Dragon Quest Heroes proves that it’s okay to not take itself too serious with a lighthearted approach.
Omega Force (from Koei Tecmo Games), the developers behind the Dynasty Warrior franchise and Hyrule Warriors is at it again in Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woes and the Blight Below. That’s a mouthful. An action RPG with hack-and-slash at its core. What else could we expect from a developers proven in the hack-and-slash field of gaming? With Dragon Quest Heroes not too much.
Starting out, Heroes prompts the player to select a male or female gendered role. I chose the male character and selected the pre-given name Luceus. No matter what character is chosen from the start, the other character (in my case the female) gets to tag along, be the second in command, and the first alternate party member.
"What else could we expect from a developers proven in the hack-and-slash field of gaming? With Dragon Quest Heroes not too much."
Simple story mechanics that we’ve all seen times over reoccur in Heroes: friendly monsters who lived in peace with humans have mysteriously turned evil and it’s up to our hero to find out what happened and turn said monsters good once more. However, Luceus is a talker and so are the vast many characters within the game. What simplicity could be told in a few short sentences gets dragged out far longer than necessary.
Through that dialog the camera doesn’t always rest on the talking character. A wealth of magnificent and marvelous landscapes; breath taking cinematography overlapping with an array of vibrant, robust colors; and alluring lands filled with intrigue and guise giving a true feeling of discovery and scope are all around.
Medieval-structured cities built of brick-and-mortar, designed with the elegance that strongly borrows from days of yore surround this land. A sense of knights and chivalry bled strong with a graphically friendly approach. Forests exhaled life through their grandiose, green surroundings. Farmers’ gardens in the prairies roamed wild and open with verdure, prairie-flowers and grasses which brought many different forms of energy to each locale.
" A sense of knights and chivalry bled strong with a graphically friendly approach."
It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a difference in cut scene and in-game graphics. Cut scene graphics in Heroes were just a few steps ahead of in-game graphics. More lively character interaction and smoother lines that appeared less jagged are slightly more noticeable in cut scenes. Character design throughout is charming, non-aggressive and cute. Similar to the Dragon Ball Z style of art, but toned down to a more kid-friendly approach (though, the language used in this game, I would not recommend for anyone younger than a teen), Heroes’ calculated designs follow strongly in the footsteps of the series’ past entries. It is a gorgeous game.
Each voice accompanying his or her respective character is a precise fit. Voice actors portrayed their characters with an extremely caring approach; as though their characters meant a great deal to the legacy of this franchise. Many styles and accents, from Russian, Irish and English were implemented with varying characters. Different accents gave a broader outlook on each character, giving a feeling that each performance had a full story of its own. However, if you are not familiar with past Dragon Quest game lore (like myself), there is little Heroes will teach you about anyone’s backstory.
Like I mentioned before, Heroes is a wordy game. Playing as Luceus – one of the King’s two captains and protectors – gets to be a bit headachy. Luceus plays a war-ready strategist. These strategies are heavily worded and extensively long. Then Aurora -the King’s second captain and protector – cuts Luceus off from his over-strategizing strategies and just wants to go head first into the fight. It becomes apparent shortly in that Luceus’s overly-wordy texts and talks are setup as somewhat of a joke, always getting cut off by Aurora. However, neither Luceus’s extensive talking, or Aurora’s butting in never pays off with a punchline or getting the player to laugh. It just seemed unnecessary and poorly written.
"Luceus plays a war-ready strategist. These strategies are heavily worded and extensively long."
That, thankfully, does not capture the essence of the story and humor throughout the game. Though Heroes does have an over abundant amount of speech, text blocks, and cut scene jabbering, – most of which a normal person could sum up in just a few short words – much of it seemed like natural speech: not forced or “by the script.” But the looseness of Heroes’s story could have been tightened. By cleaning up a great deal of unusual text blocks and bringing down speeches to what we need to know rather than bickering, theatricality and delusions of grandeur.
Most annoyingly (besides Luceus’s pretentious strategies) are when text blocks or even character speech occurs during battle. Battles bare a strong element of concentrating, limiting travel times and figuring out which enemies to attack first. With so much going on all at the same time, it becomes much more of a chore to try and listen or read rather than survive. And surviving will always be number one. This forces the player to throw any other story elements going on at the same time out the window to concentrate on the fighting.
When playing through Heroes, it becomes immediately apparent of the actual gameplay screen view. What I mean is: about 1/3 of the screen is constantly covered in information and sometimes more so. Bottom left has all stats including: HP, MP, moves for each button, middle left all other characters’ stats, and (actually) more. Bottom right is a text scroll of items picked up during enemy defeat. Top right allots room for a [massive] mini map. Top left is used only when characters want to speak with text blocks. If it was possible to eliminate some of these from the playable screen, I was unable to locate any such options in the menus.
