Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Blight and the World Below (PS4)

DragonquestHeroes01Omega Force, the developers behind all of the Warriors seem to have been busy throwing their hack ‘n’ slash franchise together with every big IP under the sun. However they show no signs of slowing down as here comes their latest collaboration with RPG powerhouse Square Enix for Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Blight and the World Below. The crossovers they produce are usually well received but essentially they’re just a typical Warriors game re-skinned with characters and environments from another franchise. What makes this crossover so different is that it goes the extra step to create a near perfect game blend.

Imagine a kingdom in which humans and monsters live together in peace and harmony and you’ve got the setting of the Kingdom of Arba, the world in which we find ourselves. For a very short period anyway, as the monsters suddenly turn on their former friends possessed by some dark force and run riot throughout the world. This prompts our two Royal Guard Captains, Lucea and Aurora (although you have the choice of renaming them) to embark on a quest to recover the hearts of their monster friends. To add in an extra plot twist heroes of past Dragon Quest games have been dragged from their worlds into Arba such as whip-wielding warrior woman Jessica (DQ VIII), solitary swordsman Terry (DQ VI) and ardent archer Bianca (DQ V). The story starts off rather well but eventually it falls into the typical light versus dark plot that we’ve seen way too often. What really stands out is the amount of comedy the game possesses. This really comes down to the quirky cast such as Aurora’s dismissive nature towards Lucea’s long drawn-out strategies or Alena’s (DQ IV) headstrong approach to every situation.DragonquestHeroes04

The gameplay here is typical of the series, using the square button to chain standard attacks together with triangle’s heavy finishers. Eagled eyed Warriors veterans will notice that there is also a new MP bar, pressing the R1 button brings up a list of powerful magical abilities that can only be used by consuming magic power. Finally to finish off your fight skill set bashing monsters fills up a tension meter which once filled gives you invincibility along with more powerful attacks. It’s just mindless button-tapping action, despite how simple the combat is it’s still fun and addictive to mow down armies of weak units. Surprisingly the control scheme can be made even simpler by switching to another setup where you can assign combos to a single button which makes combat feel very automated. The only other combat mechanic is the ability to switch control between your 4 party members. Each character comes with their own fighting skill set, most play very similar but there is enough variation to hold interest. It adds some variety to the flashy combos you can muster but most importantly adds an actual RPG mechanic where you have to plan a team around character’s strengths. Switching out to certain characters to utilise support magic skills can really help in sticky situations.

Anyone familiar with the Warriors franchise will know that battles can last anything from 20-50 minutes as you are explore enormous maps and undertake a huge series of objectives. That’s not the case here as the average length of fights is cut right down to just 15 minutes. Map sizes have been massively reduced, the number of units is significantly lowered and the main objective in each fight revolves around defending a key strategic stronghold while defeating monster generals. The main criticism is the combat is never free-flowing, there’s a heavy stance on switching between offensive and defensive tactics and you can’t go on the same sort of rampages as you can in a traditional Warriors game.

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A minions system has been implemented to help beef up the combat and add a deeper level of strategy. After defeating a foe occasionally they drop a monster coin which allows you to summon up that particular enemy to fight on your side. This means summoning monsters directly to the battle field to get stuck into the onslaught, having them unleash area clearing techniques or slow enemies with status ailments. As battles usually depend on defending some key strategic point utilising minions well is hugely satisfying. For example you could use them as a last line of defence or have them slow the flow of monsters while you hunt down generals. You could potentially have up to 6 monsters on your team but the larger, heavier hitting fiends take up multiple slots so there’s a nice level of micro management involved.

As you progress eventually you manage to get hold of a flying ship to explore the landscape. Well technically it’s a floating city but who’s going to argue. It’s your main hub between battles allowing you to manage your current team roster at the tavern, purchase better weaponry and equipment from merchants, save your progress at the chapel and check your post. Also added in is a quest counter where you can take on a seemingly endless list of side objectives such as obtaining a set number of items or defeating certain enemies. It’s a typical feature in the Dragon Quest series and while it may not look like much it does add a considerable amount of replayability while giving players some decent rewards. Also you may find there is a bit of level grinding involved to advance the plot, so earning some extras while you’re stuck tediously replaying levels makes this experience feel a bit more rewarding.

This being the first Dragon Quest game to make it to HD (at least in the west) we need to talk about the graphics. You can’t deny it’s a very pretty game, brimming with bright colours, varied and interesting foes and overly stylised character models. Dragon Quest games also have a notably good reputation when it comes to localisation and this game is no different. Don’t get me wrong, the Japanese voice acting is very enjoyable but with the English dub nearly every UK accent appears at some point in the story which is fun to listen to. The voice cast for the most part really is fantastic and even when there isn’t any spoken dialogue the text continues to add to it as it reads like the country’s dialect.

Dragon Quest Heroes is perhaps the most near perfect crossover of any of Omega Force’s previous attempts. The story never really gets that complicated but it moves at a decent pace and the characters’ little quirks make it enjoyable. However you can’t help but be disappointed by what’s not there. The stripped back combat mechanics mean you can’t go on epic rampages like you could in Warriors games, and while there are a lot of strategic elements it’s never as deep as the Dragon Quest games. There is still more than enough content available for fans of both franchises to sink their teeth in to.

7.4
Positives
+ Dragon Quest characters have never looked better
+ Decent amount of strategic mechanics for a Warriors game
+ Lots of extras to keep you playing for hours
+ Quirky cast of characters
Negatives
– Story loses it’s edge in the later levels
– Stripped back gameplay

This review is based off a review copy of Dragon Quest Heroes provided by Premmier.

This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.

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