If you’re looking for just the score, I gave the game a 13. 13 out of what? 13 out of Fuck You.
In the year 2015 I grew more interested in Dynasty Warriors. I was hitting a slow streak in September. Nothing was holding my attention, and the games that caught me weren’t coming until November. Namely Fallout. So I was following the recent releases as I generally do, through podcasts and through Youtube, when I discovered the release of Samurai Warriors 4 II. What a title! I initially passed by the specific video to return later out of boredom, and the gameplay I saw really interested me. It looked fun, like something I wanted to do in that moment. I bought Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition and played a lot of it. I could go back and play more, and someday I possibly will, because the depth of content the game offered is outstanding. I enjoyed how simple the combat seems upon first touch, complicating unexpectedly during higher difficulties in a satisfying way. It could seem mindless and grueling, but skills evolved through prioritizing, and general knowledge of how the game worked. I had to use specific weapons in certain circumstances, and to really unlock the best items the game had to offer, I had to fulfill tasks efficiently without dying. As a warrior of efficiency, the gameplay really spoke to me.
This wasn’t my first Warriors game. I had played Samurai Warriors 2, I had played Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires, and last year I picked up and played Hyrule Warriors. I liked those games, but none of them really satisfied my desires out of a game like that. They were all just a little too boring, and unappealing to me. Hyrule Warriors came the closest. I completed the story line and the other modes, notably adventure mode, seemed to have a lot of that “something” that made a game something you could easily and endlessly come back to. Yet the boss and mini boss design was obnoxious. They tried combining Zelda’s puzzles with Warriors hack and slash, and it didn’t work for me, and in actuality this is why I don’t really want to play anymore. It was a fantastic representation of the characters from Zelda with gorgeous presentation and an amazing breath of content. The game felt fantastic with a pro controller as well. But not until Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition had I felt addicted, had I found myself thinking about the game while at work, had I discovered gaps of productive creativity time lost to imagining how my world could become musou, how I could fit into a warriors game.
It absorbed me.
And then Dragon Quest Heroes came out. Just a few months after Samurai Warriors 4 II, I did not pick the game up until around Christmas, where I received it as a gift. I was, of course, too busy with Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition on release. I heard very little buzz about the game, which interested me greatly. I’m always into the decisive titles more than those critically acclaimed blockbusters (for proof go look at my top 10 (2015) and notice the lack of Metal Gear). Games that get mixed reactions tend to interest me more.
When I initially played the game I was struck by the presentation. Beautiful visuals and consistently steady frames per second accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack, all of which correctly reflect the series the game is attempting to reflect. Dragon Quest. The characters all come from the main games, with the exception of four originally characters created for Heroes, and the enemies too take reference from the main games, except the main villain who was also originally created for Heroes. The visual design is cohesive enough that you’d accept what was happening, because everything fit in with the world being presented. Oh, every single creature in the world has turned hostile? Oh, life is generated by a single magic tree? Oh, dark magic has divided life long friends? Cool. I buy it.
I really enjoyed the combat. Getting in there and throwing out combos, watching a sea of slimes erupt into nonexistence: it’s a satisfying feeling. The bosses are really fun to fight too. There are times where I have to switch to my crowd cleaner to sweep up the trash enemies, then switch to my healer to heal the army, then switch to my damage dealer to take out a boss, and it feels great. It feels fast, and chaotic. Chaotic in a manageable sense, but chaotic all the same.
I didn’t much care for the defensive missions. By that, I mean mission where the object is to kill all the dudes while protecting one, or several, points in the map. You do this by planting monster medals, which are collected enemies you can throw out Pokemon style. These medals drop by chance, but when you defeat a tougher enemy (boss, or mini boss), you can be totally assured that a medal will pop out. Generally these are the only useful medals to collect, but there are interesting lesser monster medals that become useful, such as the slimes that heal your party once employed, or boulders that explode like bombs and deal great damage.
So what I ended up doing was killing bigger guys, collecting their monster medals, and positioning them near the defense point. Sometimes this backfired, in that there would be too many larger monsters cluttered up for me to properly find and kill the enemies that were damaging the defense point. Other times the damn monster would wonder off and let enemies leak through the defenses, though to be fair this rarely happened. It’s a bit like tower defense, really.
The other major way to defend your point is by teleporting around the map, making sure to hit the points you need to hit quickly, while also teleporting back to your defense point in order to defend it against attack. This is pretty fun. I found myself getting into the groove of quickly switching to my hero character and using the teleport (the ability is called zoom) in tense moments of survival.
The game really liked throwing shit at me constantly. If I stayed in one point too long, like say if I was defending the point I was required to defend, the amount of enemies emerging from their portals would quickly outnumber me, rendering any attack ineffectual until I stopped their generation. Basically, the portals that one needs to close are constantly pumping out bad guys. If one wastes too much time defending one’s defense point, then the point will become overrun. You have to start running as soon as the level starts, and you have to close the portals as quickly as possible. Then when the final wave begins, you have to rush to your defense point and defend. Hopefully you have a lot of good monsters fighting for you, and hopefully your defense point has enough health to withstand the onslaught.
Otherwise, the game’s mission design was good enough to serve up some very fun combat. Sometimes you kill every enemy on the battle field, other times you just kill a specific boss. A few missions had you guard a moving defense point, which was like an escort mission but much less annoying. I found myself greatly enjoying the story missions.
