- Dragon Quest (Introduction)
- Dragon Quest
- Dragon Quest II
- Dragon Quest III
- Dragon Quest IV: The Chapters of the Chosen
- Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
- Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
- Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
- Dragon Warrior VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
- Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
- Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest
- Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
- Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3
- Dragon Quest Heroes
- Dragon Quest Heroes II
Dragon Quest has always been seen as the last bastion for traditional turn-based RPGs. Despite every evolution other series makes, such as Final Fantasy switching from the ATB system to eventually real time combat, Dragon Quest has stayed set in its old ways. In a way, this is part of the series’ charm, a way to play the kinds of RPGs you played as a kid. This leads the series’ spinoffs to go in a drastically different direction. Enter Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woes and the Blight Below; an action game. Or rather to be more specific, an action game by Omega Force, the developers behind the Dynasty Warriors/Musou series. And depending on who you ask, it’s either a good thing or a bad thing that this is the first game in the series to be in HD from the start.
Massive menageries of monsters. They keep coming. Don’t be mistaken however, Dragon Quest Heroes isn’t the button masher you’d assume games by Omega Force to be. Instead, imagine mixing Musou with the mechanics of Dragon Quest, and then put in a lot of tower defense. That sounds messy, but it really isn’t. This isn’t just a lazy cash grab.
Yes, there is indeed a story, a decently long one too (it’s not Dragon Quest VII long, don’t worry). It’s the Kingdom of Arba’s annual festival, humans and Monsters live in harmony among each other. A world worth striving for. That is until suddenly the monsters go into a frenzy! What could be causing this? Our heroes; members of the royal guard, the methodically thinking Luceus, and the brash Aurora in addition to the goo-rate Healslime; Healix interrupt their fun to to fulfill their knightly duty of defending the kingdom and saving the king. The king definitely can hold his own, but something more sinister is afoot as to why the monsters are going crazy. The wicked Velasco is working to disrupt this peace to ensure the world succumbs to darkness. Upon their quest to learn more about the going ons, they encounter many a character, some new like the inventor Isla, a Engineer, and the creator of so many tools in this game. They also meet displaced heroes from previous Dragon Quest games. Dragon Quest IV, V, and VIII are the big titles on display here. You have the likes of Alena, Kiryl, Maya, Bianca, Nera, Jessica, Yangus, and even Terry from VI. There’s even a hidden character. All with the regional accents you’d expect or remember in the case of Jessica and Yangus…for better or worse. That might sound a bit lacking when it comes to variety, but every character has their own unique weapons.
Aurora and Luceus (as well as Terry) use a sword and shield. Alena uses her fists, Maya uses a fan, Yangus an Axe, etc…This is where you’d decide which weapon sounds close to your speed. You’re going to have to use your selected protagonist regardless, but you can have a full party of four characters. Each character has their own unique special moves, though in the case of Aurora of Luceus it’s a difference in element. Movelist wise, it is all the same though. Tap Square or Triangle, use a face button for a special. It’s accessable to say the least. Special attacks are but a button press or two away. Characters definitely do not play alike however. Experiment with whichever character you like. If you really like just getting combos higher and higher, Alena will be your girl. Lots of punches, if a combo is made, she can even multiply, and her big special attack is Multifist, which just means you’ll have insane barrages of fists every which where. So so so many hands. Let’s say you don’t like that approach. Give Jessica a shot. She has her whip, but her special moves all work to give buffalo and other status altering effects. The Hustle Dance gives a nice heal to your squad too.
Remembering that Dragon Quest Heroes is indeed flowing with Musou blood, it goes without saying it shares many a many mechanics and other likenesses. Of course, there’s many mobs of monsters, ones that usually will not fight back. Other mechanics are ones that are from RPGs as a whole. Grinding, collecting new weapons and equipment, collecting skill points to gain new abilities and skills, side quests, crafting. If you’ve seen it in really any RPG, it most likely came from Dragon Quest…or Wizardry.
