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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Diablo IIIDS? Or, let's talk about Heroes of Ruin...

Portable Diablo? We'll put that name to the test...
 So, I downloaded the Heroes of Ruin demo two nights ago and gave it a couple playthroughs, switching from Vindicator to Gunslinger, and then playing an online mission. Here's my thoughts:

So this game is, essentially, a Diablo clone, at least in its most basic functions. Parties of four can team up to tackle dungeons which contain respawning enemies, secret loot stashes, and boss battles, as well as numerous objectives that can give you better rewards. The looting system is pretty neat, showing you exactly how much equipment will increase your stats and allowing you to equip it immediately by pressing up on the D-pad or sell it immediately by pressing down. The other two D-pad directions allow you access to heart and ether potions, which could be found in droves from pots lying around and in the corpses of fallen enemies. The map is put on the lower screen, and the B button is your primary attacks- you can chain them together, or hold down B to build up a charge attack that can stun enemies and break their blocks. The A, X, and Y buttons allow you access you your character's special abilities. The R trigger allows you to dodge and block, and the L trigger lets you interact with chests and characters.

Those are the controls. Whoo! Now, the gameplay.

I mean, it's a little tedious. I think the enemies definitely do become tougher as you add others to your party, because going through the dungeon solo was quite simple, but I often found my party getting swarmed by spiders. The boss was quite easy to defeat, though, and that was partially because we all leveled up within the dungeon, one of my partners doing so twice. But there was never an occasion where I felt truly in danger, as the potions were seriously EVERYWHERE, which allowed me to rush in and take a good deal of melee damage and quick-heal up to keep fighting. I hope there's a little bit more of a potion management in the full release, because making them harder to obtain would up difficulty a good deal. There were also a few puzzles here and there, like a sequence where you had to hit a number of sorcerers in a pattern to stop them from supplying magic to a... bloody magic tree, or something. But I had solved the puzzle before even realizing there was one, so I don't know what that says about the puzzles for the rest of the game, though I hope they're more difficult. Bosses, as well. While the boss battle had several different stages, none of them were really that hard, and while the boss was immune to stun, charge attacks still did a fair bit of damage to her.

The leveling system really breaks the flow of gameplay, making you pause to level up abilities and stats while your friends wait. The game's framerate can drop as combat gets hectic, and make sure others don't have the same colors and outfits as you or you may get a bit confused. However, the framerate was a bit choppy when playing online but the game never skipped and got ahead of itself, fortunately.

The character customization was pretty shallow, and I hope that there's more options for this in the full release. Having only four races kind of limits your choices, but each race does have a number of specific abilities to level up, requiring some branching. You can decide what stats you want to level up, as well, though there's really only three, I guess...? The distribution page implied that you'd have more to level up along the way, but I wasn't really sure. The two races available featured different combat styles, but honestly, if you're going to have a gunslinger, make his combat ranged-only. The inclusion of melee attacks on the gunslinger kind of ruined it for me, because his health really wasn't that bad, either, so I could rush in and shoot people really close and transition to melee attacks. It almost made me NOT want to fight ranged, considering you have to have a reload animation after you fire a number of shots. The gunslinger's abilities certainly appealed to me a bit more, with his grenade dropping, spread shooting, lasso slinging tomfoolery, while the vindicator just seemed like a more ruthless, charging character. Characters also have traits which are active abilities that give you, and eventually your partners, stat boots and the like. I would like to see what the other two classes are and I hope they feature more differentiation from the two in the demo.

Positives? Well, there's a good deal of objectives one can complete throughout the course of a dungeon, which can have nice rewards. If you just go to beat the boss, you probably won't get your mileage out of the game. But some of the objectives are a little straightforward, and since the bloody magic tree was already on the way to the boss, I didn't have to do extra exploring to complete it. That's just randomized dungeons for ya, though. Other objectives have you scouring the dungeon for items, and one took me a good deal of time to complete because I had NO idea where to get a certain item. You won't be able to gather sidequest items unless you accept sidequests, which is kind of interesting. Since the items don't stay in your inventory, though, it really comes down to how much time you're willing to put into a dungeon. The randomization of item drops is pretty solid, and although I never found a weapon for either of my characters, I was able to sell a number of others, and keeping rare items for streetpassing others might be nice. Also, backtracking allowed me to encounter tougher enemies- upon getting bored waiting for a partner to choose his level-up abilities, I went back to the eponymous blood magic tree to find that a wraith creature was hanging around it that I hadn't seen before. I attempted to challenge it, but promptly had my ass handed to me and had to flee. It was much more powerful than the spiders my team had been facing before and I knew it would take a combined effort to best it. However, the lack of voice chat in the demo stopped me from alerting my partners to the enemy. It'll be featured in the full game, though, so no worries.

The only thing I really worry about is the nature of the story and the level-cap. I mean, N-space and Square Enix have already said that Spotpass will allow players to get new challenges to complete every day for another year- but what's the drive for that if the level cap is 30? Once you get to that point, how will the additional objectives keep you playing? There won't be much else to level, and the enemy level cap will be 30, as well. Unless the leveling takes a good deal of time and effort (which, according to players that already have the game- it doesn't), challenges will get boring, fast. However, some of them may prove difficult, like one of today's challenges- mowing down 400 spiders in the forest dungeon. Staying with the same party or completing it solo is the only way you'll be able to fulfill these challenges, so groupwork may be necessary. The loot system does have a TON of content, but if you've beaten every challenge in the game, there's not really much of a reason to keep collecting. However, the XP continues to climb after you reach the level cap, and will APPARENTLY be transferable from this game to the rumored sequel.

Heroes of Ruin has potential, that's for sure, but as a portable experience, you can't really expect to get a deep offering. The leveling, characters, and abilities all feature depth, but I'm unsure if it will provide the unbridled replay-ability that MMO fans and even more solid RPG fans hunger for. If you wish to complete challenges and that's where your heart lies, go for it. But the rest of the content seems to be lacking.

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