Square Enix has quite an impressive library of upcoming games for the Nintendo 3DS. However, I was surprised that my favorite game from their upcoming handheld lineup wasn't a Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts game. Rather, it's a little-known dungeon crawler from developer n-Space called Heroes of Ruin.
Generic title, generic premise, and generic art certainly don't make for a great first impression. However, thanks to streamlined controls and great connectivity features, Heroes of Ruin's multiplayer raids are quite a lot of fun.
Heroes of Ruin doesn't stray far from the established formula for top-down dungeon crawlers. There are four classes to choose from: the savage, the alchitect, the vindicator, and the gunslinger--essentially, a warrior, sorcerer, knight, and ranged weapon wielder. Each class can have abilities assigned to the game's face buttons. The gunslinger I played shot his gun as a standard attack, but also had a scatter shot and bomb assigned on the face buttons. The bomb is a great alternate attack for the gunslinger, as it automatically causes him to jump backwards; it's great for when you're surrounded by enemies. Leveling up your characters gives you access to a branching skill tree, which opens up a plethora of possibilities. Finally, the default attack can be charged to break through enemy defenses. The game offers quite a bit of gameplay variety with the face buttons of the 3DS.
Additional abilities are mapped to the D-Pad. One small touch I appreciated was the mapping of restorative potions to left and right on the D-Pad. The HUD shows your health on the bottom left, and your mana on the bottom right. At a quick glance, you'll know when you have to hit left or right. Plus, having the map on the bottom screen is also a nice (albeit standard) way of utilizing the 3DS' bottom screen. Given the randomly-generated dungeons, it's a nice addition to have.
Nothing Heroes of Ruins does is particularly innovative or original. However, small decisions like the ones mentioned earlier reflect the developer's comfort with Nintendo's handheld. The game feels intimately crafted for the 3DS. I was impressed by the drop-in drop-out cooperative multiplayer. The game supports four players, and I was able to jump into an ongoing game relatively easily. Midway through the fight, another journalist joined in, right where I was fighting.
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Heroes of Ruin has already impressed me with its solid foundation, but there's one feature that can really make it special, if implemented properly. According to Square Enix, the game will also offer new challenges that can be downloaded daily via SpotPass. While I'm not sure what the extent of these challenges are, giving players reason to return every day should help sustain the online community for Heroes of Ruin long after its release.
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.