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Dragon Quest Heroes is an enjoyable but flawed game [Republish]

After finishing off Persona 5, which was an intense and rollercoaster ride of a game, I wanted something a little more mindless to cleanse my palette. I knew that Dragon Quest Heroes (DQH) was a hack-and-slash title and thanks to a sale on the PS Store, I picked it up for a decent price.

To date, I’ve sunk just over 50 hours into the title, which is a little more than I wanted to for a filler game. For the most part, it’s time well spent, but not all exciting.

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What is Dragon Quest Heroes about?

Dragon Quest Heroes, or Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below as is the full title, takes place in an alternate universe to all of the other games in the series. As the standard Dragon Quest (DQ) story goes, monsters are running amok and an evil overlord is threatening the world. It’s up to the two main characters, Luceus and Aurora, to find out what’s going on and eventually save the world.

Along the way, you’ll pick up a few original characters and a slew of favourites from previous DQ entries, such as Yangus and Jessica from DQ VIII. Each character has been brought into the heroes’ world by a mysterious force, while on their own journeys. As far as I can tell, DQH isn’t canon to any of the mainline games.

The game has a very strict story progression system that doesn’t branch off. After successfully completing a mission, a new piece of the map will unlock, which is always the next bit of story. It’s rigid in its storytelling, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not enjoyable. For the most part, I read every bit of text for the adventure, but not so much for the sub-quests.

When it comes to DQH’s sub-quest, the majority of them are dull, at least for the tales they try to tell. There is a large section of the game that gives all of the characters from other DQ games some time to shine, but it’s not at all interesting. For these sections, I skipped over most of the text as I realised I wasn’t missing out on much.

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How does it play?

DQH is a standard hack-and-slash RPG. More specifically, it’s from the studio behind the Dynasty Warriors titles, KOEI. Yup, this is actually a Dynasty Warriors game in the DQ universe. Even though I’ve only ever played Dynasty Warriors Gundam (PS3) and an early launch title for the PS2, the mechanics are a perfect fit for DQ. I cannot tell you how many time I squealed upon fighting a slime or a skeleton.

The combat is fast and furious as you primarily bash away and the square and triangle buttons for attacks. Each character has their own sets of moves/spells that can be pulled up, but besides tapping the attack buttons several times, the more powerful bits are mapped to a pull-up menu. It’s basic, yes, but still highly enjoyable.

Most of the game consists of either clearing a map of all enemies or protecting an object/person. There’s a slight bit of deviation here and there, but that’s pretty much it for the game. There were many times where I’d play through a map and watch a TV show at the same time as DQH didn’t demand all of my attention.

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My biggest complaint with DQH is in its level and scaling system. Characters will gain experience by defeating monsters in combat, which will increase their level and stats. Each level gained also comes with a few ability points that can be sunk into more moves, passive abilities, additional health, etc. After level 40, these additional points greatly decrease, which makes grinding a difficult job. The majority of my characters are now around level 50, but receiving a point a piece per level. It’s tedious.

Your party’s AI doesn’t seem to make the game any easier, either. While they’re all competent enough, slashing at enemies and casting spells, they tend to stand around. There were too many times when the characters would stand still in the heat of battle, taking in everything around them while wondering where their lives went wrong. Well, at least that’s what I think they’re doing. The game would have benefitted from the ability to give your team specific tactics, such as healing or casting spells as a priority.

After a certain point, the game’s difficulty does ramp up. This takes the form of monsters suddenly requiring more hits to take down, which your characters stay at the same strength levels. Even the average zombie will take a few combos to die once more, which lengths the time that battles take. The near-end-game and post-end-games content should have received additional tweaks so that it wasn’t such a slog. This where I stopped enjoying the game, but continue to play in order to unlock more PS Trophies.

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How does Dragon Quest Heroes look and feel?

Like all DQ games, the artwork at least conceptualised by Akira Toriyama. Yup, that guy behind everything Dragon Ball (though Dragon Ball GT is debatable). The characters and the world are beautifully rendered on the PlayStation 4 with gorgeous detail. I haven’t noticed any real performance problems with the title, though some may be disappointed that it runs at 30fps.

The monsters look especially fantastic, from the trolls to the King Slimes, and those getbackhereyourlittlebastards metal slimes as well. If you’re a long-time fan of the series, chances are you’ll marvel at all of the 2D sprites brought to life in 3D, while not realising you’re being attacked.

The environments are varied and enjoyable with some missions only giving you access to a portion of the map for an area. Be warned that you’ll be revisiting these locations over and over, but they’re all still gorgeous. The reuse of the same areas does become somewhat stagnant 30-hours in.

And, finally, I come to the sound portion of the review. DQH contains almost all of the signature tunes from the DQ franchise, along with a few new pieces as well. It’s an absolute joy to hear the franchise’s opening theme. Not to mention having the traditional boss theme blaring away as you fight something several times your size.

My complaint with DQH’s sound stems from the voice work. While most of the voice actors are decent enough and fit with the characters, the protagonists are arguably the weakest. There were far too many times when the two characters would speak incredibly fast in order to keep up with the movement of their mouths. It’s a bit jarring, but nothing that will detract from the overall game.

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The final verdict for Dragon Quest Heroes

DQH turned out to be a much more enjoyable than I initially anticipated, if a bit long. The combat was fun, furious, and easy enough for anyone to pick up. The story was average which some skippable scenes. If you’re a long-time fan of the DQ franchise, then I do recommend you pick this one up, but only if it’s on sale. For anyone else, rather jump into a standard DQ game before trying this one out.

Overall I was happy with the game and it was well worth the money I spent. I am trying to acquire all of the trophies, but don’t be too surprised if I eventually give up.

This post was originally published on My Backlog. The article (barring meta tags) had not been updated or edited in any way.