"About 1/3 of the screen is constantly covered in information and sometimes more so."
With a character centralized on strategizing, it’s odd to see how little strategy this game actually requires. Yes, it is a game focused on hack-and-slash, but variety in attacks are not plentiful – which seems like different attacks to a game that becomes little more than a button masher would be a no-brainer. With a few magic attacks, the ability to switch characters (up to four total in a single party) and use different attacks from each, there really seemed to be not much difference in power and identity between attack forms.
Furthermore, as each character levels up – similar to a standard RPG – they earn skill points which can be used to purchase varying skills per character. Such as extra HP, MP, a new attack, etc. Skill points are quite easily earned and are not sparse. Quite a few skill points are given for each level earned per character and easily affixed to said characters.
Switching characters actually came as surprisingly easy. A simple click of [R2] would instantly switch from one of four different characters of whom the player places in the party and in which order. The only problem is that I found myself playing as Luceus almost the entire time. The only time I caught myself as another party member was when Luceus would die. Thankfully the game doesn’t end at that point. It auto-switches to the next available character. At which I would instantly race over to Luceus and use a plentiful revival item and switch back to him. Mostly playing as one character came because I set Luceus up with the best skills and powered up his special attack gauge throughout the battles. It is nice to know that choosing a different party member is available to those who’d find it interesting. And there are a lot of characters that are gathered along the way to choose from.
What’s strange about this game is that it doesn’t quite play like Dynasty Warriors, or even Hyrule Warriors in the same way. This could either come as a bad idea or good depending on how one looks at it. After a short hack-and-slash session on any given locale, everyone instantly retreats to home base. This home base location changes places from time to time. The mission could be a simple “kill X amount of enemies.” Then upon finishing, time to head back to home base. “Kill boss.” Go back to home base. This process became quite tiresome and boring. In Hyrule Warriors, there were varied missions and objectives in a single session that could carry on for up to an hour. In Heroes, it will only be at most 10-15 minutes of gameplay and then home base. Decisions like this make Heroes feel more like a handheld game belonging on Nintendo 3DS than a PlayStation 4.
"Switching characters actually came as surprisingly easy. A simple click of [R2] would instantly switch from one of four different characters of whom the player places in the party and in which order."
Home base is any given location where the character can do a bunch of different actions: anything from switch out party members, dabble in alchemy, read mail posts, choose side quests, select a location to travel on the world map, buy weapons and armor, or just a small [text] chat with many different characters is available here. But, again there is a lot of text for simple actions. Confirming selected actions is common in almost every game; Heroes, however, seems to want to give a few text blocks before asking to confirm, then sometimes confirming again. Instead of just asking if I’d like to save the game, I have to go through a few sentences before being able to save. Same thing occurs with switching out characters.
Side missions are plentiful and diverse, though often the same or similar missions that have already been played happen again, and again.
Oddly enough, Heroes starts off as a rather simplistic game but spikes in difficulty later on. After learning a thing or two about fighting, then giving little information on strategizing (yes, there is some implemented, but very minor), the game expects the player to go all out and know everything within the first 30 minutes. What’s worse is in the beginning there is a healing goo monster named Healix. Healix healed quite frequently in the beginning battles, but after that 30 minute mark he became almost nonexistent. There was no explanation on why he barely came back after a couple mission, as well. He is still there throughout the game to help heal, but it is extremely rare after the first few missions. Healix could have been a great help throughout, and especially after the difficulty spike, but doesn’t give much of an appearance.
Dragon Quest Heroes’ soundtrack was a bit standard. Nothing spectacular or riveting. Mostly tunes from a plain action-style arrangement played throughout that could be heard similarly in any underwhelming action game or action RPG sounded about. Nothing note worthy there.
At the end, Dragon Quest Heroes looks like a child-friendly game. However, being swamped with a high difficulty spike and occasional bad language, this game is definitely for older teens to adults — which isn’t a bad thing. This is the first Dragon Quest game I’ve played from beginning to end, so I am unaware if past games have the same adult quality game style. With lush, vibrant graphics, simple story and cute character animations, this game is worth a play. However, with the likes of other big name titles abound, I’d hold back on Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woes and the Blight Below for a little while.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Majestic, brilliant art style and graphics help bring this game to life. Side missions are fun. And characters are plentiful to choose from.
Too much talking takes on too simple of plots. Little strategy along with minute gameplay sessions. TV is packed with too much info and too little gameplay screen.
Dragon Quest Heroes is a fun game. But nothing more. It doesn't revolutionize anything, but in fact sets some RPG styles back a decade. Without engrossing characters or even story plot, it's worth little more than one, light hearted play through.