Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below – Review
Platform – PS4, PS3, PC
Developer – Omega Force
Publisher – Square Enix
MSRP: $59.99 USD
(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with the game copy being provided by Gaming Instincts.)
Dragon Quest Heroes is a spinoff Action-RPG/Musou title that’s based on the popular Dragon Quest RPG series. It’s the first time in the history of the franchise where the developers decided to create gameplay that’s outside the comfort zone, while keeping familiar characters, enemies, and environments that you all know and love. Another popular franchise that took the same route was Zelda: Hyrule Warriors, which was quite successful and the game was also considered one of the best Musou games out there. So now, it’s Dragon Quest’s time to shine in the RPG/Musou genre so let’s see how it competes.
The plot in Dragon Quest Heroes is quite simple and easy to understand – the cute and cuddly friendly monsters have turned against the humans. You’re on a quest to figure out why the monsters all of a sudden became evil and started to assault every possible town they could get their hands on. As you go through the game, you will be meeting many different characters with unique personalities that come from their realms and seek to fulfill their goals while also joining your party. The player will also be visiting different locations throughout the world map and save towns from being overwhelmed by the monsters. If you’re looking for an epic RPG plot, you’re not going to find it here because that is not what this game is trying to be. Dragon Quest was always known to have semi-serious stories with humorous dialogue, cutesy monsters such as the slime kings, brownies, goofy-looking dragons, along with many other silly aspects. The art style of the game should also be familiar to the fans. Akira Toriyama’s influence is apparent not just in the art style, but also in his sense of humor in the writing. The game delivers what the fans would expect from the franchise in terms of silliness, aesthetics, heroes and enemies.
Visuals and Audio
Dragon Quest Heroes has great visuals and everything is clean and colorful, just like you’d expect from a typical Dragon Quest game, but ten times prettier this time around. However, while the art style is great, the actual technical side of things has some minor faults. The game runs at 60 FPS and 1080p HD, but the problem is that there have been noticeable times when the frame-rate drops for a split-second, or maybe even a full second. It doesn’t hamper the gameplay and the fast-paced combat by any means, thankfully. However, the fact that the game still tends to hiccup here and there, despite how plain the levels are, is a bit disappointing. But it’s also not that big of a surprise considering there are a ton of mobs on the screen and flashy special combos. The game also tends to drop frames when you turn your camera left or right both in main missions and town hubs where there are no enemies. Overall, the technical issues are not that problematic and if anything, I’d consider them minor. The game itself, for the most part, runs at a very solid 60FPS, 90% of the time, although sometimes it can just get a bit jittery. To be completely honest at this point, I am just a bit nit-picky.
The audio in the game is quite basic. You have your different music themes for each of the levels, battles, leveling up cues, funny monster sounds, and Japanese voice-overs, along with English. If you’ve played a Dragon Quest game before, you know what to expect. And as always, you’ll hear many similar sound cues that are nostalgic, which are great for the fans. However, I felt like the game repeated the same music theme too many times. At first, it was okay, but then it just got a bit tiring, and I wanted to move on to the next mission so I didn’t have to hear the same battle theme over again. Overall, the audio is not bad perse. It delivers the fan service, but it was just a bit repetitive, and eventually got tiresome. Maybe if there were a larger variety of music tracks, the music would have been more enjoyable, but in actuality, it’s not that big of an issue.
Combat System, RPG Elements, and Gameplay
The gameplay is comprised of typical RPG elements such as crafting, inventory space, items, accessories, weapons, NPCs, town hubs, talent trees, party system, and leveling. Mix all of those RPG elements with hack ‘n’ slash Musou style gameplay, such as the Dynasty Warrior games and Zelda: Hyrule Warriors, and you get Dragon Quest Heroes.
The combat system is similar to other Musou games you’ve played in the past. You have your basic combo attacks, a particular gauge called ‘tension’, and special attacks that use your mana bar. The ‘tension’ bar builds up as you hit enemies. Once the bar is full, you can activate it by pressing ‘O’ and the hero goes into Tension Mode. While in Tension Mode, you can do more damage than normal, have invincibility for a limited time, and execute a signature “coup de grace” move on the battlefield.
