Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe And The Blight Below Review – A Bloody Good Slime

Is this game bad? Don’t be Yggdrasilly!

01

Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Format: PS4
Released: October 13, 2015
Copy purchased

Tecmo Koei apparently wants to do for hack n’ slash action what Telltale is doing for adventure games – marrying its core gameplay to any interested parties in the hope some magic will be made. Hot off the heels of last year’s excellent Hyrule Warriors, the fundamentals of Dynasty Warriors pay a visit to Square Enix in order to bring us Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below.

The result? It’s very different, whether you’re playing because of Dragon QuestDynasty Warriors, or both.

Though there’s a nucleus of the button-smashing hack n’ slash combat for which Koei is (perhaps notoriously) known, the influence of Square Enix’s RPG sensibilities are deeply rooted within the whole experience.

Combat may be grounded in simple combo attacks, but they’re flavored by mana-draining spells – performed by holding down a shoulder button in conjunction with a face button. Rather than build upon strings of melee attacks like usual Warriors games, Dragon Quest Heroes expands its spellcasting and boasts a party of four playable characters that can be switched to at will.

Hyrule Warriors was already an impressive blend of The Legend of Zelda and Omega Force’s sequel-happy schtick, but Heroes takes the idea even further, working hard to create something that feels unmistakably Dragon Quest despite the constant battery perform upon hundreds of enemy peons.

02

Many of the game’s missions feel more like Tower Defense games than typical Musou stages, often charging the party with something to protect. While a handful of these take the form of dreary escort missions, most of them are cleverly designed battles in which you’re constantly trying to stem the flow of monsters while ensuring a key target doesn’t get destroyed.

Clever use of Monster Medals can help swing a battle in the player’s favor. Oftentimes, defeated monsters drop Medals which act as a means of summoning said monster. Some of these creatures unleash one-shot attacks, but most of them act as sentries, spawning on the battlefield as an allied soldier and guarding a position until defeated. Here, the Tower Defense elements really shine, as players are encouraged to use their minions as guards while they take out strategic enemy spawn points.

Naturally, you can only have a certain amount of Medals at once, so choosing the right beast for the right job is imperative.

It’s a fantastic new spin on the usual Warriors flow, replacing its regular “kill the enemy general” objective with something remarkably more strategic. Battles can get hectic, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in collecting monsters and unleashing them on their former comrades.

04

Sadly, monsters are a bit less effective at working for you than they are at fighting you. While the idea is to use minions as defensive sentries, a lot of them are rubbish at their job, which means that you can’t safely rely on them to protect key strategic areas. No matter how many or how powerful your guards, the protected objective invariably takes considerable damage whenever you leave to try and win the fight.

Sentries certainly help, but it can be annoying to have a hugely defended position and still find that your gate or magic tree root is getting inevitably battered by the opposition.

Quick movements and a keen eye on the battlefield (it helps to have a map), however, will ensure victory in most situations. It’s an intense game, perhaps moreso than any Warriors style game yet released, with not just mindless peons to take down but a regular influx of large, boss-tier opponents. Despite the anarchy, as well as the potential frustration factor of its defensive nature, Heroes remains an impressively well balanced game provided you keep an eye on the objectives.

03

Not all missions consist of defending a location. Some are more about fighting from one end of a map to another, and you can return to previous areas in an endless mode, hammering away at waves of monsters until you’re tired. There are also some proper boss battles to engage in and scads of additional side content piled on top besides.

What really makes Heroes stand out is just how much of the Dragon Quest spirit is lovingly preserved. A traditional alchemy system is in place, allowing for the crafting of accessories, while everybody’s favorite helmeted blacksmith is on hand to sell increasingly powerful weapons. Mini Medals are earned and traded for special loot, and there’s even a full-fledged Monster Hunter quest board, charging players with such tasks as killing a certain number of enemies or gathering a set of materials.

The option to switch between four characters in a single fight adds variety to any battle and evokes the feel of playing with a real Dragon Quest party in realtime. Familiar spells like Kabuff and Kasnooze are wielded by certain characters, and each hero has their own distinct playstyle with a series of unique and recognizable attacks.

