Dragon Quest Heroes: The World’s Tree Woe and the Blight Below is an interesting game. At once, it offers you the relentless pleasure of slaughtering Blue Slimes (cute-looking killer blobs, for those of you who are new to the franchise) and allows you to play as different characters from the Dragon Quest universe. It’s like Dynasty Warriors met Dragon Quest and had a baby. It goes back to the old-school pleasures of hack-and-slash while still offering plenty of character development, skills and quests. Last year, Hyrule Warriors attempted to do something similar with the Zelda franchise. Dragon Quest Heroes takes a slightly different approach to its plot. In Hyrule Warriors, players did a lot of interdimensional travel to get to different worlds in the Zelda franchise. Here, heroes from all over the franchise assemble, a la The Avengers, to kick some serious ass.
You’ve got a laundry list of heroes to pick and choose from. At the forefront are Aurora and Luceus, captains of the Royal Guard. They’re joined by a genius inventor called Isla and King Doric, a staff-wielding monarch. The four of them by themselves are capable of carrying a Dragon Quest game by themselves. The characters play nicely off each other. Aurora and Luceus have an interesting dynamic which you’ll see play out through cinematics and in-game dialogue. There’s a small section in the game where you’re asked to play as one of the other eight characters in the roster. For the most part, you can stick to these four and still have a great time.
Dialogue wasn’t always a part of the Dragon Quest series. It took seven instalments for a line to finally be spoken in the franchise. It’s a lot of fun to hear the new characters and how they interact with each other and the world around them. For a roster of this size, it’s impressive that the game manages to keep the individuality of each member of the roster. When you take them into battle, they offer a unique play style, and aren’t just reskinned versions of the same generic character. If you’ve been following the series for a while, you’ll enjoy seeing characters like Kiryl and Alena rendered in gorgeous 3D. The voice acting is uniformly good, and draws you into the world of the game.
Itself is completely generic. There’s a light faction and a dark one. The heroes are called Children of the Light. Don’t look for a deep and complex narrative in a Dragon Quest game. There are monsters to slay here. The game begins in a utopia of sorts, where monsters and humans have established a peaceful existence. Enter Velasco, an evil wizard who reminds the monsters that they’re supposed to be doing bad things to humans. And thus, the hacking and slashing begins.
The Dynasty Warriors formula has been the presence of a map-wide war where opposing factions fight to conquer one piece of land after another. Unfortunately, most games based on this formula essentially become a race to the finish, where the team who kills the opposing generals first, wins. There’s a lot less of this mechanic in Dragon Quest Heroes. Here, you’re conquering maws, which are basically spawn points for enemies. Once you’ve defeated the Mawkeeper of a certain maw, it’s gone forever. However, the campaign missions will create multiple maws during each battle. Then, it becomes a rush to eliminate all of the maws while keeping your team alive.
The Battle System:
The parts of Dynasty Warriors that Dragon Quest Heroes does stick to are the good ones. The battle system for this franchise has been refined over more than a decade of development, and it’s now a rollicking beast of a good time. You’ll unleash aerial attacks, multi-hit combos and special moves specific to each character. Basically, the motto here is simple – see monster, kill monster, move on. With each kill, you have a chance to gain a medal which represents that monster. This feature, called Monster Minion, allows you to summon monsters you’ve slain as allies. This gives rise to another interesting gameplay system. Different monsters are effective in different situations. If you’re too trigger-happy and summon a monster when you’ve already almost won a battle, you might regret your decision a little later when tougher foes show up. Monsters also don’t follow you around. So you can essentially drop them at strategic spawn points, giving incoming monsters a deadly surprise. You can also use monsters to guard objects. Just spawn a few high-level monsters around the thing you’re trying to protect, and you can go about your day without a care in the world. Since this is a Dynasty Warriors-based game, you’ll also spend a lot of time upgrading your heroes and enhancing their abilities. Your basecamp allows you access to an alchemist, a blacksmith, a church and a bar. Use them as you feel appropriate.
So, if you’ve been waiting for another Dragon Quest game, there’s a lot to love here. Since the turn-based mechanism is set aside, you can really unleash some mayhem on the battlefield. There’s a wide roster of characters to enjoy, and casual gamers and returning players alike will have a lot of fun. If you’re looking for some old-school hack-and-slash RPG goodness, you can’t go wrong with Dragon Quest Heroes.