During combat, the player can also collect monster medals after they defeat an enemy. Monster medals have a chance of dropping, but once a player picks them up, it starts to fill up the monster slot bar. These medals allow you to summon minions on the battlefield to aid you. Dragon Quest Heroes has a large variety of different monsters ranging in many different shapes and sizes. Small monsters take up one slot, medium sized monsters take up two slots, and big ones take up three slots. For example, a skeleton soldier would only take up one slot, while a golem or troll would take up three slots. Once you’re full of medals, you can start to dismiss the ones you don’t need if you want to pick up a better monster medal. It’s worth stating that some monsters will only do one-time moves and disappear, while others will stay and fight until their health bar depletes. The monster medals are an interesting take on strategic gameplay, but to be honest, I didn’t have to use them that much to get through the game unless I was in a dire situation. However, it was fun to watch my big troll monster fighting against a wave of skeletons, so in that regard, it was entertaining.
The party system in the game allows you to have three other party members with you; you can switch to whatever party member you want in a middle of the battlefield by pressing ‘L1.’ What I liked about Dragon Quest Heroes is that as you progress through the story, you will have party members join you. Throughout your journey in Dragon Quest Heroes, you will end up playing up to 12 unique, playable characters including Leceus, Aurora, Doric, Terry, Isla, Nera, Bianca, Yangus, Alena, Kiryl, Jessica, and Maya. Each of these unique individuals, use their signature weapons and serve a particular role in the battle. For example, Yangus is superb at taking down the enemy defense with his special overhead attack, and he can also absorb a ton of damage. Meanwhile, a character like Jessica can hit multiple enemies with her whip, and can also heal the entire party by doing a dance move. Then you have characters like Aurora, Luceus, and Terry, who all use swords and shields, but have different elements imbued in their weapons, such as ice, fire, and thunder. Isla uses a boomerang for long distance combat, and Doric has his trusty mace that lets him slay his foes in a wide arc, with multiple elements, and so on.
The heroes themselves are likable, have intriguing personalities, and are funny. The AI is surprisingly well done, although it does have its flaws. Your allies will heal you and the party when necessary if they have the mana. However, there are times when they just stand still in place and doing nothing, being useless for a few seconds. For the most part, the AI is decent despite a few inconsistencies here and there, but compared to other Musou games it’s a godsend.
The mission and story structure in the game are super simple. You go to each city via ‘World Map’, complete 3-4 missions, and fight a boss, then move on to the next area and rinse and repeat. The game doesn’t have any open world exploration. Instead, you’re in a city hub where you can talk to multiple NPCs that let you buy weapons, orbs, craft accessories, take on quests, save progress, read in-game mail, and prepare yourself for the next mission. During your journey, you will go through varied environments like grasslands, deserts, caves, dungeons, castles, and so on. The actual maps themselves are small. You have a mini-map on the top right, and during your objective, you can explore the map to collect treasures that contain mini-medals, gold, or ingredients. You can also break barrels, pots, and other kinds of breakable objects around you for instant health and mana restoration items.
The primary mission objectives tend to repeat themselves throughout the entirety of the game. They range from defense to annihilating all monster waves while trying to slay all of the Mawkeepers. Mawkeepers are creatures who call upon more minions from their realm into the battlefield. Dragon Quest: Heroes tries to cover the repetition of this in different ways, and the defense is a perfect example of that. In one mission, you’re attempting to protect a magical tree root called Yggdrasil, while in another mission, you’re defending a generator, an ally, statue or a door. It doesn’t change the gameplay in any fashion. Instead, it repeats itself with a new excuse and tells you to keep slaying a massive amount of monsters until they’re all gone and you have successfully defended the object. Then again, we do have to accept the fact that this is a Musou game. There is not-a-lot you can do in terms of gameplay variety when the core of the genre is to keep on killing a tremendous amount of monsters and grind for power, ingredients, and levels. This will now bring me into talking about the RPG elements of the game.
