You’ll forgive the on-the-nose title of this review, hopefully. See, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is quite simply a mashup of both Dynasty Warriors and the Dragon Quest series. Like Hyrule Heroes on the Wii U, Dragon Quest Heroes is a PS4 exclusive single-player Action RPG that takes popular characters from the venerable Dragon Quest franchise and slaps them together in an all new tale.
Like all Dynasty Warriors games, the action in DQ Heroes can be repetitive, but there’s something inherently fun about mashing buttons and slaying dozens of monsters at a time with fantastic visual aplomb and crazy acrobatic skills. Given the fact that DQH brings Akira Toriyama (the artist behind Dragon Quest, Blue Dragon, Chrono Trigger, and yes… Dragon Ball) and Koichi Sugiyama together again, fans of the Dragon Quest franchise are probably already picking this game up when it launches in the NA and EU next week (on the 13th and 15th respectively).
And that’s OK, because it just so happens that it’s a pretty darned fun time, if you don’t mind a little button mashing. It should be noted that DQH has been out in Japan since February and did so well that a sequel has already been announced. Provided it sells well enough here, the same will likely happen in the West.
There are two main characters, Luceus and Aurora: the royal guards for King Doric of Arba. Doric is one helluva fighter himself and will join your party early on. The kingdom of Arba has lived for eons in harmony with the monsters, but something sinister is driving them mad, and the monsters begin to take over towns across the entire world. You, as either Luceus or Aurora (you’ll switch between all characters in battle, but you pick one for the main story), will travel across the realm hunting down the reason for this dark time.
It ain’t Shakespeare folks, but the cinematics are well done, as is to be expected from a Square Enix game. Additionally, you can choose either English or Japanese voiceovers, so purists don’t have to have the somewhat goofy-sounding English voices if you don’t want to. There are some truly bright spots in the VO though: Tsarevna Alena and Kiryl from DQ4 are particularly funny thanks to their heavy Russian accents and goofy Russian-English way of speaking. It’s clear the translators had a ball with DQH, as everything from the dialog down to the names of the monsters you summon to fight alongside you has some sort of humor injected. And Kiryl’s “ultimate” tension ability? I laughed out loud more than once with that one.
Bear in mind, for at least the first few hours, DQH is a fairly linear game. After you manage to get your airship (would it be a Square Enix RPG without one?), you’ll also get side quests, random maps that uncover new areas, and stuff like that to make things less of a beeline from story mission to story mission. But don’t get too excited. This is still an Omega Force game. You will pretty much be spending all of your time slapping the ever-living crap out of dozens of bad guys at a time. It’s all the little things DQH does that makes things more interesting.
As mentioned briefly above, one of the main things that gives DQH some sense of strategy, especially during the many missions in which you must protect someone or something, is the ability to summon monsters to fight for you. As you beat foes, they may drop Monster Medals. These can be used to summon defending friendly versions of the monsters, or even one-time use monsters that can heal you or buff you in some other way. In light of the fact that so many scenarios are often rehashes of the same idea (defend this, kill all the monsters, or close all the Nightmaw gates), it’s nice to have this extra layer of interaction with missions. You’ll have to mix and match and manage which monsters you want on the field of battle in real time, as some take up more spots on your monster roster than others (like the sturdy Golem).
As you progress through the story, you’ll amass an army of heroes from past Dragon Quest games. From Terry to Maya to Jessica, the major fan favorites are pretty much all there. The downside is that some have very similar move-sets. Terry, Luceus, and Aurora all wield swords and shields, and they all seem to have the same sorts of moves, though Terry’s branch off a bit more. Luceus and Aurora are likely so similar because they’re the “main characters”, but because of this you’ll wind up only wanting one or the other on your party. Being able to switch between playstyles and characters with the L2 button is fun, but only when your party is varied enough make it so. And King Doric? Dude’s a beast. Use him!
If there’s any one real downside to DQH, it’s that they give you this full 4-person part of awesome characters… and completely neglect to put in any form of co-op. Even Hyrule Warriors let Wii U users play together. With the parties of four, Dragon Quest Heroes was absolutely ripe for couch and PSN co-op, but they decided not to include it for whatever reason. It’s a huge blunder, and one that I hope the sequel remedies.
Aside from the surprising lack of MP, DQH is a very polished and entertaining hack n’ slash RPG. It’s camera leaves a lot to be desired, as it can often get lost and it really needs to be able to zoom out more from the action. It’s something I dealt with, but it was a noticeable issue and one that doesn’t have an easy fix.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below won’t entirely scratch that JRPG itch for a true Dragon Quest, but fans of Action RPGs will find it more than filling. With several dozen hours of gameplay, loads of side quests, items to craft and collect, and achievements to earn, DQH is a lot like a JRPG fan’s version of Diablo. It would be nice if the game was coming to other platforms, but this one’s a PS4 exclusive in the West. October is a really full month for games, but if like me you enjoy a solid Action RPG more than most other games, this one’s a no brainer.
GAMEPLAY – 8 Dragon Quest Heroes brand of the Dynasty Warriors action is top notch. Add in the monster medals, the ability to switch between four heroes, and bashing in dozens of monsters at a time and you have a treat for the Action RPG fan. However, like all DW games, it gets more a little repetitive.
VISUALS AND SOUND – 8 The art and music of Akira Toriyama and Koichi Sugiyama do more than enough to make you forget that DQH was made for both PS3 and PS4. I wish the English VO was better, and more fully applied, but it’s solid enough.
LONGEVITY – 7 You could easily get several dozen hours out of this one. But chances are, unless you’re a completionist, you’ll stop once you’ve played through the story and won’t come back.
VALUE – 9 Your standard $60. For the amount of hours you’ll get, with no Day One DLC or microtransactions I’m aware of, this one’s a fair and honest “buy it all for one price” game. A rarity these days.
POLISH – 8 The camera. This is my big detractor. Like FFXV’s demo before it, Square Enix seems to want to keep you close to the action, which is fine… but when things get hectic as they do in Omega Force games you want to be able to pull back and get a better view of the situation.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.0