The Dragon Quest characteristics really do sell the game though. You’ll probably recognize the Koichi Sugiyama music, of which is all orchestrated and all reused. Opinions of Sugiyama aside, this would be the first time most players (Japan mostly) would get access to these orchestrated versions in game, something to be celebrated. The tension system of powering yourself up is probably the most apparent on a gameplay front. Consider it not-Super Saiyan. Your strength, agility, and defense skyrockets and you can unleash a devastating finisher. Akira Toriyama’s character designs are once and ways front and center. And those previously mentioned abilities and special attacks are all going to be very familiar to fans of the series. Yangus having Parallax and Helm Splitter is going to feel right at home.
What’s an RPG without a central hub town? Dragon Quest Heroes has the Stonecloud. The Stonecloud has everything you need. Your weapon and equipment shops. The place to craft with the Alchemy Pot. A Side quest counter, a post office for in game mail and events. A counter for your achievements as well as one for a holdover from previous Dragon Quest games, the Mini Medal. Mini Medals are a collectable that can be used to trade for common and some really rare items or recipes. They’re rare, but not finite, so spend away if you need to. If you feel the need to repent for sins…or just save your game, a Church is there too. It even lets you charge any Healstones you may find or reorganize your skill points.
There are a truckload of side quests to keep yourself busy or if you’re in the mood to unlock some extras. Unfortunately, side quests in action are samey and just more of what you were already doing. Fight stuff, collect stuff, craft stuff. However, which I did find special was the writing the side quests had. There’s a set later on in the game where Alena is preparing for a tournament and receives Glass Slippers from her father, completely missing the point of the shoes, which was delightfully in character and on brand for her. The reward for said quest is her original design too, tights and all. Because for some reason, they gave her new boots and spats for Heroes.
Musou blood doesn’t run too deep however. If you’re expecting conquering blocks of an enemy team, you’re playing the wrong game. Much like Musou titles like the first Ken’s Rage or big hunks of Band of the Hawk, this is more of it’s own thing. Like mentioned earlier, it leans a bit more into tower defense. Not fully however. You have plenty of combat situations that are purely you just defeating everything in sight. Infested in these fights and many others are Nightmaws. Portals in which the bloodthirsty monsters come out from. Controlled by Mawkeepers, the monsters will keep flowing until they are struck down. Now digging into the tower defense title that keeps getting referenced. Dragon Quest Heroes has quite the tendency to make the player babysit something. Whether it’s an important item or a character, you need to make sure that the monsters do not destroy it. This could arguably feel restricting when all you might want to do is move around the part of the game’s world, but you’re always able to go back after a story mission is done. Whether it be for a side quest, to grind in your choice of increasingly more challenging difficulties, or just to wander if you want to. if you’re brave enough, you can even go into grottos for even stronger monsters and difficult encounters.
A noteworthy addition to the perhaps to few tired formula is the Monster Medal. These occasionally drop when defeating monsters. Upon collecting these, you get a monster added to a bestiary on top of having an in fight summon to use titled Monster Minions. Are you in need of splitting up due to monsters coming from all sides? Throw a monster out and let them take care of the brunt of that force. These Medals are Sentries and will stay in the field until their HP falls to zero. Another type of Minion is the Savior. A one use summon that can do a variety of things. Heal you, recover MP, raise your Tension, or place obstacles on the field like poison puddles to damage monsters.
Here’s a good opportunity to mention the online functionality in Heroes! Events! On some days you’ll get better drops than others, some days are experience booster days. It’s nothing spectacular and comes off as a very lazy way to get people to play every day.
Dragon Quest Heroes came out at a bit of an odd time for the Dragon Quest series in the west. Japan was getting plenty of games from all of the 3DS titles to Dragon Quest X. The west did not get some of those games. It did however get Dragon Quest Heroes, though only the PS4 version and soon a PC release. It wasn’t known at the time, especially by Square Enix’ poor wording, but this would be the start of a decent streak of localizations for the series in the west. Where it went from a new Dragon Quest every few years in the west, 2016 and 2017 would have four games, with one being a sequel to Heroes.