The RPG elements are very apparent; you level up each of your party members, and each hero has a talent tree. The talent trees of each character, however, are very similar. For example, every hero has basic things you can upgrade such as their mana/health pool, defense, and magical powers. They do offer some unique things such as their special attack upgrades, but for the most part, they’re all similar. As you level up, it will cost you more allocation points to spec into something, and if you made a mistake, you can undo your choices by talking to an NPC in the town hub to reset the talents for a certain amount of gold.
Your hero will also be able to take on quests from an NPC, and the quests are an important part of character progression. When you complete certain quests, you’ll get rewarded with more bag space for your crafting ingredients, more monster medals slots, and mini-medals that you can use as currency to get new recipes for crafting. The crafting system is easy to use. You collect items from monsters as you kill them, and certain monsters drop certain ingredients. Once you have the proper ingredients, you can then go to talk to the alchemist NPC in the town hub and craft accessories. You can also make the same accessory more powerful by crafting multiple accessories at a time, and sacrificing them to give it more power; this mechanic is called “Meld Accessories.” Jewelry gives you different boosts to your characters, such as defense, more attack power, or even minion boosts. Each character can equip up to 3 different accessories at a time, and it’s going to cost you a pretty penny if you want to deck everyone one out in the best possible items. There are also weapons and orbs merchants that you go to to buy equipment for your heroes. Starting off, the weapons and orbs are cheap; however, later in the game, everything becomes super expensive, and when you have 12 heroes to deal with, it can get overwhelming – but in a good way. Orbs are special items that increase your hero’s overall main defense stats. The more expensive orbs also give you more bonuses to other defensive attributes as well. Dragon Quest: Heroes does quite a good job at implementing RPG elements into the Musou genre.
Thankfully, the RPG elements are what make this game fun and addicting. By the time you finish the game, you will still have a large amount of stuff to do like collecting all the accolades for completing certain in-game objectives. Accolades can be acquired by killing the main bosses, keeping up a high hit count, and using every character’s “coup de grace”, buying every single weapon, orb and shield in the game, and plenty of other things. To gather all of the accolades in the game, it will take you up to at least 50-70 hours of gameplay time, and that is a healthy amount of time playing, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Also, the game makes it super easy to keep track of what you have and haven’t collected yet by going to the main menu and checking out your Battle Log. Battle Log shows you progression in terms of percentage for monsters, minions, weapons/orbs, ingredients, Accessories, and quests. This makes hunting for everything in the game more enjoyable because you don’t have to worry about writing a checklist.
Dragon Quest: Heroes is a fantastic spin-off with a loveable quirky cast of characters, hilarious monsters, beautiful cartoon visuals, and addicting gameplay. However, the game does have some minor technical flaws as I’ve mentioned earlier in the FPS department, despite it being consistent for 90% of the time. The mission objectives can get a bit tiresome by the time you finish the game, but thankfully the solid basic gameplay is fun enough to finish the game and even continue post game to collect everything 100%. The main story itself lasts for a good while; probably for 20 hours or more depending on how good you are at understanding the combat mechanics, and whether or not you are rushing through it. Post-game content will take roughly 50-70 hours, especially if you want every single trophy, all the items, and so on.
I think W-Omega Force did a good job at creating a familiar universe while venturing into a genre they haven’t delved into before. If you’re a fan of Dragon Quest or even if you just want to try a Musou game, and you enjoy RPGs, then I would highly recommend you try this game. It’s the type of game that has the instant gratification of feeling overpowered as you journey through it all the way to the end. I am eagerly awaiting Dragon Quest Heroes 2 to see where the story continues and to take on more waves of cutesy monsters.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below
- Dragon Quest universe fits the Musou genre perfectly. Also, there is a ton of fan service here
- Runs smooth and looks good for the most part despite a few fps drops in mob filled areas from time to time
- Good implementation of combining both RPG and Musou gameplay mechanics and elements
- The audio can get a bit tiring, particularly the music tracks
- Missions feel repetitive and there is not much variety
- No online co-op or any kind of co-op