Not long ago in my review for Tales of Zestiria, you’re practically required by law to complain about the repetitive gameplay of certain series if you’re a games journalist. If you don’t do this, you go to Gamejail, where you’re only allowed access to an NES and the collected works of LJN. Truly a fate worse than death. So here I am, doing my duty by saying that Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is basically a (Dynasty) Warriors game that plays a lot like other Warriors games. One might even call it repetitive. There, my obligation’s taken care of, so I can say that even though it’s like previous games, that just means it continues doing what works!
There’s a plot in here somewhere, I promise! I was mostly distracted by all the pretty flashing lights and numbers flying everywhere as monsters die by the hundred. I’m pretty sure this one’s about the adventures of the guard captains of Arba, a city where humans and monsters live in peace. After a mysterious cloud of darkness drives the monsters to violence, the captains, their King and a vast crew of heroes both past and present team up to solve the issue via diplomacy, tasteful interior decorating and interpretive dance. Yeah, sure, that’s totally what happens. Nobody gets hacked up with swords or exploded with magic. Right.
This is a Warriors game through and through, largely in the style of the modern iterations of the series. You’ve got your basic attacks, which are ideal for bigger and scarier foes like the portal-opening Mawkeepers, as well as special attacks meant to clear out larger groups of small baddies. Various combinations of these moves will yield new attacks. You’ve also got various skill attacks, available via a skill point system, that cost MP when used and result in more bombastic effects. These vary from character to character. You’ve got your hero or heroine’s giant elemental tornado along with more bizarre choices like DQ4’s Kyril using instant death techniques that, er, mostly fail to work. Musou attacks are here as well, though they’re reskinned as Tension attacks which originated in DQVIII.
Swords and sorcery aren’t going to be enough to win the day, though. You’ll need teamwork to prevail. You’ll typically enter battle with four characters and can freely switch between them as you’d like; the game’s AI isn’t too bad, but it feels restrained enough that you’ll always be the hero in the heat of battle. What’s more, you can also access Monster Medals to summon beastly buddies of your own. Summoned monsters typically serve as sentries, distracting enemies from reaching key points on the map, though some also act as single-use buffs or attacks to give you a little bit more oomph when you need it. It’s a nice system that spices up the Warriors formula quite a bit.
Your various butt-kicking techniques will be put to the test as you battle iconic enemies from the series. There are slimes, of course. We’d expect nothing less than slimes of all shapes and sizes! But there’s others too, including golems, Gigantes and even a dragon or two. Many of these are encountered in boss battles, where you’ll need to use stationary weaponry or carefully aimed strikes to damage your foe’s weak points. Victory will yield levels and money as per usual, as well as recipes and component items which can be combined to make new gear via the alchemy system we’ve come to know and love from earlier DQ titles.
This sort of nostalgia is the reason you showed up for this one, of course, and Dragon Quest Heroes doesn’t disappoint. Characters from all across the series show up to get in on the slime-squashing action. Terry from Dragon Quest VI, a personal favorite thanks to a deep-seated love of the Dragon Quest Monsters games from back in the day, is in and as badass as ever, for instance. Everyone’s also got the goofy accents and punny mannerisms that have come to define the modern Dragon Quest games, which I found incredibly endearing but which you might dislike if you hate fun. Yes, some people hate fun. Sad, I know!
This is a gorgeous game in the typical cel-shaded style, though it does run into the odd framerate drop here and there when there’s a lot going on at once. It’s a fairly easy game in terms of difficulty, though you’ll want to grind a bit here and there to stay on top of the equipment curve and there are a few uncharacteristically difficult battles later in the plot; the first few hours are cake and might give the impression that this is going to be simple, but, well, appearances can be deceiving. The sound and voice acting are top notch; my main complaint comes from the game’s love of the PS4 controller’s onboard speakers, which is an irritation since I tend to play using my headset (see my review of said headset, PDP’s Afterglow Nur, if you do the same!)
All in all, Dragon Quest Heroes is a solid game during a season that looks like it’s going to be packed with winners. Warriors fans and Dragon Quest fans alike simply can’t go wrong here. Newcomers to either of those series might feel a little left out, however, and would be better off checking out other entries first to get a handle on what all the hubbub is about.