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PAX East 2012: Heroes of Ruin
by Andrew Testerman

Hack-y, slash-y, dungeon crawl-y action RPGs have come back into vogue recently.

It's a trend we've seen develop, with Runic Games' Torchlight becoming an instant classic on Steam back in 2009 and Blizzard looking to drop the mother of all lootfests, Diablo III, later this spring. Developer n-Space is looking enter the hack-y, slash-y, dungeon crawl-y action RPG realm with Heroes of Ruin for the 3DS. Published by Square-Enix and created to be n-Space’s first original IP, Heroes of Ruin aims to bring the thrills of spelunking for treasure to portable gamers everywhere, and I got a chance to try it at this year's PAX East.

The demo I was shown offered a choice between two character classes: Vindicator and Gunslinger. Vindicator is Heroes of Ruin's tank class, replete with abilities to charge into battle and absorb the brunt of enemy attacks. Gunslinger plays similarly to a tech-focussed rogue class, taking ranged potshots with his dual pistols, laying explosive traps for unwary foes and casting debuffs to weaken the opposition.

Once I chose my class, I was able to play around with the surprisingly-robust character editor. Heroes of Ruin allows players to choose from a variety of visual options for characters, including faces, hair styles, skin tones and other sundries. For instance, the Vindicator, a bipedal, werecat-looking creature, let me select the pattern of his coat (I ended up choosing something close to cheetah spots), whilst another set of sliders let me tweak the shape and cut of his mane. With myriad facial and clothing options to choose from, Heroes of Ruin should help give players a sense of ownership over their dungeon-running doppelgangers.

Even if you do run into someone else with your build online or locally, Heroes of Ruin's custimisation options should help your character stand out.

I've you've played any hack-y, slash-y, dungeon crawl-y action RPG before (heck, even if you haven't played that many), you'll likely feel comfortable playing Heroes of Ruin. Players explore through randomly-generated areas from an isometric perspective, accepting quests and fighting trash mobs in an effort to become stronger and find better loot. At one point, the demo I played threw a multi-phase boss at my partner and me, and required a bit of back-and-forth strategising before the great beast finally went down. Though familiar, the gameplay was fun and successfully harnessed the thrill of finding a killer new sword and using it to hack through hordes of spiders or undead skeletons. The combat was simple and felt a bit vanilla at times, but the foundation was solid and should prove enjoyable enough for both fans of the genre and dungeon-crawling neophytes like myself.

Similar to dubstep, a game about collecting loot is only as good as its drops. Heroes of Ruin doesn't quite have the breadth of items that its PC contemporaries do, but it does offer an impressive 80,000 unique weapons, armor and accessories to collect and equip across the game's four classes. Loot is also cosmetic, letting players show off a new sword or gun in-game. Drops aren't as plentiful as in, say, Torchlight or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, but they came at a steady-enough clip during my play session that I was able to find and play around with more than a few new toys.

When you do pick up that Sword of +5 Casualty, you'll be able to see it wreak havoc onscreen.

One of Heroes of Ruin's most surprising features is its depth of options for playing cooperatively. Up to four players can join drop-in/drop-out via local or Wi-Fi connection, and Wi-Fi users can form strategies together using push-to-talk voice chat. Heroes of Ruin also supports 3DS Street Pass, allowing players to swap items or compete in daily challenges.

Heroes of Ruin offers gamers a chance to play a hack-y, slash-y, dungeon crawl-y action RPG on the go, and unlike Gameloft's recent Dungeon Hunter: Alliance for PlayStation Vita, Heroes is actually pretty fun. Look for Heroes of Ruin to hit shelves on 26 June in the U.S. and later this summer in Europe.

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- Andrew Testerman

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