Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below is a name that we don't want to write more than once in this review. It's also the name of a very fun action role-playing game that sees the massively popular Japanese franchise step away from traditional turn-based battles and adopt a gameplay approach that's more akin to Dynasty Warriors. It's no surprise either, seeing as how prolific musou developer Omega Force is behind this latest hack and slasher.
No matter how Square Enix has tried to paint it, there's no denying that Dragon Quest Heroes has a lot in common with Warriors titles. Predominantly, you'll be fighting off hordes of enemies with accessible moves and combos while stomping across somewhat open battlefields – but to categorise this as a re-skinned Omega Force release would be folly, for what's on offer here shouldn't be missed, regardless of whether you're a Dragon Quest fan or a musou enthusiast.
What sets Heroes apart is its many RPG elements. The title comes very, very close to being the perfect blend of RPG and action, mixing statistics, equipment, magic spells, and special abilities with non-stop walloping of monsters in real-time combat. The developer's managed to take the look and feel of Square Enix's colourful series and apply it almost effortlessly to the gameplay formula that it specialises in, and the result is a spin-off that's well realised and brilliantly executed from the moment that you start a new save.
Alongside Akira Toriyama's consistently superb art direction, music and traditional sound effects from the Dragon Quest games have been plopped into place here, which immediately cements a sense of familiarity for anyone who's dabbled in the franchise before. When it comes to presentation, Omega Force has expertly captured the tone of the property – you certainly won't need to worry about the authenticity of the product, even if it comes from a studio that's under the umbrella of Koei Tecmo. From the subtle sound that accompanies dialogue text to the immensely satisfying beeps and clicks that come from navigating the menus, this is Dragon Quest through and through.
Even the story is very Dragon Quest in that it's rather cliché and predictable, but it's told in a very charming way. In a world where people and monsters coexist, peace is one day torn away as the creatures turn upon their human, elf, and dwarf friends after they appear to lose all sense of reason. Featuring a deliciously evil sorcerer and a whole host of endearing secondary characters, the story moves at a relatively brisk pace which feels just right when most of your time is spent waging war against thousands upon thousands of immaculately designed beasties.
Your role in all of this is that of a fearless royal guard captain. With your kingdom under attack, it's up to you and your king to gather allies and beat back your former friends before each and every spot of civilisation is brought to ruin. At the beginning of the game, you're given the option of playing as either Luceus or Aurora, and in traditional Dragon Quest fashion, you're able to give the two protagonists names of your choosing. Your choice of main character determines which of them you'll control in hub areas, and which of them will always remain in your active party.
Speaking of your party, you can take up to three additional fighters out with you on each mission, and each of them comes with their own moveset, special attacks, and equipment. Some party members play similarly to others, but there's usually just enough difference to warrant their presence. For example, Luceus and Aurora both wield swords and shields, and sport the same basic combos, but the former coats his blade in fire for special attacks, while the latter enchants hers with ice.
Clearly, a lot of effort has been put into creating everyone's unique abilities and general feel, and you're able to switch between your selected party members at any time with a push of L2. This allows you to better control each battle, as your companions tend to specialise in specific fighting styles. King Doric is a hulking man with a lot of reach, for instance, and Isla is a long range attacker who's got plenty of MP at her disposal, which she can use to fuel her array of magical techniques. Jumping from character to character depending on the situation becomes second nature as you progress into the harder stages of the game, and subsequently mastering the movesets of your allies makes for a rewarding experience.
It's worth noting, however, that the primary cast of playable personalities isn't as broad a selection as you'd expect from a Warriors-like title, but that's not a problem seeing as how Heroes is structured similarly to a linear RPG. Instead of being separated between various modes, here you'll be placed into a singular adventure that stems from a hub area that houses everything that you need. Alongside main story missions that progress the plot and are usually bookended by cutscenes, you're also able to hop over to the world map and select optional locations as well as areas that you've already been to.
During your travels, you'll pick up side-quests which can be completed at any time, along with maps that lead you to challenging boss fights. Both involve the whacking of yet more monsters, but they're simple, welcome additions that bolster the amount of content on offer. Likewise, you can travel back to any previous locations that feature in the story and fight to your heart's content, collecting experience and materials at your own pace before teleporting safely to your base of operations.
You'll be thankful for the inclusion of these open missions, too, as there is some grinding to be had in Heroes. While the main story stages aren't massively challenging, there are various optional activities that require preparation before you have a decent shot at success. Fortunately, the equipment and alchemy systems are both straightforward, and buffing your party isn't too much of a hassle as a result, as long as you've gathered the necessary materials from monsters that you've slain.
Which brings us neatly to the combat itself. Building upon basic combos which see you pushing square numerous times, more powerful, situational attacks are mapped to triangle, while on the defensive, L1 is block, and R2 is evade. It's an already accessible system that even has an easy mode for those getting used to the controls, which automatically chains together combos for you – so there's no real need to panic if you're used to the turn-based affairs of prior Dragon Quest games.
