Dragon Quest Heroes II Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Sony PS Vita and Sony PlayStation 3
Back for another round in the Musou genre, Dragon Quest Heroes II returns us to the Dragon Quest universe with enough hack-and-slash action to numb one's thumbs. Straight off the success of the original (which did exceptionally well in Japan) Heroes II looks to build on the established formula adding a few extra mechanics and ramping up the kill count to create an Action RPG that’s easy to understand and enjoyable to play.
Bringing together characters from all previous Dragon Quest games, the story takes place in a new world with new main protagonists, and a new narrative. There’s no need to have played any other Dragon Quest game to enjoy this title, but veterans of the series will get a kick out of seeing their favourite DQ characters in a new setting, fighting together. The game wastes no time introducing the gameplay, the setting and the many RPG systems that enrich the hacking and slashing. Its simplicity is honest and robust and to some this may be a turnoff, as any hardcore JRPG fan may be looking for more depth, variety and strategy.
Within the first hour the player is introduced to Accordia, the world’s capital which acts as the hub for all your roleplaying needs. Trading, crafting, choosing your party, customising your abilities and every other RPG tradition can be accessed from this central area. Accordia can be accessed at any time too, meaning you’re never stuck out in the wilderness and unable to buy yourself that new sword you’ve been saving up for. Access, choice and freedom make adventuring simple, and fun. The game never feels like a slog because of this; the ability to travel around to specific fast travel points makes it easy to pick up and play a couple of battles without worrying about being drawn into a three-hour mission with no save points. A Switch release is planned and it definitely merits a portable element.
When you’re not spending time in Accordia you’ll be out in the Wild Areas doing a lot of flashy combos and button mashes, as is the way of musou titles. Omega Force has been working on titles with this engine for years and they’ve refined the system to a T here. It’s a joy to hack down the fantastic looking characters plucked from the Dragon Quest universe. You’ll encounter all sorts out in the field - axe-wielding dragons, giant trolls, wooden puppet men and element-specific enemies like flame wisps and ice golems. Being involved in epic battles against huge armies of giant monsters is quite the spectacle, and you’ll have plenty of weapons and abilities at your disposal to fight off the hordes of baddies. You can take up to four characters into battle, and each character has specific traits and abilities, meaning there’s a certain amount of strategy involved in selecting your party. On top of this, the main characters have the ability to choose a “Proficiency” which is essentially a character class. Available options include Warrior, Thief, Priest and other RPG staples which can be selected and upgraded, allowing you to choose how you play. Grinding and upgrading your proficiency is an integral part of play but the outcome is rewarding, as you see your damage input increase and your abilities chain together with the rest of your party.
If simply using weapons and spells to cut down and destroy your enemies isn’t enough, the game brings back the monster medal system established in the original title. This allows you to collect special medals on the battlefield which give you an extra tactical option for you to use when you see fit. There are three types of medals, one allows you to transform into a monster and wreak havoc for a limited time, another allows you to summon a monster who will instantly cast a spell or perform an action, and the last allows you to summon a minion who will fight for you against your enemies. This last medal type allows you to essentially create your own mini army and place it in strategic positions on the battlefield. The monster medal system is unique but it’s a shame that these medals cannot be permanently collected or kept for upcoming battles - they disappear once your mission is over.
The campaign will take you twenty to twenty five hours to complete and while the story is suitable for introducing the world and keeping the scenarios ticking along, it’s a shame the characters and narrative aren’t more engrossing, especially considering the rich lore within the Dragon Quest universe. As well as the campaign, there are plenty of quests to take part in ranging from defeating a number of foes to collecting specific items hidden across the lands. Then there are the multiplayer elements. Whilst you can call in friends or online counterparts to help with solo quests, most of the online elements focus on joining others in clearing dungeons. It’s great to join up with others to clear out hordes of enemies and makes the game feel more akin to something like Diablo III. However unlike Diablo III, the game doesn't support any sort of local multiplayer - not being able to team up with friends locally feels like a missed opportunity.
It’s hard not to feel happy and cheerful when playing through Dragon Quest Heroes II, its aesthetic and tone is endearing and its traditional Japanese silliness makes it particularly charming. It’s a game of few surprises and to some its simplicity may be dull and tedious, but for players who are tired of complex RPGs with systems that take hours upon hours to understand and master, it may be worth their attention. Since this is a musou title repetition is a given and if you’re not a fan of the hack-and-slash gameplay found in Dynasty Warriors games or similar, then this title isn’t likely to change your opinion, but it’s got plenty of heart and a dedication to accessibility and playability.