Man, when Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest Builders, and today’s sequel were announced, it brought back how excited I am to play anything Dragon Quest related. As Final Fantasy suffers through a case of “trying to be too cool for school and overly melodramatic”, Dragon Quest just chugs along, doing very little to its framework that makes the game so good, while improving on some elements to make it an easier-to-get-into experience. Granted, I have not been a huge fan of some design choices like Dragon Quest IX being about multi-player, and Dragon Quest X being a full-on MMO, but out of the old school RPG franchises, Dragon Quest is probably my favorite. Today, we have a very interesting case with Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree Woes and the Blight Below for the PlayStation 4. It’s a spin-off title for the franchise, and Square Enix, the publisher, has put a lot of the main franchise’s future on the sales of this game. Now, it has sold a million copies, but that is probably because Japan treats the franchise as a religion. This means that if it doesn’t sell well here, we won’t be getting future games unless Square Enix does that ‘crowd funding for localizing’ thing. I think that is a bit much, and how they are handling showing off footage is a bit counterintuitive. You want as many people to buy this game, but you put so many restrictions on streaming footage of the game, that it will probably hurt the sales more than you think. Now then, with all the politics aside, is this a good game? Well, let’s find out!
Dragon Quest Heroes takes place in the land of Alba, a place where humans and monsters live side by side. However, an evil sorcerer has come out of nowhere, and has made good monsters turn evil and start attacking people. Of course, being an evil wizard, he wants to take over the world. It is up to you, two captains of the royal guards (one male and one female captain), the mighty king, and many characters from different entries in the franchise to stop this evil wizard. One of my favorite aspects of the Dragon Quest franchise has always been the characters. Sure, you can say they are simple, but that is what makes the interaction between everyone work. You already have a bunch of simple, but enjoyable characters that make going through the story a joyful experience. They don’t try to over-complicate the characters with stupid melodrama. Some of the quirks of the characters get a little old, but I never got bored with the story.
Dragon Quest Heroes is what you get when you combine Dynasty Warriors and an action RPG into one game. You will choose from a party of four heroes as you choose from either the main game’s heroes, Lueceus, Aurora, Doric and Isla, Alena, Kiryl, Maya, and Psaro from Dragon Quest IV, Bianca and Nera from Dragon Quest V, Terry from Dragon Quest VI, or Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII. The main goal of each level is to traverse the area, beat the tar out of multiple iconic monsters, and from time to time, defend certain spots or characters. After a while of going through similar levels, you will encounter one of many large and tough enemies/bosses like the Green Dragon, Gigante, and so on. Each character has his or her own special moves and abilities that can be upgraded with individual skill points, like better health, more attack, defense, and earn new special moves to lay waste to the baddies in front of you. One of the elements taken from the main games, the monster recruitment system is handled differently. Instead of having a selection of monsters to choose from, you will recruit them during the level you are playing. Each time you slay a monster, sometimes a coin version of them will appear and can be used for different effects. The monster recruitment coins are either sentry-style, where they will stay in one area and attack, or will do a one-off attack or status effect. Outside of the main quest, you will also be doing a lot of side-quests and objectives that mostly have you killing a certain number of baddies or gathering alchemy items. Overall, you will have many double digit-filled hours ahead of you with this game. Luckily, the combat is super satisfying, and the interaction between the characters is charming, so those many hours of grinding and gameplay won’t be a problem.
Graphically, Dragon Quest Heroes is very good looking. It might be slightly better looking than its PlayStation 3 counterpart, but the art style helps give it some added punch. It is kind of weird to see Dragon Quest have more realistic colors and such, but the art style is always brimming with personality. It also runs at a really smooth frame rate. The music is, to no one’s surprise, great! It’s basically a bunch of music that you have heard from Dragon Quest I, Dragon Quest IV, Dragon Quest VII, and Dragon Quest VIII. The voice work is perfect. I was concerned with how they were going to handle it, but instead of just leaving it with just the Japanese voices, they basically made the same decision that they did with Dragon Quest VIII by giving characters English accents. I loved that decision since it gives the characters a huge amount of personality that you don’t see in other action RPGs.
I really love Dragon Quest Heroes, but I have some complaints. First complaint goes to Square Enix themselves. Normally, I don’t want to deduct a point from the game for game company politics, but this has to be said. If you are basing the future of the franchise coming to western shores on one game, you shouldn’t have so much streaming rules holding it back. Seriously, it’s like how Shadow of Mordor had those streaming rules that could have turned everyone off from playing the game. Same case here. They are limiting the way people are able to stream this, and yet, it’s a fantastic game. Why hold back a good game from the public because of some company politics. It’s why I will never understand why companies are so stingy on online video copyright shenanigans. Outside of this one issue, the only other issue I have is that the characters you don’t use level up way too slowly. I can guess that is why the game throws you so many “kill X number of enemies” quests so they can level up faster, but still. It’s tedious since the game is like “evil is taking over and you need to save the world asap!” and yet, you have to grind. I also wish there was more monster variety. I love and recognize all of the monsters used in the game from the franchise, but they then start using recolored version of said monsters. I know it’s a traditional RPG trope to keep recoloring your enemies in different areas of the game’s world, but come on.
Dragon Quest Heroes shows that Omega Force, the developer behind the game, can make more than just the same Dynasty Warriors game over and over. I know that is a cynical thought, but their best games in recent years were always based off some other franchise and not their own. I think this game is easily worth a purchase since it’s not only a good Dragon Quest game, it’s a really good action RPG. I would highly recommend you buy this game for some fun action gaming goodness. I just hope we can get the future games in the series.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.