Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4) Review

After checking out the import copy of Dragon Quest Heroes lent to me by my friend, I eventually bought my own copy of the US release.  More than just a Dynasty Warriors game with a Dragon Quest skin, they game does add new elements to a familiar formula, even if it isn't always for the best.

Combos are similar to the Warriors games, with weak and strong attacks.  For some characters, the strong attack at the end of a combo will give different moves.  Unfortunately, this is for less than half of the characters.  Even more unfortunate, the combo caps out at four attacks.  The rest of the characters have even less moves, so the normal attack strings end up feeling too simplified and limiting, even if there are some cool effects with them.  Even more strange, this is the more complex mode for attacking.  I'm not sure what they are saying about Dragon Quest players, but this is far from the most appropriate Warriors-style game to put that limitation in.

Each character will also have some magic skills to use.  These are mapped to the face buttons when holding the correct shoulder button.  Most are attacks of some kind, but the characters usually have one buff or heal, too.  These all cost MP to cast, and some can be charged if you buy the appropriate skill.  Most are really cool to look at and helpful in combat.  Whenever a character levels up, they gain skill points that you can use to buy the action skills or a whole host of passives.  Some take a lot of skill points, so either save up, or pony up the gold to re-spec.  Thankfully, that is an option.

Besides the normal combat, Dragon Quest Heroes has many stages where you must defend an object or person from waves of enemies.  At various corners of the map, there are enemies that open a portal to summon more and more enemies.  Since you can't break up your party, or enlist the help of another player, you must use the very monsters you are fighting.  Sometimes fallen foes drop monster coins, which can be used to summon a monster to help out.  There are two flavors, sentry and savior.  Savior is basically summoning the monster for an attack, and the coin is gone afterwards.  Sentry monsters stay around the area summoned to, and help fight off other monsters.  Basically, you want to kill monsters, get the coins, and summon them to defend one or more lines from the portals, while you run to the other and clear it out.  Rinse and repeat until all the portals are down and the monsters flee.

The story mode boils down to three stages types.  First is kill all, which is pretty self explanatory.  Second are the defensive missions explained above.  Third are the boss fights, which are against giant creatures.  Usually there are turrets or something else around to help you fight these gigantic threats.  I think the defending missions are an okay addition to the game, but there were too many of them for my taste.  This felt really out of place, since tower defense isn't an integral part of either the Warriors games or Dragon Quest.  I would have preferred a few more kill all, and maybe some bigger maps for them, too.  A few more traditional DW style levels would not have hurt the game.

The story is a pretty loose good versus evil tale that makes excuses to toss in characters from different Dragon Quest worlds and make you have to protect someone or something a lot of the time.  It's not overly hard, but sometimes enemies dish out very high damage for no real reason.  There are also a multitude of side quests to take on, which are usually go kill X amount of Y enemy, or bring me X of Y item.  Rewards are money or  extra items to help with the accessory crafting system.  While you cannot replay story missions, you can go to their areas and fight never ending streams of monsters.  These are what you use to grind for either experience or items, and it actually works pretty well.  Although, giving more experience would have been a nice boon, or at least having much smaller areas that just keep spawning enemies.  I really like these stage types, but they could be fantastic with a little tweaking.  It would be nice to have these in other Warriors-style games.

If you read my preview of the import version, you may remember that I liked the way the game looks, but am not too keen on the audio.  This still holds true for the localized version.  The game looks great.  Akira Toriyama's art style translated wonderfully to 3D.  The locations and spell effects are really cool looking.  While the music and sound effects are super legit and appropriate, they feel really disjointed because they feel so old.  While I almost always love it when a game is so appreciative of its source, I think they could have made the sounds more modern to better fit with the game.

Also, there are a few other holdovers from the Dragon Quest RPGs that drag down the experience.  Some functions, like saving and pretty much everything else on the airship, just have too much text.  I know you came from an RPG, you don't have to have extra text every time I need to use these services, save that for actual dialogue.  After saving at the church, they still ask if you want to go to the title screen.  Yes, it is traditional in a DQ game to have that, but it hasn't been necessary for the last 20 years, either.

So, is the game worth playing?  If you are a Warriors fan, it is worth trying out, but only buy it if you really like the defending stages.  Fans of Dragon Quest will likely get more out of this, as it is legit to a fault in its presentation.  The game was fun, but the tower defense missions were too numerous for something that isn't appropriate to either involved franchise.

The Good:
The game looks great, and adds a new mechanic to a familiar formula.

The Bad:
However, they use that new mechanic too much.  The old school sounds are appropriate, but don't mesh with the rest of the presentation.

The SaHD:
I really wish I could disable the characters talking through the controller's microphone.  It's really annoying.  I do hope they make a more traditional mash-up with Final Fantasy soon!

(Dragon Quest Heroes was purchased by the reviewer for under $20)

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