Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below PS4 Review
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Omega Force Genre: Action RPG Players: 1
Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3 (Japan only)
The first Dragon Quest game on a PlayStation platform in a decade isn’t what a lot of series fans would have been hoping for. Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is not a classical Japanese turn based RPG but is instead an Action RPG spin-off developed by Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, which unites the bright and cutesy nature of Dragon Quest with the chaotic hacking and slashing of the Warriors series.
What is unlikely not to please the fans is the lovely Dragon Quest flavour running rampant throughout the game. Familiar music and sound effects are used throughout and you’ll take on the usual cute enemies and can zap them with magical spells from the series. Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii was involved, Akira Toriyama is, as usual, the character designer, while composer Koichi Sugiyama also worked on the game. All of this assures that, while hardly playing like a Dragon Quest game, The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below certainly feels true to the series from an aesthetic, sonic and thematic standpoint.
The game also features a large roster of playable characters from throughout the series history consisting of favourites like the good hearted ex-bandit Yangus, the feisty mage Jessica and the purple haired dancer Maya. Such memorable personalities are joined by fresh creations Luceus (who, amusingly, comes up with long winded strategies) and Aurora (who tells him to shut up), Isla the skilled inventor, and the highly jubilant King Doric, all of which feel at home in the Dragon Quest multiverse.
Plot wise, the worlds previously friendly monsters have began attacking its denizens, for mysterious reasons. Like typical Dragon Quest fare, it’s a simplistic, but well told tale of good versus evil. A lot of care has also gone into its localization, with excellent dialogue and well delivered voice acting and a refreshing range of UK and European accents.
The game adopts the empowering large scale hack and slash combat of Omega Force’s own Warriors series. Many battles feature Mawkeepers, which will continually spawn monsters until you defeat them. Battles allow you to assemble a party of up to four and freely switch between them as the situation calls for. The other three are AI controlled and, in Warriors-like fashion, they’re dim, though help you out with healing spells and such to a reasonable enough degree.
Combos are carried out with taps of the square button and triangle button and you can use magical abilities, the more powerful of which you must hold down a button to unleash. Each character has few combos and abilities, but being able to switch between them to make use of their capabilities helps to ease the monotonousness somewhat.
There’s a Tension gauge which, once full, allows you to enter High Tension, a temporary state, which makes you invincible and allows you to use spells and abilities without expending MP, as well as unlocking the ability to double jump and allowing you the opportunity to use the most powerful attack in each characters arsenal: the Coup de Grace, which is the games take on the Musou ability from the Warriors games, allowing you to take out a full screen worth of enemies with a visually dazzling attack.
Monsters can also be captured and deployed on the battlefield, which adds somewhat of a strategic edge to the mostly brainless hacking and slashing. You have limited slots and the more powerful creatures will fill more than one, so you must often decide if you should free up slots to make use of their abilities. Upon summoning, each monster will activate an ability, such as casting stat boosting spells or healing your party and, while some will then vanish from the battlefield, most will stay around to guard their posts. Even though they’re not the brightest bunch, with strategic employment they still have the capabilities to tilt a battle in your favour while you go about carrying out your crazy hacking and slashing.
Missions offer little in the way of variation. You’re essentially either tasked with wiping out all the monsters or protecting something of importance from enemy attack, but in between all this there’s a hub you can wander around, where you can purchase new equipment or use the simplistic alchemy system to create accessories that offer various enhancements for your party. You can also take on sidequests (which are repetitive fetch quests and such but are worthwhile for the rewards) and such and use the skillpoints earned through battle to upgrade character stats or learn new skills. This side is pleasing and very Dragon Quest, but is outweighed by the hack and slash combat, so still won’t be enough to leave much of an impression on some fans of Square Enix’s series.
Those with a dislike for the usual Omega Force fare will find little to impress them with Dragon Quest Heroes, whilst Dragon Quest fans looking for an experience in line with the mainline series will be disappointed in this more action driven take on the franchise. If you’re into both the Dragon Quest and the Warriors games however, Dragon Quest: Heroes is a delightful combination, that makes proficient use of elements from both series of games.