Heroes of Ruin review: Diablo in the palm of your hands
18th Jun 2012 | 10:37
Numbers are terrible things. They float around, pretending they're bigger than other numbers and getting tangled in maths equations, but doing nothing truly useful. Numbers alone serve no purpose.
But tie numbers to things, and suddenly they become interesting. Take Heroes Of Ruin's loot system: 105 on its own is a typical number, all uppity and arrogant and useless. But attach it to a set of shoulderpads, and suddenly that 105 becomes something useful: it becomes your attack damage.
And 105 is bigger than 103. Imagine an amazing world in which your previous attack score was that 103, and you had found a set of shoulderpads that increased it to 105.
Heroes Of Ruin's characters are absolutely riddled with these kinds of statistics - from health regeneration to critical hit chance - and raising them tickles something at the base of your brain that makes you all tingly and happy.
That once-useless number, so intangible and punchable, suddenly becomes something you want, something your weak human brain says you need, something you'd kill your way through hours of enemies to get your covetous little shoulders in.
Lucky that, because you'll have to do a lot of killing to get to Heroes Of Ruin's better loot. The action RPG lobs a menagerie of fantasy creatures at you from the off - starting off with ornery turtles and imps, moving into giant ice golems as the game progresses - and then when one menagerie is depleted, cracks open the seal on another and tosses it your way. Your primary means of interaction with said foes is hitting them soundly about the chops: best achieved by either a basic attack, or a special move.
Given just how much of it you'll be doing, it's just as well Heroes Of Ruin's combat feels good. Press B near a foe and you'll biff them. The biffing is as tangible and satisfying as a solid biffing should be, but Heroes Of Ruin's combat gets more fun with the injection of your chosen character's attack skills.
Those characters each have very different applications. Heroes Of Ruin's four classes slot neatly into western RPG archetypes. The Vindicator is a tank, able to absorb damage and protect pals, all while swinging a big sword. He's also a lion, albeit one who walks around on his hind legs like he thinks he's people.
The Savage has less concern for his own welfare. Having stronger attacks at the expense of a smaller health bar, his skills focus on drawing enemies close and mauling them to death. Pleasant chap, that Savage.
The other two classes - Gunslinger and Alchitect - prefer to stay further back. The Gunslinger likes to sling guns - conveniently - and his skills support his hobby, letting him fire dual pistols before scurrying out of trouble. The Alchitect - a mage, not a drunk architect - can toss spells at foes, holding groups in place and rearranging the battlefield to suit his hopefully sober plans.
To n-Space's credit, each class plays completely differently. The Savage's hook skill yanks enemies closer so they can be ripped to shreds. The Gunslinger can unlock a talent that sees him flip away from danger while chucking a bomb towards it. It's an incentive to start a save file as each class (luckily the cart has space for exactly four - almost like they planned it!), but even more interestingly, it encourages multiplayer cooperation.
The version of the game we were playing unfortunately didn't let us try out the four- player co-op mode, but it's easy to see how the characters' skills overlap, and only a short mental skip to planning combos to stomp through tougher foes. It's easy to spam your way through the game's early dungeons with basic attacks, but a bit of creativity has you linking together chains of high-damage combos - doing this with another player would add to Heroes Of Ruin's value, and take the edge off a trudge through another 50 enemy corpses. We'll put that theory to the test in next month's online review.
After a while, the game's central premise becomes all too clear - you kill stuff for better numbers. But Heroes Of Ruin treads the line between engagement and boredom well: at times you're more aware than in other games that you're hitting goblins for shoes with a higher number on them, but then a bigger goblin appears, and his shoes are amazing.
It might be tempting after a long dungeon slog to head back out into the light, but the promise of better numbers means exploring those depths is both enjoyable and rewarding.