As it often the way with new console releases, original RPGs can take a while to get a foothold on the system. The 3DS is no exception, with the majority of RPG releases so far taken up by ports or remakes. As one of the earlier original entries on the system, Heroes of Ruin is pinning its hopes on several things: the current lack of market competition, its heavy emphasis on multiplayer, and the community features of the 3DS. Developer n-Space, whose development history has seen it work with a number of existing franchises, has plenty of experience dealing with handhelds, and plans to use this experience to make full use of the 3DS' feature set.
"The drop-in multiplayer and changing dungeon layouts are both definitive selling points."
Gameplay in Heroes of Ruin takes place from an isometric perspective and seems to follow a similar basic format to other dungeon-crawling games. In addition to the basic physical attacks, players have a number of varied additional skills. Players' health and energy bars are displayed along the bottom of the screen, with the screen edges glowing red when health is low. Using potions is a simple matter of pressing the appropriate left or right direction on the D-pad. The game contains four diverse classes: the Alchitect, primarily a spellcaster; the Gunslinger, a ranged fighter using bombs and guns; the Savage, a fighter relying on his fists and sheer brute force; and the Vindicator, a sword wielder that will likely fulfill the role of tank in many parties.
Each of these classes has three skill trees, each of which generally follows a specific specialization. New skills can be added at each level up, or players can choose to enhance one of the skills they already have instead. Each of the four classes has just one specific character associated with them, but there are some limited customization options, such as a selection of hair types or skin colours, allowing players to make their version somewhat individualized. Customization is enhanced further slightly by having equipped loot visible, although the sheer amount and ease of equipping newly found loot may result in characters changing looks often.
The multiplayer will make up a big part of Heroes of Ruin's appeal with up to four playing together at once, using WiFi or local connections. Players can drop into the multiplayer at any time, with no restrictions on level or place in the story, and the game will automatically adjust the difficulty to account for players entering or leaving. Heroes of Ruin will make use of both the SpotPass and StreetPass features of the 3DS, giving players new daily challenges and access to the Trader's Net, which allows players to trade unwanted loots and unlock some that would be otherwise unobtainable. The inclusion of VoIP support will also allow players to talk to each other over WiFi, another area that shows the importance n-Space has attached to the multiplayer.
To help reduce the level of tedium that can arise from repetitive dungeons, n-Space has ensured that level layouts will not be set in stone and differ with each playthrough. Specific quest related areas, such as boss lairs, will remain the same by necessity, but the locations and paths towards each area will vary, with various hidden areas rewarding players with masses of loot. Looters should have plenty to satisfy themselves with, as n-Space has stated the game contains over 80,000 items. There appears to be a good deal of variation between the touted five main areas of the game, although it remains to be seen just how much the dungeon layout generator will manage to mix up the architecture and ensure environments don't appear too cut-and-paste. The 3D trailers give off the impression that the effect is decently handled, but certainly not a necessity for the gameplay.
The story sees players take the role of mercenaries hired to find a cure for a curse that has been inflicted on Atarxis, ruler of the city of Nexus and one of the Lords that ensures a fragile peace remains on the land. Not too many details have been revealed, but it does seem like the story takes a more background seat to the dungeon crawling and loot-based aspects of the game. The various story and side quests are handed out by NPCs in the game world, mostly from within the city of Nexus itself. From the demo videos voice acting seems minimal, but it seems a good deal of effort has been spent on the soundtrack, with the samples available indicating a sweeping and well varied score.
The basic concept of Heroes of Ruin may not stand out too far from other hack 'n' slash dungeon crawlers, however, the opportunity for a decent multiplayer experience on the handheld should find plenty of interest and the drop-in multiplayer and changing dungeon layouts are both definitive selling points. Heroes of Ruin is due out in North America and Europe in Spring 2012.