by Joshua Russo
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: October 13, 2015
A new spin on an established franchise comes in the form of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below. Developer Omega Force has done an excellent job merging their successful Dynasty Warriors gameplay with universe of the Dragon Quest series, but they fall short with a mediocre story made worse by shallow characters.
Monsters and humans have sometimes been able to form an amiable relationship in past installments of the series, but in the world of Dragon Quest Heroes monsters have always been at peace with humans. During a festival in the kingdom of Arba, a dark curse turns the monsters against the humans and they begin to attack the town. The curse has been cast by a wizard of darkness in order to summon an ancient powerful dragon and only the heroes of light have the power to save the day. That is seriously the story.
The game’s two main protagonists, a female named Aurora and a male named Luceus, take on the horde to defend their king from harm. Luckily what the game lacks in storytelling it makes up for with it’s gratifying combat gameplay and RPG elements.
Players can take on hordes of slimes, she-slimes, heal slimes, king slimes and of course tons of non-slime enemies as well. Portals called Nightmaws are guarded by strong enemies called Mawkeepers. These portals summon monsters until the Mawkeeper is destroyed. Maps containing environmental hazards, pitfalls, movable blockades and defense points give your party plenty to plan for other than just swishing swords. As monsters are defeated, they have a chance of dropping a monster medal. These medals can be used to summon those same monsters to aid the player in battle. These medals becoming very useful as the game progresses and more strategy is required to clear the maps.
Combat itself feels very cathartic. There is something about taking out hordes of hundreds of monsters in minutes that gives an immense feeling of achievement, especially when striking the final blow on a particularly tough monster. During combat, each character builds up tension in their tension meter. Once full, they can unleash a powerful attack called a coup de grâce that can turn the tide in battle if the player is overwhelmed.
In typical JRPG fashion, players earn experience and level up from battles, completing missions and finishing side quests. In Dragon Quest Heroes, players earn skill points every time they level up. This gives the player the freedom to grow their characters’ stats and skills in any direction they want.
Dragon Quest Heroes doesn’t just bring familiar monsters into the battle, but familiar faces too. Yangus, Bianca, Terry and other favorite party members from previous main installments help join in the fray. While Dragon Quest characters have never come across as deeply developed individuals, they have always held a certain lovability to them. The four brand new characters in Dragon Quest Heroes are no exception to this rule. These new characters do eventually grow on the player, but it is impossible to forgot how two-dimensional they are.
Luceus always has a combat strategy plan before every battle and he lets the characters know, over and over and over. Aurora on the other hand is brash and heads straight into battle with no plan, over and over and over throughout the course of the story.
In fact, many of the returning characters ride their most notable trait into the ground. Maya, a dancer from the world of Dragon Quest IV, really really wants gold and treasure. Terry, a master swordsman from Dragon Quest VI, is a one-liner mysterious tough guy. It’s a shame that as Dragon Quest gets a beautifully designed and detailed world brought to life on the powerful Playstation 4, that these characters are not given the additional depth their personalities deserve.
Dragon Quest Heroes is a gorgeous game that takes place across a variety of settings, allowing players to see what a fully fleshed out Dragon Quest game can look like on a next gen console. This beauty keeps its distance as the maps leave the player confined and unable to explore the beautiful horizon beyond the borders.
Sidequests in Dragon Quest Heroes also don’t feel fully fleshed out. Players are limited to only accepting eight sideqests at a time and most sidequests are returning to completed maps and either clearing out more enemies, or collecting dropped alchemy ingredients from defeated monsters. It is repetitive and some rewards aren’t even worth it, but it’s great for training up lower leveled members of the group.
In between each level or sidequest the player rests at the Stonecloud, a place where they can save the game, buy or sell gear, perform alchemy or check progress on their sidequests. If you are planning on buying and selling a lot of items here, it may be best to turn the sound off on your controller first. Vendors will belt out a friendly little expression through the television and the PS4 controller. Every. Time.
Despite its shortcomings, Dragon Quest Heroes still manages to deliver and carry out another light-hearted and charming gaming experience that the franchise has long been known for. Fans of the series will not be disappointed and newcomers may be pleasantly surprised with a solid, delightful gameplay experience.