For too long now, I’ve had this nagging thought that I should review Heroes of Ruin. After all, I requested the dungeon crawler specifically from publisher Square Enix. It’s not one of the legions of games that show up at my house unsolicited. I asked for it. And yet, the review has gone as of yet unwritten.
Part of that is a matter of circumstance. Between requesting Heroes of Ruin and it arriving, my team and I made the painful decision to shut down our gaming site, Joystick Division. Fortunately, that team has found a new home here at Bit Creature. Unfortunately for Heroes of Ruin, reviewing the game fell off the priority list as we worked to launch this new site.
But that’s only part of the issue.
A bigger part is that the game just didn’t click with me, although, on paper, it should have. I love dungeon crawlers. I love exploring crypts and ruins, fighting endless waves of enemies, scoring better and better loot and improving my character’s skills. Heroes of Ruin does all these things and does them competently. It even has impressive four-player online capabilities and fantasy universe that tries at most turns for originality, eschewing the standard warmed-over fantasy tropes.
And yet, it largely did not grab me. For reasons I could not put my finger on.
Until I started thinking about David Byrne.
If you only know David Byrne from his solo music or the Talking Heads, you really only know part of who he is. An avid cyclist, Byrne has a lot to say about how cities are designed and influenced, and how they influence in return. Not long ago I watched Byrne talk about how architecture shapes music. His theory, which you can see in the video, is certain types of music are consciously or unconsciously designed to be performed in certain types of venues.
I started thinking that the same phenomenon could be true of video games. Certain types of games might just naturally be suited to certain types of game consoles or systems.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with Heroes of Ruin. It’s just on the wrong platform.
On the surface, this argument seems obvious. Real-Time Strategy games, for example, are naturally a better fit for a PC’s mouse and keyboard controls than a console. Until Halo, FPS games were considered for the almost exclusive domain of PCs as well. But as new control schemes have been developed, more and more genres have spread to more and more consoles. Action games that would have been unthinkable on a handheld machine now take a starring role in the Vita’s game library and the Wii has proven that the grand gameplay mechanics of bar-style arcade games can be brought into the home. In general, control issues are no longer a problem. Even RTS games have made it to consoles (how effectively is still up for debate).
However, certain gameplay styles just simply seem wrong on certain systems. It’s been proven that FPS games can work perfectly well on a cell phone. But the technically impressive N.O.V.A. games aren’t the titles most people are playing on their phones. They’re playing Angry Birds or Tiny Wings. And it’s not just casual gamers who are playing these games. I know dozens of well-known game journalists who have spent hundreds of hours in every Bethesda RPG on their consoles and dove into Words with Friends with exactly the same intensity.
Like most gamers, I typically have a single game I’m obsessed with at a time. Right now, it’s a tower defense game on my phone called Four Days. With classic tower defense gameplay and a persistent leveling system to permanently improve your weapons, it’s the perfect mix of bite-sized gameplay and continuous goals to keep me hooked during long bus commutes.
I have several tower defense games for Xbox Live Arcade. Most of which I’ve never played. The ones I have played are fine games (and the controls aren’t an issue), but they’re just not what I want to play on my Xbox. On consoles, I want action-packed shooters, lengthy RPGs, racing games and fast-paced action games.
On the go, I want strategy, puzzles, tactics games – anything that works my mind more than my fingers.
Maybe that’s just me. Maybe younger gamers who grew up with more technologically advanced portable machines are comfortable with a wider variety of gameplay styles on the go and are fine with bite-sized experiences on their televisions. I, however, am not there yet. For me, it’s not enough to be a good game. It also has to be delivered the right way.
It has to be the right game on the right machine.
About the Author:
Jeremy Zoss has written for Game Informer, Wizard Magazine, Village Voice Media and more. He has several published works of fiction, but his dogs are not impressed with any of that.
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