I spent a little too long customising my character before getting stuck into Heroes of Ruin; you can't rush off into battle against hordes of skeleton pirates and bipedal sharks without looking the part, after all. Of the four classes the game will have on offer, only two of them were available at this point: the Vindicator, a tank of sorts, and the Gunslinger, who, well, slings guns. I chose the former, a class which looks remarkably like a Thundercat. I took a good few minutes to customise the pattern of my fur and mane and then took my first steps in the game.
Heroes of Ruin is an action RPG with an emphasis on co-op play. Despite offering the story and usual array of role-playing mechanics to support a single-player campaign, George Wright, producer on the title, admits that the game "definitely comes to life in multiplayer". As such, I was able to play the game with a wing man. With me as the tank, and an amiable fellow from Square Enix as the Gunslinger, we set off into the mouth of a seaside cavern.
Speaking to a chap at the entrance, we're given our quest: to slay the legendary Leviathan that dwells within. Generally speaking, each dungeon will have a main quest and several optional side-quests to get on with. In this case, however, the side-quests must be completed before tackling the main event.
Each dungeon in the game is randomly generated, which lends itself to the co-op nature of the game perfectly. Whether you're playing with a friend or a random bloke you bumped into on the train, there's a good chance you'll have played certain levels already. With dungeons being randomly generated, however, it's new each time, and you'll be rewarded with different loot for doing so. Enemies are scaled appropriately, too. So if you're playing with somebody who's a good few levels lower than you, your foes will be adjusted to a level that works for both of you.
First up, me and my gun-slinging chum had to take down the skeletal captain of a wrecked ship. This proved little trouble for me and my hulking great big sword. Then, we had to retrieve the conch capable of summoning the Leviathan from a pair of tentacle-waving sea-things; a mini-boss, if you will. Combat is a case of hammering on the B button until the beasties fall, with special attacks mapped to the Y button. With enough enemies downed, you'll eventually level up, where you'll be assigned points that can then be invested in a skill tree. Depending on your choices here, you can tailor your character to a specific combat discipline. You know the drill.
After buying a new skill - a shockwave attack with impressive range - we blew the conch and prepared to fight the Leviathan. This was a familiar case of learning his attack patterns, and attacking at the right moments. After a few minutes, the beast was done.
Heroes of Ruin boasts an impressive 80,000 pieces of weapon and armour, which can be traded in a rather interesting way using the 3DS' Street Pass feature. The ten most recent items you've collected form a list, which is viewable by other players of the game when you're out and about. So, if you're playing on the train, and another player happens to see an item of yours they like, they can purchase it there and then. It's like walking around with a mini auction house in your pocket.
Spot Pass is also used in an interesting way. Each day, three unique daily challenges can be undertaken, with a dedicated XP bar that leads to specific rewards. Unlike the random nature of the main game, these will be the same for everybody. There's even a weekly challenge, which although harder, offers more XP as a result.
The 3DS - with all its connected features - is a great home for the RPG genre. And yet still there's not a single title to prove this. Heroes of Ruin is a good solution to that problem. While the core gameplay has been seen a hundred times before in different guises, the co-op and social features the game is built around are rather interesting.
Heroes of Ruin is due for release in 2012 for Nintendo 3DS.