The side missions are boring. Kill x amount of enemy, get x amount of drops, they’re standard RPG fare that you have to focus on in an inefficient manner. Good side mission design is when you have the opportunity to complete side missions while playing story missions, and in Dragon Quest Heroes this happens rarely. Instead there are isolated areas, which once were the host of a story mission and are now infinitely spawning enemies that the player can fight until they choose to leave. Particular enemies show up in particular levels, and each enemy has their own set of drops. The side missions requiring drops are at least nice enough to inform the player which enemy drops the required item, however enemies drop so infrequently that I spent a great deal of time grinding to get these things. I found these side missions much more bearable while talking to another human being in party chat, because the process was so mindless and slow that multitasking became required for enjoyment. To the game’s credit, however, grinding these side missions is a great way to do something while in conversation. You get stuff done while talking about wrestling, or closing that big deal at work, or making plans to purchase drugs. I only really did one of these tasks while playing Dragon Quest Heroes. I invite you to guess.
The combat is colorful. It feels good. You shred through enemies like they’re paper. Unless you composed your party ineffectively. This is an interesting point in Dragon Quest Heroes’ design when compared with other musou games because like a Dragon Quest game you are forming a party and each character must fulfill a specific role. I had Jessica, my healer (and the only healer in the game), Terry, my DPS machine, and Bianca, my crowd manager, accompanying the required Hero character, who is just kind of everything. I happened upon the makeup of this party while reading Internet forums, and it greatly helped, because I was playing the game with a party that didn’t make sense. It was a musou game, I thought, party makeup isn’t really vital. In no other musou is this the case, because you don’t play with parties in those games. Yet when you’re slaughtering hundreds a mission with combos on a large battlefield, your mind goes musou, not RPG. This game strikes a balance favoring RPG. It’s Dragon Quest.
Terry is broken. He has a buff that heals himself with every hit, and he has a buff that makes him attack three times for each hit, making him a fucking wood chipper. He generates tension (which is like a super saiyan mode where the character becomes invincible, magic costs no MP, and at the end a giant super move comes out that generally deals amazing crowd damage) fast, making him the go-to for boss fights. Alena is a good alternative for this role (and was one I favored for a long time being that I found her character much more interesting and likeable) but Terry is just too good not to use. Same actually goes for Jessica because she’s the only healer and she has great crowd control. Same even goes for Bianca, and even though other characters are good enough at crowd control she’s the best. ESPECIALLY against flying enemies. Because she’s an archer. ARCHERS CAN SHOOT FLYING THINGS, fucking stay with me here. Am I talking to a goddamn heard of cattle or a human being? Oh, I’m not speaking at all, you say? I’m typing on a keyboard. Who fucking asked you anyway? So I found myself looking at a cast of characters I couldn’t really use effectively, except for these three. That’s standard for any RPG with multiple characters you have to choose to use or not use, however (perhaps to this game’s credit) I wanted to use them all! Maybe that’s what later playthroughs are for. I almost used an ellipses (…) but I didn’t because fuck ellipses am I right? Yes, I am right.
The other RPG trope this game carries is found in its idea of a hub, which is a flying ship where people hang out and sell you things. The game offers a merchant for accessories, armor and items, quests, monster medal farming, and healing items, while also offering a save your game feature, and a mail service. When you want to trade party members you go to a bar, which is its own room. Tons of NPCs are around to talk, and I didn’t find myself really talking to anyone much even though their dialogue seemed to change quite frequently to reflect the story. It wasn’t that game for me. I didn’t care about the story. It was a simply a serviceable way to explore the missions, which themselves were serviceable ways to experience the combat. The game’s real focus is on the combat.
I really disliked dealing with these merchants however. Everything is too slow. Buying things is too slow, because the menu takes forever the dialogue takes forever and you can only buy or sell one thing at a fucking time for some reason. Making accessories is too slow because with it carries this mandatory jingle and animation that is too slow. Accepting and turning in side missions is too slow because there’s also an animation and jingle, and this is also the case with filling out your healing gems, the main source of healing in the game. Saving even takes too long, and though the game auto saves every time you enter the hub ship you’ll be using the saving merchant a lot when you want to save all that shitty management you just did while interacting with all of these slow as vendors. There should have been one place for all of these services. Dialogue should be fast. You should be able to sell and buy multiples of everything. You can’t even buy or sell two of the same item if you want it twice, you have to buy it, hear a jingle, buy it, hear a jingle buy it. It’s pointless. It’s not fun. All I want to do is get through this part, interacting with the merchants, so that I can get to the combat.
Also that map is too big. You can’t change any of these HUD elements, unless you want to take off the HUD entirely. That’s dumb.
The dialogue through the game’s story scenes is too slow as well. I found myself mashing X a lot by instinct. The game’s characters are good enough that you’ll want to read this stuff, but by the end of the game I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get it over with.
That said I can easily see myself returning because there’s just a lot of fun to had with this title. There’s a new game plus, as well as tons of side content I did not complete. Every character in the game gets their own super weapon, for instance, and I would love to see the damage a fully leveled Terry could do with that thing. I’d also like to experiment more with the other characters. It’s a wonderful cast full of interesting people. Except Terry. He’s really not interesting, he’s just overpowered.
And he looks like Trunks.
Overall I give Dragon Quest Heroes 13 Fucking Minutes Spent Selling One Fucking Item. Wow! My highest score yet!