Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is the latest entry in the Dragon Quest series from Square Enix and is a combination of SE’s long-running franchise with the Dynasty Warriors series from Koei Tecmo. Dragon Quest is one of Square Enix’s long-running RPG series in a similar vein to Final Fantasy. Developed by Omega Force, the team behind the Dynasty Warriors series, Dragon Quest Heroes follows series such as Gundam and One Piece that has brought us an awesome blend in franchises. As a huge fan of Dynasty Warriors spin-off games, I was hesitant by the idea of a Dragon Quest outing. What worked for previous titles, I didn’t feel could be replicated here but boy, was I wrong.
The game opens during a festival in the kingdom of Arba with humans and monsters living peacefully together. The tone quickly changes when these endearing and peaceful monsters begin attacking humans with more joining the ranks from mysterious portals opening throughout the city. You’re then given the option of naming the two main heroes, one male and one female, after which you can choose who to control. After meeting with the King and clearing the kingdom of Arba of the threat, you journey around the world fighting off the hordes of monsters and try to uncover why they have suddenly turned against the humans.
Set in a world separate from previous titles in the series, there’s no treading over old ground, a shame; however some characters do make a return in this title. Dragon Quest IV‘s Alena, Dragon Quest V‘s Bianca, Dragon Quest VI‘s Terry and Dragon Quest VIII‘s Jessica and Yangus, to name a few, are all playable characters. Combined with this title’s original characters, they’re plenty to get stuck into and with such a cast of characters the comedic moments are never off. Luceus, our male hero, often wants to plan out a strategy before every battle while our female heroine, Aurora, always has other plans and runs all swords and guns blazing into battle. This becomes somewhat of a running gag through the game.
The battle mechanics will be familiar to those that have played a Dynasty Warriors game and are very simple. There are two buttons for an attack, one that deals heavy damage and one that deals light damage that can be combined into a combo to fill the “tension” meter. When the “tension” meter is full, characters can perform powerful moves that can wipe out a huge amount of enemies in seconds. Separating itself from other Dynasty Warriors titles, Dragon Quest Heroes allows you to use spells and abilities found within the franchise by using a trigger and button combination.
While the battles themselves are a far cry from the turn-based system found in Dragon Quest games, it is everything that’s great about the Dynasty Warriors series and more with the added spells and abilities. It gets better still as in this game you’re allowed to switch characters during missions, allowing you even greater control over the outcome and the ability to work out an effective strategy much to the delight of a certain character. Battles also feel a lot fresher due to the huge and varied bestiary that has been built up over the years. Unlike previous DW titles, the focus is not entirely on the capturing of enemy territories instead during a battle tasks such as defending certain areas or objects take precedence. With waves of enemies attacking from different directions the strategy becomes a game of where you can afford to attack without leaving yourself open.
Visually the game looks great; I can’t really fault it. We get to see some older Dragon Quest characters in 3D for the first time. However, I would have preferred a style closer to that of the One Piece: Pirate Warrior games I feel that would have suited Akira Toriyama’s character designs better. That’s more of a personal preference though. The game features both English and Japanese audio language options and while it’s a nice change of pace to hear English voices as opposed to American ones, it does feel a little children’s television. The game makes use of the PlayStation 4’s controller and its ability to relay sound; generally, this is used to give directions during a mission and while it’s not entirely necessary it’s a nice feature. Shame you can’t switch between the controller and the TV as it does tend to drain the controller’s battery quicker.