself rolling about to get to my goal, as the “Savage” class is painfully slow). D-Pad buttons left and right are used for healing and energy potions respectively, whilst up and down buttons are used to equip items on the ground or sell them. Very simple!

Of course, the final feature to mention here is that the game boasts a 2-4 player worldwide online co-op with friends or random players. For the most part, it works with little to no lag; however there is a more serious problem with the system that I'll get to later. For now, let’s talk more about my first steps as an adventurer.

Upon seeing the map screen, my mind was blown by its sheer size. The Nexus is located south of the mainland in a quarry of small islands off the coast of a much larger continent. I was excited and astounded at how much content the developers have crammed into these small 3DS cartridges.

A second glance can sometimes tell you a completely different story. Under the game’s gleaming veil, there resided a sneaky little tactic the developers have used to create its illusion of massive content: Repetition or, to put it bluntly, Copy & Paste.

My first dungeon experience was fun. I encountered unfamiliar monsters, treasures and epic semi-scripted boss battles. I returned triumphantly to the Nexus after my quest was complete, to be rewarded with a new quest; return back to the exact same dungeon again, this time it had a new name.

So, I returned to the first dungeon (with the new name) and at first it seemed different. I thought it was a completely different level until I started to notice there were rooms that were 100% identical to rooms in the first dungeon. Monsters were also the same, however renamed and stronger.

With the second Dungeon completed, I returned again to herald my victory in the streets of the Nexus, only to have the story quest NPC pat me on the back and say: “Can we have you go back there again, please?”

PhotobucketHere we are again, third time in the same dungeon. Wait a second; the same rooms from the first dungeon are here again. They were also here the second time I visited, but it seems different, what the hell? Then it hit me: This is how Heroes Of Ruin’s dungeon and map design works. There are 4 dungeon areas; Island/Sea Dungeons, Forest Dungeons, Ice/Mountain Dungeons and the “Void”/Demon World Dungeons. ALL of them consist of one map with the same rooms. The randomization feature in this game works by randomly placing those rooms around the map in different locations every time you turn on the game. The only thing being randomized is the corridor to get to them.

The biggest insult in all of this is they ask you to go back to each individual dungeon 6 times. So you're probably wondering how the developers tried to mask this massive inconsistency. Well, every time you return to a dungeon, it’s got a new name, same monsters but stronger and with new names, but most crucially the camera angle has changed, thereby tricking you into thinking the dungeon is a completely new.

After being told to return to the same identical dungeon four times in a row, I got tired. In the latter half of the game I found myself doing a dash roll and ignoring all the enemies just so I could get to the dungeon boss to complete the level. I lost all enthusiasm.

Controls are also another issue. I love how you can sell things instantly or equip them when items are dropped, however when you are online, players will often run over to an item and instantly sell or equip them without you being able to even see what dropped. Very unfairly balanced.

Another gripe I have is with item drop rates. Items are rated in various rarities. You'll find monsters dropping items constantly, specifically ultra rare items. I found myself with a set of extremely rare equipment almost mid-way through the game.

My experience with the “Savage” class was a little bit disappointing as I quickly found myself with far too much power. The Savage class has a skill called “Judgment” which I initially used to move my character across the map faster (as he is VERY slow and this skill speeds up his walking animation). however I quickly realized that when the skill is activated, my character became impervious to any form of damage.

The Judgment skill uses energy which requires energy potions to replenish your energy bar, but since you end up having so much rare equipment, enemies and bosses become extremely simple to beat, leaving you a full stock of health and energy potions.

I was becoming so rich without needing to buy anything that I noticed my gold maxed out at 99,999. Then I noticed that I couldn’t pick up any more equipment. I travelled back to the Nexus to sell some things but was quickly rejected as the NPC told me I couldn’t sell anything as I had the max amount of gold. I was forced to drop my items, buy something, then pick up my items and sell them to free up space for my inventory and my gold sack – what a ludicrously limiting system.

Aside from in-game side quests, the game boasts online daily and weekly quests which are found live from the Heroes Of Ruin website. Players can link their 3DS games to their account on the website and achieve rewards for completing unique quests. You can obtain “Valor” points during these quests that can be redeemed for high-level equipment. Unfortunately, a lot of the daily, and particularly the weekly quests, are bugged. They don’t seem to update on your profile which quests you have completed, so you can abuse the system by simply turning off your 3DS, rebooting the game and completing the quest again for more Valor. This needs to be fixed.

My last point is about the game's length. I know this is only a portable title, and I really commend the amount of visual and audio content the developers have committed to this title, but it's still extremely easy to beat this game within 8 hours. Add to this the fact that you repeat 4 dungeons roughly 6 times each and you have a game that feels dreadfully unsatisfying.

The 3D isn’t very impressive; it’s a top-down RPG dungeon crawler, so nothing is really going to “pop out”. Certain scenes, such as boss introductions, utilize it a little better, but these constitute only a handful of scenes.

The end of the game really sums up the games main problems; after the credits roll, you're offered no other new dungeons, bosses or challenges (aside from the online daily or weekend ones). Replaying older dungeons doesn’t adjust the level of the monsters to your level; bosses don’t respawn, so there is no incentive to continue playing the game. Even the online gameplay can't save this game as there's no PvP (Player vs. Player) combat, stripping out the competition element.

The title of this game should have been Heroes Of Ruin: Adventures in Copy & Paste Land. I commend the developers for taking the best of Diablo series and being ambitious enough to take on such a massive undertaking by creating this title.

However, there's no point in advertising the game’s 630,000 unique items when there is little to no replay incentive. I guess the developers weren’t kidding when they said, “You won’t be able to get them all”.