Last year, Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U proved that there’s still life to be found within the whole “Dynasty Warriors formula” thing. After all, Omega Force has been producing these games for years, with countless soldiers falling to your high and mighty warrior without breaking a sweat. The games got repetitive, sure – they still do to this day – but there’s a certain flair about how you take them out, especially demonstrated by Hyrule.
But I’m pleased to report that Dragon Quest Heroes – and its weird sub-name The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below – also takes the experience a level above. That’s not to say it works all the time, but it stays connected pretty well for the most part, and that should please fans that have been looking for something new out of their typical DQ adventure.
The game follows a pair of king’s aides – who strengthen their party as they go along – as they combat a world filled with monsters, most of which come across as adorable. Hey, that’s Akira Toriyama’s design for you, making things so anime-like that you can’t help but feel engulfed in this world.
Choosing between Aurora and Luceus at first – both with their own unique attack styles – is just the beginning, as you’ll soon encounter a world filled with various side quests and main missions, involving beating monsters to a pulp and, along the way, recruiting more members for your party. The three-member dynamic works incredibly well here, as you can switch between characters and make the combat feel a little fresher than, say, just controlling the same old guy and girl. Plus, it never hurts to bring someone new into the picture if a colleague is being overwhelmed, right?
The game’s cutscenes can drag from time to time – especially when you want to get into the action – but the combat as a whole is satisfying, if a slight bit repetitive. You, of course, continue pounding away at enemies, building up enough tension to create super moves that can really clean house, especially on bosses and large Stone Golem creatures that can take a beating. It’s also great to take care of a section filled with enemies and eventually overtake it, and slowly work your way across the land as you try to relieve it of monsters. Of course, it’s anything but easy, as they just keep coming.
In addition, being able to recruit monsters is a golden touch for the game, as you can summon a few (depending how many slots are available) to help you out. The Slimes are adorable but useless, but some of the better monsters provide great opposition to your opponents when you need them the most. You do need to collect medals to activate them, but there are plenty to go around.
Along the way, you can improve your own strength and skills through various trees for each character, through a small mini-camp. New weapons also become available, as well as the ability to save via a small church. The small town isn’t really much to look at – it is literally the size of a pair of 7-11 stores – but it’s a decent hub to catch up and see how you want to balance your party. You can also check in on optional quests here, if you feel like letting off some steam and straying from the main missions for a bit.
While there are times that Dragon Quest Heroes strains visually, Toriyama’s design continues to be a treat, especially when it comes to the various Slimes available (they’re adorable, c’mon) and the way heroes interact with the world. Some of the atmospheric touches are fantastic as well, as you go from countryside to countryside, clearing out goofy portal creators and eventually seeing the tranquility of what remains.
The voice acting isn’t bad, but some of it can take some getting used to, as Luceus can be a little too cocky for his own good, despite barely surviving in battle. Aurora fares much better, and that King character is humorously fitting with his machismo. The music is good too, just about right when it comes to nailing down the Dragon Quest vibe.
How you get into Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below depends how much you can accept the whole Dynasty Warriors formula. Yes, it’s repetitive, and some battles seem to go on for what feels like forever. But there are distinct touches that make it stand out, like summoning monsters and a nearly endless supply of side quests. Plus, Toriyama’s delicate art style is something all PS4 owners can certainly savor. His work never gets old.
If you’re a fan of the series – or you just want to let loose with an abundance of hacking and slashing – these Heroes are for you.