A forgettable plot, iffy combat and a lackluster loot system do not a great game make, so let’s talk co-op, and dig into why Heroes of Ruin frustrates me so much. Before I rattle off the co-op features, keep in mind that this is not only a portable game, it’s a portable game on a Nintendo system.
First off, Heroes of Ruin supports drop in/drop out campaign co-op for up to four players, either via local wifi or online. In fact, the default option for starting a game is set up for online play. I haven’t seen a portable title encourage co-op this much since Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and it filled me with joy. You can set your game to allow anonymous players, restrict it to your friends list, further restrict it to local partners, or take it completely offline for a solo session. You actually have to work to make it a single player game. Take that, lone wolves!
What’s that? You need more? Alright, how about the fact that Heroes of Ruin supports voice chat? The quality’s not the best, but I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth here. If you don’t want to hear anonymous players yammering at you, you can disable voice chat on the fly. While meeting random people for casual group co-op is certainly fun, the real way to play is with players on your 3DS’ friend list, who are tagged as being part of your Alliance.
Playing with Alliance members grants you “experience” with your individual friends. As you adventure together, you’ll level up your relationship from the standard Mercenary all the way to Brother in Arms. Each of the ten levels of experience you gain adds an additional party effect for you, from simple things like waypoints replenishing health and energy to reducing respawn time from death, all the way to granting massive buffs to item drop quality and party damage. It’s a fantastic system, and one I’d like to see expanded on in the future.
The daily and weekly challenges I’ve mentioned above often have a co-op component - there are currently two active ones that ask you to accomplish certain tasks in co-op. If you haven’t already figured it out, Heroes of Ruin has co-op coming out of its ears.
It’s extremely unfortunate that the astounding average-ness of the campaign and gameplay end up detracting from all of these features. In my online sessions, more often than not, players split off and did their own thing. I didn’t notice enemy difficulty scaling, so I found myself poking around a half cleared level with three players all in different corners of the map. By the time I caught up to people, the quests were often completed. The lack of ability to quickly teleport to other players in a map proved quite annoying. Apparently, Diablo 3’s Banner system has completely spoiled me.
Item drops are shared amongst all players, so there’s a mad dash for loot as soon as it drops. If voice chat is on, you might have a better shot at asking for a trade, but outside of playing with friends, it seems to be a competition. Luckily, a few people I played with always left items for other classes on the ground. Playing with friends fares a little better - you’ll at least tend to stick together. Best of all, progress gained in co-op carries over to your own game. Solving some of the environmental puzzles is a little easier with friends, and the boss fights remain interesting, but the hack & slash action leaves a lot to be desired and the loot is just as nonexistent.
It’s worth noting that since the game defaults to playing online, certain aspects of the 3DS system are disabled - you cannot use the Home button until you save & quit out of your game. If you happen to close the system and put it to sleep, you’ll be unceremoniously booted back to the main menu when you return to the game, which can cause a loss of progress. The framerate issues also exist in co-op, and when four players are dropping abilities all over the screen, the chaos causes the engine to choke.
If Heroes of Ruin had stuck the landing on the Action RPG framework, we’d probably be looking at one of the greatest portable co-op games since we launched this humble site. The efforts towards enabling co-op play are commendable, and it’s unfortunate that they’re not wrapped around a better game. As is, it remains a hard title to recommend unless you absolutely crave some co-op while on the go.
This Nintendo 3DS review of Heroes of Ruin was based off a copy provided by the publisher.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up with friends to conquer missions and trade items.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.