So far, so Warriors, but things are changed up by the introduction of magic spells and abilities. By holding R1, a quick little menu will pop up in the middle of your screen, and by tapping the corresponding buttons, you can let loose with the desired onslaughts. Some characters boast staple spells from the series, while others flaunt their own unique attacks. On that note, each party member also has their own finishing move which is activated by entering a state known as high tension. Based on a gauge that fills up as you fight, your high tension super deals out huge damage to anything that it hits. Needless to say, it's perfect for the many bigger boss enemies that you'll encounter throughout your adventure – and they all look great to boot.
Given your options when out in the fray, it's not unreasonable to say that Dragon Quest Heroes can become quite tactical, especially since various enemy types demand certain strategies – but a lot of the extra depth actually comes courtesy of monster medals. These one-off trinkets appear on the battlefield randomly after you've taken down a beast, and picking it up gives you the ability to call back that defeated monster and have them act as a sentry. Many missions task you with protecting a specific point on the map against waves of foes, and because your party roams around with you, it's difficult to cover all of your enemy's advances.
This is where you call upon your monster buddies, who have presumably had some sense smacked back in them. You can place your new allies anywhere on the map, so a lot of your strategies will hinge on positioning your captured creatures correctly, leaving them to stop or slow the march of the opposition while you move to a different location and take action there. On top of sentries, saviour type monsters are also available. These beasts don't hang around – they make use of their special ability, and then they're off into the ether. Some may dish out a particularly strong attack, and others might heal a portion of your health or help build your tension gauge. In any case, monster medals add extra spice to proceedings, and using each ally wisely in order to turn the tide of battle is gratifying indeed.
Of course, you can't write a review of a Dragon Quest game without alluding to the always amazing localisation efforts, and Heroes is really at the pinnacle of what's expected. The English voice acting is excellent from start to finish, with almost every UK accent making an appearance at one point or another. And, although much of the dialogue isn't fully voiced, the included text is appropriately tweaked to read as if it's regional dialect – an impressive feat, given how packed the script is to begin with. The standout performance, though, is Healix – a little friendly monster who has the most heart-meltingly, unbelievably cute voice that we've ever heard in a video game.
An incredibly enjoyable action RPG, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below is easily one of Omega Force's most polished productions, as it oozes charm that's amplified by fantastic presentation. Combat is accessible, satisfyingly punchy, and hides depth at higher levels of play, while there's plenty of content to keep you busy after you've seen the well paced story through. Even if you're not a fan of Warriors-style gameplay, we'd still heartily recommend Dragon Quest Heroes to anyone on the lookout for a joyous jaunt in a lovingly made fantasy world.
Any questions just reply to me and I'll do my best to answer!
No questions, just waiting to buy it!
This actually scored higher than I thought it would. Actually intrigued now. Still though, I need DQ11 in my life, along with the FF7 Remake, and Fallout 4, and NMS, and Last Guardian, and, well you get the point, lol
Single player I see. I would still bite.
Hmm, decisions decisions. This or Zestiria?
Looks fun.. one for the back burner, though. I'll pick it up, in time!
@ShogunRok As someone who's never played a Dragon's Quest game, does Heroes offer a good entry point into the series?
@adf86 Each DQ game has a different story, so no worries about having to catch up or anything. I'd say Heroes is actually a pretty good place to start seeing as it plays differently from the rest of the franchise - plus it's accessible in its systems and mechanics.
Excellent read! It's funny how the original DW games become boring so easy, whereas these spinoffs are excellent games you keep on coming back to. I'll surely pick this game up in January because I'm too busy atm, but mostly because I'm afraid that I'll be addicted to this as I was to Hyrule Warriors; these games are like crack to me.
Damnit I was hoping it would be bad so I dont feel the need to buy it...
Ugh grabs wallet
@ShogunRok This or One piece 3?
Quite fancied One piece until I read the review. Now I'm not so sure. I Don't have an allegiance to either franchise.
I'm still not really sure how much exploration there is in this game, and that's what will make or break it for me. Exploration is one of the joys of Dragon Quest for me.
@themcnoisy Tough one. PW3 is fantastic if you're a One Piece fan, but it's still great fun if you're not. I'd say DQ is the more accessible game since it takes place in its own world with its own story, but ultimately it'll come down to which elements you like best.
If you want more of an RPG, go Dragon Quest Heroes. If you want flat out action and bigger battlefields, go One Piece.
@ricklongo No real exploration outside of finding the odd chest in each stage. You pick locations from a map and they're all relatively enclosed - like small battlefields.
About how long did it take to get through the story?
I've preordered this but am still addicted to Destiny and have to fit in The Witcher expansion some time before November's games start coming out...
Brilliant review. I'm glad that the game has shaped up to be something special.
@ShogunRok Have you by chance played Hyrule Warriors? And if so, how does this game compare to HW?
Amazing review, maybe the best I've read on this site . Good job
So basically the game is hyrule warriors, but with dragon quest? Sounds like a must buy to me!
