Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Review Context: I am not the biggest fan of the good old Dynasty Warriors formula, but have gotten my fair share of fun out of some of its titles and spin-offs. I want the formula to revitalize itself and I’m still waiting for that moment that recaptures that initial experience.
Date of Playthrough: June 2016
Dynasty Warriors and Tecmo Koei have created a phenomena. One that whether you like it or not, has cranked out numerous games and side games to famous series. The hack n’ slash button masher which is Dynasty Warriors, is a style that has a huge following of dedicated fans to it with its high octane and remotely easy and familiar gameplay. If you have played one, you most likely will have played most of the franchise and spin-offs. I have never been one to be drawn in by the flashy nature of its gameplay, or moves often resorting to passing on multiple iterations for a long time until of course Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below. Taking some the franchise’s more beloved characters from a select amount of games, it hopes to take that same Dynasty Warriors energy and apply it to create another hit. Does Dragon Quest Heroes make enough changes to the formula to stand out, or can it be written off as just another Dynasty Warriors style cash grab?
Dragon Quest is a long running series of classic JRPG games and one only later in its life that was given to the West. This release in particular had me a bit confused since Dragon Quest was not the most popular title in North America and games such as this are for fans of the franchise, as they get a mishmash of both characters and monsters from multiple titles. That being said, Dragon Quest Heroes tries to make the most of its premise with an actual story that tries to meld in some lore of the games into its own. It is a pretty basic fantasy story; the child of the dark tries to throw the world into chaos by turning all the friendly monsters back into their violent selves in order to bring back his dark lord. Only the children of light and those guardians who protect them can stop him.
There is no need to previously play any Dragon Quest games prior to this one, yet you will lose out on some of the hints and nods that each of the characters are given. Each character though has a distinct enough personality to negate that as most are likable in a campy fantasy sort of way. The accents used in the English voice acting cast are stereotypical, ranging from the Russian, to Indian, all the way to some from the UK, such as Scottish and Irish. Each accent helps to further distinct each character, along with their interesting garb that fits their positions to a T, much like Bianca and her hunter garb or the two main characters and their soldier uniforms. From Yangus the bandit with a heart of gold to the gold loving dancer Maya, every character is distinctive with a wild personality to them that is surprisingly enough explored a little bit within the games side missions. This kind of simple yet distinctive character design allows the player to gravitate to them, despite not even having heard of these characters previously. This game could act as a gateway to other games in the franchise, familiarizing the player with characters to feel more comfortable with the stories and casts of the more traditional Dragon Quest titles.
There is a surprising amount of detail to the simplistic story, coupled with some deliciously campy dialogue. They dedicate many cutscenes to introducing the returning characters, detail the world, and give depth to its characters, even if it may be shallow. I give it props for giving this amount of effort for a spin-off game, but that does become somewhat of a problem. More often than not the plot loves to shove itself in your face with endless amounts of dialogue that is both repetitious and intrudes on gameplay during the story. For an RPG that is good, as it needs a solid story, but a game focusing on these “Dynasty Warrior” type mechanics is more hindered because of it. This is more of a nitpick than anything, as I believe this is one of the better stories to a spin-off Dynasty Warrior styled game. I just don’t believe games of this nature are there so much for the story, but rather to have fans of the franchise finally get to see their favourite characters clash, much like the appeal of Super Smash Bros. initially.
The gameplay is actually a bit more complex than the average ‘Dynasty Warrior clone.’ as it focuses on utilizing many different other mechanics to try and create a RPG hack n’ slash fusion. Don’t get me wrong though, the same button layout and play style does not differentiate from past games. Each character has their specific skills, and only three others besides your chosen main character can be brought along on a mission. During battle, map awareness is actually key to adapting to the numerous wormholes of spawning monsters, each with their own gatekeeper. The enemies may be taken from the other games and they still seem to lack enough diversity to stand out. Monsters that are stronger usually have a new coat of paint, as even one of the bosses is just a black version of a pre-existing monster. That being said, you can capture said monsters and use them for your own benefit. These captured monsters have one of two abilities; either protecting you by having their own life bar or by utilizing an ability they have for a one-time use. These sentry units will hold up space in your monster capture bar, and some may take up more than one space depending on how strong they are. This forces the player to continually multitask as utilizing these monsters can help you strategically stop enemies from attacking certain points as once a sentry is put down you cannot move it and it only patrol a certain area. Utilizing these sentries can mean the difference between victory and defeat, as many maps are constructed in a way that the enemy can reach the certain item or person you need to protect in multiple ways.
This forces the player to have map awareness more so than the occasional base capture in other titles and play a more defensive style. In a way, the game is quite reminiscent of a hack n’ slash version of tower defense. Each character has a grid of stat upgrades and abilities that can be unlocked through points. They have the average abilities on the right, with the character specific ones on the left. As well as purchasing all of your equipment, which while it looks cool, gives very arbitrary stat upgrades besides the synthesized accessories. Now those two things give this game an air of “RPG” that it hopes to meld, but sadly it just comes off as a bland attempt at giving the hack n’ slash style a bare-bones makeover. These classing up elements lack the intrigue that class systems and the plethora of equipment with numerous abilities and upgrades and just seems slapped on. This is where we start to see the very large cracks in the armor that is the deviation from the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
Yes, this game does play out as a tower defense styled hack n’ slash at points. This is only further accentuated by the amount of times you have to constantly repeat the same mission over and over again. The hordes of monsters then begin to be rather tedious, as fighting the same hordes of generic creatures will get tiring after the first map. The boss battles try to remedy that, but are often just a rush to destroy the enemy in a one-on-one fight with iconic monsters from the franchise. The gameplay gives the air of adding spice to the generic formula and instead decides to, very early on, rest on the laurels of its predecessors. Dragon Quest Heroes itself is a fairly long game, but much of that comes from the standardized story and numerous dialogues to be had that often don’t add much of anything. The game and its maps may have an understanding of what could make it great, such as map awareness and multitasking to increase the difficulty, yet never fully realizes its potential and instead decides to rehash the same thing over and over again in a different setting.
Now Dragon Quest Heroes is not an offensive game by any means, and for fans of the franchise it will give you numerous hours of enjoyment. Sadly, what seemed like a good initiation to Dragon Quest and its characters turned into a slog, as I managed to finally finish the game after playing through the game for over 40 hours. That is only the tip of the iceberg though, as there are extra side missions to complete unfortunately that involves grinding, and that is where this game is at its most tedious. Grinding for items to complete side missions will force you to fight the same flurry of monsters over and over to ad nauseum. There is little to no point in playing to complete the exceptionally hard quests, as you will not last to see the end, unless you enjoy endlessly fighting the same hordes of monsters again and again. This, coupled with a standardized story and campy dialogue, which I love but I can definitely see how it can get boring, easily halts any interest the game should garner outside of its fanbase thus becoming just another ‘Dynasty Warriors’ cash grab. Dragon Quest Heroes has good ideas to shake up the hack n’ slash formula and actually manages to be fun if for a short while, but in the long scheme of things is too boring and repetitive to be worth playing for those outside of the Dragon Quest fandom.
Similar Games Liked:
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (PS3)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam Breaker 2 (PS3)
Similar Games Disliked:
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (Xbox 360)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Dynasty Warriors (Xbox 360)