Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below
The entire console gaming thing by passed me completely. I went from arcade games of Centipede and PacMan to PC gaming and it was with a little trepidation when I was assigned to cover fellow writer Rob Lashley’s first session on the first day of PAX (his flight the previous night had been cancelled).
Dragon Quest is an RPG series published under the Dragon Warrior name in the US until 2002 (to avoid conflict with a similarly named pen-and-paper game) when Square Enix was able to register the name Dragon Quest for video games with the US Patents and Trademark Office.
The basic storyline of most Dragon Quest titles have you playing the hero who is saving the land from peril, usually accompanied by a party of group members that are unlocked as you play the game. Recurring elements such as certain boss NPCs and their mascot Slime appear in this latest installment which is an Action RPG for the PlayStation 4 and launches in October in the US.
I was handed the PS4 controller, located the X button and watched the opening trailer. The king of Arba’s body guards Luceus and Aurora are out with a floating jellyfish monster (fans will probably start nitpicking at this point for me not knowing what it is) Prince Healix (hint: he heals) enjoying a festival in the city of Arba when a wave of energy sweeps through. When it passes, the monsters that live and work alongside the humans turn on them.
You choose to play either Luceus who is a bit of a pompous fellow and uses fire powers, or Aurora who is rather a hot head but uses ice powers. Our little flying spaghetti monster prince Healix is our healer and the king of Arba aka “The Royal Rumbler” makes up the rest of the starting party.
As I sat back and used the left toggle to move, the right to shift the camera and the appropriate buttons to attack and use skills, I commented, “This isn’t too bad.” And after a few battles, “Now I see why people like consoles, you can totally sit back on a couch and play the game.”
Then I reached advancement for new attack combos. Okay… 4 squares for this one… 4 triangles for that… That’s doable… 3 squares and a triangle… Press right trigger and what? Wait… Okay. I can do this. Build some skills, get new combos. Lucky me. I had selected/boosted one which had you jump in the air and come down hard. While you are airborne, press R1, square and whaaarrrgarrrble…
The game is beautifully rendered and made me think of Japanese cartoons in its fine polish. There is quite a bit of customization and several characters that you meet and add to your party, all which are playable and each has unique spells and abilities to upgrade. As your characters level and the adventure grows harder, switching out between characters strategically will help players get through certain scenarios. Fans will encounter familiar and iconic characters from the series, from Maya of Dragon Quest IV, Alena and Bianca, to Yangus, the thief with a heart of gold from Dragon Quest VIII. All are voiced and fans can look forward to viewing the cutscenes.
Aside from these characters, you can collect monster medals and summon them on the battlefield as allies, or use their unique skills. In major boss battles, you can summon up to 24 of them to fight by your side. The game does auto-save, but there are also Save Game slots that you can use just before a new encounter in case you want a do-over.
As an Action RPG, Dragon Quest Heroes is pretty epic as you carve your way through swarms of enemies and giant monsters turned evil. The graphics and animation are top notch, the main characters Luceus and Aurora, so typical of Japanese cartoons it took me back to my childhood. From the opening scenes, you know (but your characters don’t) there’s one person responsible for the monsters behavior, and perhaps you find out why Healix did not turn when all the other monsters did. Dragon Quest Heroes promises a rollicking good time for those with better dexterity than me, who enjoy a fun hack n slash with a great storyline.