Dragon Quest is known for being a series of traditionally turn-based RPGS that stood toe-to-toe with Final Fantasy back in the day, but new spin-off Heroes is ditching those origins in favour of something more action-based. Crossing those opposed genre streams seems like a recipe for disaster on paper, but Dragon Quest Heroes (full name is The World Trees Woe and the Blight Below, but whos going to remember that?) seems to be pulling it off with a smile on its face.
I got to spend a good 90 minutes with it, and while it definitely has got a whiff of Dynasty Warriors and Hyrule Warriors about it, its so much more than that. Heres what you can look forward to when it comes to PS4 in the middle of October
Whats this about then, guvnor?
The city of Arba is a place where humans and monsters happily coexist. until about 30 seconds in when a man with a particularly evil-looking moustache works his magic and all of the monsters start attacking people. You play as either Auroroa or Luceous and start on your quest to cut down your former monster-shaped friends while recruiting a band of heroes from previous Dragon Quest games, and journeying through a land filled with flora and fauna from the Dragon Quest universe
It plays a bit like a traditional hack-and-slash game: youre let loose in large stages with objectives to complete and waves of enemies to destroy in a flurry of glorious hipoints. While the combat is action focused, youll return to camp between stages to do all the traditional RPG things like buying better gear and assigning attribute points to learn new skills.
You can combo together heavy and light attacks to cut your way through swathes of monsters, or use magic if youre in the mood for something a little stronger. You can also charge up a super attack that bathes you in a healthy pink glow while you batter the entire field into submission before unleashing one final, devastating attack.
Each character also has their own weapon and distinct style, so getting the right mix of party members is a key component, and with 12 to choose from there will be a lot of room to customise your experience. It feels surprisingly deep from what Ive played so far, and youll continue to unlock even more combos as you level up. But if it gets a little too much you can switch playstyles to one that automatically does the combos for you at any point.
Its a lot more strategic than you might think
Ok, so theres definitely a lot of hacking and slashing involved, but with the fork-waving Mawkeeper spawning monster-spewing portals in various locations theres a lot more thinking involved. In one instance you must protect a generator while monsters attack in waves from different directions. Focus on one portal, and the monsters from another will swarm the generator, so youll need to split your forces.
Luckily you can recruit and use the very same monsters against their own kind As you fight, some enemies get turned into Monster Medals that you can collect and then dispatch to hold the fort while you slice up their kin elsewhere. Its a neat little mechanic that mixes up the Dynasty Warriors-style approach. You start with five slots, but can have up to 16 in a fight, and each monster has its own abilities. While some might stay put, others only appear for one attack. Learning to use them at just the right moment will be the key to victory.
Dont judge it on its looks
Sure Dragon Quest looks goofy, and youll definitely feel guilty when smacking a cheery-looking giant in the face with a magic cannon, but thats part of its charm. Dragon Quest Heroes is ridiculous in the best possible way. All of your enemies smile at you, and each member of your team is delightfully eccentric with hilarious voice-acting to boot.
Its also brimming with the type of puns that would make even your Dad cringe right from the start (the jellyfish-like cure slime Healix it constantly yapping on about how goo-reat things are). Also if youre thinking it looks a lot like Dragon Ball Z, youd be right, the characters are designed by the same artist, Akira Toriyama.
Theres still plenty to enjoy even if you dont know the series
Dragon Quest has never been particularly big over here despite it being hugely popular in Japan, so if youve only got a vague recollection of it you wont be the only one. Fans of the Dragon Quest series will have a lot to love here, with characters from previous entries, such as Jessica from DQ8 and Maya from DQ4, a host of traditional monsters, and plenty of musical throwbacks. But even if you dont know the difference between a Slime, a Cure Slime and a Slime Knight theres plenty to enjoy.
From what Ive played so far it feels like a well-tuned action game that just happens to be dressed in brightly-coloured Dragon Quest clothing. While its not exactly gritty by any stretch of the imagination, its magnificently charming and well worth a look in this October.