@AyanamiReign If you blitz through it without optimising your party's gear and all that sort of stuff (which you can do) it'll take around 20 or so hours to see the main story through.
@Octane I haven't played HW to any reasonable degree, sadly. But from what I know, they're very similar games. As mentioned in the review, though, DQH is structured more like an RPG, with a linear story and optional objectives.
@GraveLordXD @DominicanGlory @Churchy @Boerewors Thanks very much!
@sinalefa i say that about the mp in games, its flooded gaming , most games waste there time and even big games like tombraider the online was dead as hell not even 2 months in only the same small group was playing . stop wasting resources on mp in games that dont need it and most fans dont want it in certain games . Mp is horrible for 90% of games and dead in the first month only the cod and battlefields have true lasting power but all greedy devs & publishers want a piece of that cod pie so they keep wasting resources in games that are geared for sp and then the mp of there game is dead in weeks.
@godslayer1975 I think @sinalefa was referring to couch co-op and online co-op, which is usually present in Warriors games. It is a bit of a shame that it's not in DQH!
Good god, that name...
@ShogunRok I'm one who only played Dragon Warrior on the NES and Dragon Quest Heroes Rocket Slime on the DS. I enjoyed both greatly, but haven't ever found any others in the series to get. I like some RPG's (Grandia, Evolution, Skies Of Arcadia) but I'm not that big into the Final Fantasy titles (don't like needing a players guide to figure out what I have to do). Is this a pretty simple easy to follow RPG, or one that will frustrate first time RPG players???
Hmm, I really like the sound of this, but I do have hyrule warriors on WiiU which I enjoyed, but never finished. Should pick this up? Will it hold my interest? I've never played a DQ game so wouldn't know any of the characters.
Edit: scratch that, preordered
@JLPick It's pretty simple - you're always on a linear story path that's easy to follow. From the hub area, you just talk to anyone who has a '!' over their head, and then go to the world map. From there you just select the location that has 'Story' next to it. Easy peasy!
I'm a bit confused why people keep talking about this as if it's a mainline game. I mean, people say things like "Dragon Quest has gone real-time" and stuff like that, but did anyone say "Final Fantasy has turned into a fighting game" when Dissidia came out? Rocket Slime is an action game spin-off of DQ as well. There's also Roguelike spinoffs, rhythm games, videogame board games, and arcade games. People talk about it as an entry point into the series but how often do people ask if Mario Tennis is a good entry point for Mario, or if Playstation All-Stars is a good entry point into Uncharted? How about getting into Star Wars through Lego Star Wars?
I don't mean this in an angry or nagging way, it's just quite strange to me. Maybe it's how SE have marketed it, not sure. Perhaps Hyrule Warriors had a similar thing, I didn't really follow that game's development and release.
Great review! Can't wait to play it, since I'm a fan of most Dragon Quest games.
I wasn't even bothered about this until I saw an ad on youtube today, and blimey the graphics look really good.
I've watched some gameplay and I may bite.
Shogun is right. I enjoy the couch co op in these games, so I was thinking this one would be the same. I agree some mp is tacked on and unnecessary, but in other games it really shines.
I was gona grab Zesteria..... Now I think I'll get this instead
Played the demo at GameStop, was pretty fun. And the new Ratchet & Clank
I've been watching people play this on PS Live and the VA's do indeed sound absolutely fantastic. Its persuaded me to buy it. I love games with charm.
@ApostateMage I honestly think no series does charm better than Dragon Quest. It's a real skill!
@ShogunRok quick question, is Jessica's voice the same VA as in VIII?
@ApostateMage HMMMM. That's a good question. It's been so long since I played DQVIII that I didn't notice a difference. I'll try and find out for you.
@ApostateMage Nah, I can't find a definitive yes or no here on the 'net. I'll try to check the game's credits and hopefully remember to see if the original voice is there or not!
@ShogunRok Emma Ferguson was the voice actress.
Thanks anyway, Rob, much appreciated for taking the time to do so.
Pretty high rating rating saw IGN gave it a 6.2
@TuffGong 6.2's quite low, looking at Metacritic. It's currently sitting at 80, which isn't bad at all!
Yeah @ShogunRok been playing it for bout a two hours it's not bad but gameplay a little repetitive and the monsters are kinda easy to defeat jus have to smash buttons and only the bosses serve as a threat. Would give it a 7 though
Im gonna wait for a price drop though, Tales of Zestiria is consuming all of my time now, and with Xenoblade on the horizon and Disgaea5 on my backlog I dont have any time for this right now
Love Dragon Quest and Dynasty Warriors so this ones a total hit - sadly theres no multiplayer (maybe in DQH2???) though, thats another reason why I still wait with the buy
Oh - and the graphics look amazing! Another great PS4 exclusive for sure ^^
@ShogunRok Now I know that if you recommend something, it doesn't worth playing =(. This is the most boring game I've ever played, with the most boring story I've ever watched =(. Your taste is awful =). No challenge at all, a lot of repeatable and annoying things, very little number of locations, stupid rng system. Just meh, hate...
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