What do you get when you mix two of the safest, most repetitive series in gaming together? You guessed it, Dragon Quest Heroes! Nothing to see here right? DQ Heroes mixes the relentless button-mashing combat of Warriors games with the traditional JRPG structure and familiarity of Dragon Quest, but the result isn’t quite as as you’d expect. The game has no more grinding than any series would normally have, instead combining the charm and customisation of each series to make a better version of both. I’ve finally got my hands on the PS4 version after getting tired of waiting for Square-Enix to localize it on Switch and take our money (it’s been “coming soon” for 2 years with no release date still), and I’m having a blast with it.
Crikey almighty! The first thing that struck me with this game is that this is the best I’ve ever seen Dragon Quest graphics (having not played DQ11 yet). Really simple things like the pots and barrels stand out with immense detail at a resolution and framerate I have never seen for this series before. It’s nothing too impressive compared to other AAA games, but the Dragon Quest fan inside me excitedly rotated the camera around every plain object in admiration. Dragon Quest Builders is another game with a very impressive graphics engine of its own, but Heroes feels closer to real Dragon Quest games with its more realistic and colourful graphical style. I would go as far to say that it’s the best looking Warriors game I’ve played. It’s more rich in colour than Hyrule Warriors, and significantly more detailed than One Piece Pirate Warriors, with more monster and character variety than Fire Emblem Warriors.
The controls have a bit of weight to them, and Heroes is a little bit slower than other Warriors games. You can’t dash around the map at the speed of light but instead you have the famous Zoom spell to travel to waypoints. You can also cycle between 4 characters but it feels a bit pointless when they all just stand together and follow each other anyway. I only really switched characters to use up everyone’s tension bar, exploit enemy weaknesses and revive the party. To actually spread out you need to tame monsters and deploy them at key parts of the map. Monster Medals will drop from monsters you slay, and this allows you to cycle through a monster menu with the dpad at the bottom of the screen. You can either use them to assist in your fight or drop them at key places you need to defend. The camera is also very close to your character which I never really got used to, it’s not a huge deal but I found myself wishing I could zoom out a lot, especially when a lot of missions require you to pay attention to different areas of the map.
The slow strategic approach to battles in this game almost makes it feel like a tower defense game, and this makes it feel a lot less mindless than other Warriors games. It’s a double edged sword as some battles can drag and the defense objective is used so often, it starts to get repetitive itself. “Oh, another defense mission”, a character jokes. One of the two main characters (I forget his real name as I named him Grubdog) also plays this aspect up by being a complete nerd on strategy and approach. He never stops talking about strategy in cutscenes until the rest of the crew tell him to shut up. “Let’s just slay some enemies”! says his female companion Aurora. She’s clearly a Warriors series veteran. To be fair on Grubdog, there is a lot going on in this game and strategy is important. I’m still not sure why they chose this direction. This is something I was expecting more out of Fire Emblem Warriors. It doesn’t really make sense in the Dragon Quest sense for Dragon Quest Heroes to be a strategy based game, but it is a refreshing take on Warriors gameplay at least.
Instead of completely relying on Dragon Quest lore to design this game, Heroes (much like other Warriors spinoffs to their credit) features brand new heroes and a new storyline. The plot itself is not going to win any awards for creativity but I found it to be serviceable and enjoyable. Monsters who used to be friendly have turned evil by an unknown force and together you try to figure out why, and hold back hordes of turned monsters by destroying them mercilessly. Wait, that IS pretty much every DQ game isn’t it? Well, there’s a new enemy and heroes at least! There’s also dramatic appearances from classic Dragon Quest characters in typical Warriors spinoff fashion. I’m not too caught up with older Dragon Quest titles so a lot of appearances did nothing for me besides Yangus and Jessica. The game has very impressive voice work for all the main characters, with Yangus’ cockney accent returning in good form. A random part of the story I enjoyed was hearing the word Yggrasil said out loud. I always said Yiggdrasil but it’s pronounced igg-drass-ill without the Y. Maybe obvious to some people but just thought I’d mention it. The funny thing about Heroes story is that it actually explains things better than the main games in some cases. There’s an actual dragon to fight, for one. Also monster medals actually have a use, and mini-medals are awarded for achievements instead of just being found randomly. (there are still some found in chests too for purists)
The music is typical Dragon Quest, which is to say great but if you’re a DQ fan then you have probably heard 80% of these songs before. They still sound exactly the same which didn’t bother me too much, as it’s been a while since I’ve played Dragon Quest and it was fun to get back into these songs. I do wish they would have remixed them at the very least to add a new flavour. Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors have some incredible remixes. Oh well. The real highlights are brand new songs that play on the results screen and other random places to my surprise. I was also taken back when hearing a song from Dragon Quest Builders play in the arena. It’s exactly the same which feels really lazy even though it’s one of my fav DQ songs.
I found the structure of this game immensely enjoyable compared to other Warriors games. This is what gives it the edge. It takes many simple things from Dragon Quest like stats, crafting, and while the amount of customisation is the same in other Warriors games, I just found it significantly more manageable in this game. It’s nice having an attack value of 26 be considered high instead of 2842752972. Also nice to have new weapons come into the shop every few hours, instead of being dropped and discarded like candy. You really have to think about whether it’s worth buying a weapon or not, and for which character. The candy of this game is ingredients you can use to craft items, hand in for quests or just sell for gold. It really hits the sweet spot between RPG optimisation and slashing for profit. When the missions get challenging there’s always something you can do differently or improve. Every Warriors game I’ve played has immense depth in customisation, but I haven’t felt this satisfied optimising a Warriors game before. It’s the kind of game where it’s fun to spent time in menus and in the hub. The hub is laid out like a Dragon Quest town shopping district, with a weapons dealer, pub, alchemy pot, cathedral, quest lady and NPCs walking about with stuff to say about current events. It’s very homely and scratches the DQ itch very well.
Just a word of warning though some of the ingredient quests are poorly translated and say the incorrect enemy drops. The one that got me was grubby bandages, you’re more likely to find them on Walking Corpses than Skeleton Warriors. You can kill hundreds of Skeleton Warriors and not find a single one, but you need 3 for the quest. Walking Corpses can give you 3 fairly quickly, a bit of a random thing to add to a review but I hope that helps someone. You can also just trade mini-medals for them at 3 medals each which is quite expensive, but the reward is worth it for a bigger material bag. Everything else besides the actual useful quest info is translated and written very well though.
Dragon Quest Heroes doesn’t really innovate anything but doesn’t need to. It is simply fan-service wrapped in a fantastic game and I highly recommend it to any DQ or Warriors fans who will each get a lot of of this. To everyone else, not much besides a solid game. Come to think of it, I’ve never played a Dragon Quest spinoff that wasn’t good. They have somehow maintained very high standards across multiple developers. Heroes has very high production values and provides a lot of entertainment through the story, battles and basic progression.
Recording your adventure log…
Please do not turn the power off.
May the goddess watch over you always, and may you find solace in Dragon Quest, on any console or title.