Every playable warrior has their own skill tree with expandable attacks and stat buffs, as well opportunities for costume and weapon unlocks.

05

The “musou” system seen in regular Warriors games has been given a touch of DQ flavor, replaced as it is with Tension. Tension builds as a character strings hits together and racks up combos. Once the gauge is full, this tension can be released to give players temporary invulnerability, the power to use spells without consuming mana, and an ending coup de grâce that deals huge damage to everything on the screen. Tension takes a while to build, which once again gives it a more tactical edge – unleashing its power at just the right moment can be a critical decision.

I would have liked an option to move around the map at a swifter pace. While battlefields aren’t as huge as they could have been, it can still get tedious to slog around any given arena. As the game progresses, the main player character (able to be named yourself in time-honored DQ tradition) gets the Zoom spell, able to fly to key areas of each map, but even with this handy ability the lack of horses or even a Hyrule Warriors sprint can be a pain.

Mission structure is stunted as well. After every battle, you have to return to the game’s hub-world airship without an option to just move onto the next challenge. Most story quests have reams of text to get through before and after, adding to the sense of drudgery. It’s no dealbreaker, but Heroes has a tendency to risk its own momentum with a somewhat inconsistent pace and some ponderous mission progression.

Dragon Quest Heroes is massively entertaining and, like Hyrule Warriors before it, an impressive blend of two genres that go surprisingly well together. One weakness, however, is its story. While competently voice acted with a charming range of British regional dialects (Cor Blimey!), the narrative is impossible not to cringe at with its stereotypical framework of light versus darkness and the usual “friendship can accomplish anything” guff that accompanies far too many anime storylines.

It all gets a bit too twee for my liking, though there are some smart moments – the idea of monsters being former allies, and their nature being subverted in an unexpected way, is a unique idea I wish had been more of a driving plot point.

Oh, and Healix needs to just shut up. Shut up forever.

06

It would be a grave error not to say the game looks damn gorgeous. Akira Toriyama’s beloved designs look fantastic despite this title eschewing the usually obligatory cel-shading, and his range of cheerfully silly monster designs are brought faithfully to life. Colors are vibrant and bright, while attack animations are superb. Everything just looks so pretty and the impact of attacks have some real weight behind them. Recognizable DQ series music litters the entire experience, too, right down to the retro chime you hear whenever a mission is completed.

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is a beautiful game that does more with the Warriors franchise than the main Warriors games have done in a long time. Despite putting hours and hours into the thing, I’ve got plenty yet to do, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it so far. Aside from some poor pacing decisions and a rather limp narrative, Tecmo Koei has made lightning strike twice by merging two franchises together in yet another surprisingly brilliant way.

With its smaller scale, party-based character system, and variety of both magic and mundane attacks, this is a production that carries all the trappings of a Dragon Quest game in the shell of a Musou experience, with a large dose of defensive strategy and even a dash of Pokemon-esque monster collecting on the side. While not quite the revelation Hyrule Warriors was, it’s nonetheless another case of lightning in a button-smacking bottle.

Also, it has metal slimes in it. They’re a bugger to catch.

God, I miss Dragon Quest VIII.

9/10
Superb

Daryl Corey
Guest
Daryl Corey

I am not only playing this game now after seeing Jim’s youtube video I am bouncing between it and Dragon Quest V on my 3DS. Would be VIII but I don’t want to mess with getting my PS2 hooked up

RedWolf
Guest
RedWolf

Gah, I was hoping this would be on PC, but no such luck. Pity I don’t own (or want to get) a PS4, I’d probably sink hours into this game.

JackedYourBox
Guest
JackedYourBox

you never even played Moonlight Blade and you give this game 9/10? You said you like dynasty warriors but you never played Moonlight Blade? ignorant.

trn
Guest
trn

Yeah, DQVIII… I remember playing that sat in a dank little bedsit, was it really ten years ago? It was one of those games that made the world feel like a happy place bathed in eternal summer. I may have had no money, no job, no food, no friends, but I had my monster arena team and I had my favourite metal slime hunting spot 🙂

ElektroDragon
Guest
ElektroDragon

Healix is goodamn awesome, you can goo to hell for not liking him! Maybe you should give him another goo. Alright, I’m gooing away now.

