Quick, tell me. What?s the Nintendo 3DS? most important feature? If you said ?3D, duh,? then you?re wrong! According to n-Space, the Nintendo-loyal studio that is working on multiplayer adventure game Heroes of Ruin, the most exciting aspect of the handheld is in its wireless communication and online functionalities.
And the developer is putting it all to good use here, in what is being described as the console?s first online action RPG. Set in a future fantasy world, Heroes of Ruin
sees you creating a custom character and teaming up with up to three other friends in drop-in wireless play to complete quests and raise your experience level.
Producer, George Wright
On paper, the setup sounds a lot like MMOs World of Warcraft
but in reality it works in a similar fashion to fellow online console RPG Phantasy Star Online
. What sets Heroes of Ruin
apart is a top-down camera view that?s reminiscent of classic dungeon crawlers, along with a Western comic book design straight from the mind of Marvel Comics artist Adi Granov.
This art direction was based on making the game look unique and working within the limitations of the 3DS hardware, says Square Enix London Studios producer George Wright. ?We wanted to have something different, yet familiar to people who had played this kind of game before. But what was really important to us was that the graphics had to translate well to the 3DS screen. We couldn?t go for super-realism because that detail isn?t going to come out on the system?s resolution.?
Heroes of Ruin
looks all the better for it, though. With the creative liberty that a comic book art style allows, I was enjoying the colourful shades of blue and red within the Coral Ruins stage and enjoyed my quest to seek out a sunken pirate ship and take out a rather bony captain for some loot. Two classes have been announced so far - a ?Lion-man? brawler called the Vindicator and a more vanilla-looking human Gunslinger that can knacker enemies from a distance.
Naturally, I went for epic Lion face man and smashing some fantasy goons right in the kisser. The controls are pretty solid at this stage, with the Circle Pad offering some smooth rotational movement on the map and button presses resulting in satisfying attacks. When you?re overwhelmed with enemies it does get hard to determine what exactly is going on, but like most action RPGs you can usually tell if you?re in trouble when your health bar starts depleting rapidly.
n-Space seems to be sticking to the classic dungeon crawler formula here - the age-old tactic of smacking things, running away and repeating seems to work wonders here, no matter how many friends you have backing you up. It does seem to have done an awful lot of work to streamline the non-combat experience for console players.
Items you pick up from treasure chests and fallen enemies can be automatically equipped if you wish, with its effects on improving your stats shown at the top of the game screen. Weapons can be swapped with a press of the D-pad, and most actions are contextual using the face buttons. I don?t think there was a point in my travels where I needed to open up a menu to do what I wanted. That helps keep the flow of the action going, and is ultimately a good thing. I bloody hate menus.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Heroes of Ruin
is how n-Space has managed to get a seamless multiplayer experience on the 3DS without so much as a hint of lag. It?s something that Wright notes as ?an ambitious challenge? for the studio to pull off, as the full capabilities of the hardware was not known when the project began. Although on the preview demo there was an option to engage in either single-player or multi-player, I?m told the final game will be one complete experience, with multi-player automatically being engaged the second a fellow gamer joins your party over the air.
Whether it will be as fun an experience on your own as it is with multiple players remains to be seen, although Wright did reveal that as more people join your team, the difficulty of the enemies and environments scale to suit. So at least you won?t be overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) when looting dungeons on your tod.
The studio is keen to milk the StreetPass and SpotPass features of the 3DS as much as possible too, with regular optional ?objectives? that work in a similar fashion to Halo: Reach?s daily challenges. Apparently the network is solid enough to make additional quests and downloadable content via Nintendo WiFi Connection a ?possibility,? but Wright stresses that nothing regarding this has been announced right now on that front.
Heroes of Ruin
is certainly looking like a worthy role playing adventure for Nintendo?s stereoscopic handheld - and with an estimated 10 hours of gameplay for the core story, it?s likely to be a long-lasting portable quest as well. The game is pencilled in for a Q1 2012 release - looks like the 3DS? online offering will get a lot more serious then!