NotActuallyHere
Guest
NotActuallyHere

One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, Samurai Warriors 4-II, Dynasty Warriors 8 Complete… Throw in Toukiden Kiwami, Bladestorm Nightmare, Dead or Alive Last Round and Deception Nightmare Princess and more than half of my PS4 collection will be Tecmo-Koei after I buy this thanks to this review. I regret nothing.

I AM A TENT
Guest
I AM A TENT

oh Jim….

Joe Bell
Guest
Joe Bell

Ahhhh! I really don’t want to have to buy this cause of poor but goddamn it looks so fun.

Logan Graham
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Logan Graham

When are you planning to get around to Minecraft: Story Mode and Persona 4 Dancing All Night? If you can’t fine, but I also desire gratification.

MuddBstrd
Guest
MuddBstrd

Calling it now: if this does well, we’re going to be getting Dissidia: Final Fantasy Heroes. Which, honestly, I won’t complain about.

creep
Guest
creep

These Breast Are Awesome…. ehh i mean theses Girls are Awesome … yeah Girls … heheh

William Walsh
Guest
William Walsh

I think it awesome that Sterling has a favorite franchise that he loves to death and promotes the heck out of. Because who the hell else is of this franchise. Every review he does of this series makes me want to jump in and give it a chance. Thank God for you Jim Sterling

L O' Brien
Guest
L O' Brien

I am very interested in this, but the only Dragon Quest I’ve played is 8. Will a lack of ‘Oh I know that character’ outside of Yangus and Jessica put a big dampener on my enjoyment? I occasionally enjoy a bout of DW. Loved Ken’s Rage, liked KR2, dabbled with 4 and Bladestorm, and the changes here seem promising.

Dave Dogge
Guest
Dave Dogge

looks like a purchase for me .. it’s £54.99 which seems like a tad expensive … maybe 15-20% off would be a better deal to wait for.. Also …with those Origin user accounts hacked and leaked recently I looked at my old Origin account I haven’t used in years and I saw the price of Battlefield 2 on the PC which was a special edition with all the DLC packs etc and it was £29.99…. so in 6 years the price of games has doubled I reckon. I dunno the price is WRONG in my opinion – too high.

StrongStyleFiction
Guest
StrongStyleFiction

I’m three to four hours in and thus far, this game is pure joy for me. This game really hits my love of old school jrpgs in a very unique way. That’s just a first impression as I’m not very far in, but so far so good.

Enuo
Guest
Enuo

Hey Jim, I’m sure you probably get asked this on a daily basis, but can we get married?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I would love to see more cross overs with the Warriors franchise.
Like, I would love to play Fire Emblem x Warriors. I’m sure they could do something with the perma-death and rock-paper-scissors weapon.
…and I also would love to see Dynasty Warriors as a Fire Emblem style turn based strategy rpg as well… because I’m weird.

Stephen Mc Devitt
Guest
Stephen Mc Devitt

I definitely want this and Dragon Quest VIII for 3DS. Square-Enix better not screw the west over this time. That said, I see potential for a Final Fantasy Warriors. I wouldn’t even mind if Omega Force use the models from Team Ninja’s new Dissidia arcade game.

TheBeaver748
Guest
TheBeaver748

I love dynasty warriors, and hearing how great HW and DQ are, It just makes me wish they’d make a game with a franchise I actually give a shit about lol

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

Hey!
Hey Jim!
Did you hear they put microtransactions in Payday 2?!

Malfious
Guest
Malfious

Gosh, a game I may need to finally turn my PS4 on for once I buy it

Andrew Davis
Guest

Even though I have no connection with the franchise, don’t own a PS4, and am not interested in the genre I still enjoyed reading this excellent review. 🙂

Nes
Guest
Nes

But I don’t want to buy a PS4 Jim. I have a PC. I don’t need this or bloodborne please why are you doing this to me.

Daryl Corey
Guest
Daryl Corey

Fun review

oraoraikuze
Guest
oraoraikuze

ha ha
did you crop out the square enix copyright logo from the screenshots?
you sly devil you.