Adorable Dynasty Warriors has returned! This time the world is a bit bigger, brighter, more detailed and definitely tougher.
I had to remind myself what the heck Dragon Quest Heroes II was before reviewing it. It has been a little while since playing the first and during the wait Dragon Quest Builders came and went (superb game, by the way). My easily confused mind was mixing up a block building game, an RPG and an all-out action affair. Thankfully, my mind was only half right, which it generally is these days (getting older does that to you) and I found myself engrossed in an RPG/action affair that will hopefully continue in the near future.
Anyway, memory issues and gray hair aside, Dragon Quest Heroes II is an exceptional game that is both high in quality and content quantity. It’s so unusual for a Dynasty Warriors structured game to have so much more to it. It’s not surprising that the action side is spot on what you would expect from a DW game, but it’s incredibly surprising that Omega Force did a beautiful job of integrating a solid Dragon Quest component into that Dynasty Warriors action. I mean, you could see it coming with their Hyrule game, but not on this scale.
With Dragon Quest Heroes II you great role-playing game elements embedded deep into a hack and slash experience. For example, leveling up works just as you would expect in a DQ game. The tree is consists of HP/MP/Special move upgrades that can be activated by gaining skill points during fighting. When you level up, you gain a point. That point, or a set of points, allows you to unlock stronger skills or powers within all the characters in your party. With those acquired skills/powers, you can set certain macros on the controller that allow for you to pull of a special move, or do healing, during battle. Think of a Bioware Knights of the Old Republic tree and you get the picture. Again, this is all classic RPG upgrade and improving a character elements and structure
In addition to the leveling, the game also features lively cities where the players can upgrade weapons, armor and various other items. For example, if you wanted to pick up a dual set of swords or upgrade to battle axes with some of your characters, you can do so within the cities. On top of this when you pick and choose your weaponry, there is a system in place during the purchase that helps out less experienced gamers choose what is best for their characters. It tells you who can use what items and how that affects their attack or whatever. It’s simple and intuitive, but nonetheless, like the leveling, it’s classic RPG elements, and it’s incredibly helpful to a younger set of gamers who have never dipped their gaming souls into the RPG waters. Anyway, there are a variety of cities that act as rest stops between action sequences, all of which add a little bit more depth to the overall experience.
Continuing the RPG trend in Dragon Quest Heroes II, you have a group of people to take care of and switch between during battle (L2 on the controller does a fast switch between characters). While we’ve discussed the upgrade system and the weapons you can choose for each character, when the battle in the game begins, you can depend on certain characters to perform certain acts. For example, you can have a character with the power of healing to help out needy or fallen teammates, or you can have a character that is positively a brute that takes out loads of enemies for you. You equip your characters the best way you can to ensure your survival during heavy battle sequences, which are a plenty in the game. I mean, it is basically a Dynasty Warriors game at the heart of it, so it’s not exactly surprising. Knowing that your characters will help out in different ways helps to bring up actual strategies before battles begin. In short, this helps you put together a game plan for certain battles. That type of character preparation and variety help to make this more than just a hack and slash experience. It borders on an MMORPG personality.
All of this is what makes the Dragon Quest mixture in this assumed action game more prominent than beyond just a fancy name.
Now, staying with action, which is the aforementioned heart of the game, it is furious and sometimes lengthy. The first big battle you’re going to go up against will take you at least 30-40 minutes to complete. I cannot remember the last time that a DW-based game had me take that long to complete a stage, but the first time around in Dragon Quest Heroes II it is what you should expect. Your team will guard a king and lead the charge to protect him (and others) from harm, while waves of enemies keep coming and coming. Reading that you would assume that these waves would drag the game down a bit when it comes to excitement because, really, how many waves of enemies do you keep killing before it becomes a bit drab? There is certainly a point where that happens, but for the most part the enemies are so creatively done that you’re given a nice variety of visuals to keep your mind occupied. Seeing a goofy caped hooligan storm after you or a nasty cloud that shoots lightning at your team is something to behold, even over and over again. My point here is that you will have big battles, but they won’t feel big or dragged out unnecessarily, which has always been a stickler for me with the DW series. The action is well done and it is geared towards a bevy of gamer types.
Of course, the game does its best to keep your mind occupied with other things, such as offering up a belt where you can store fallen enemies and activate them for your own usage. Sometimes you take on their persona, like becoming a giant golem that can kick the crap out of smaller enemies — and even big ones, and sometimes you merely bring up enemies from the ground to fight with you. Regardless, the concept is neat. Now, how it works is simple. To acquire the enemies, you defeat them and collect a coin/POG-esque floating thingy (I know, very professional to describe it that way). The smaller enemies take up a small amount of space on your belt, while the bigger enemies take up 2-3 spaces at a time. Regardless of space, the idea of this in a game is so neat and helps to keep the action fresh, especially during long durations.
And this is one item of interest to keep the action a bit more interesting, but it’s the first one you’re going to run into.
Staying with enemies, there are such a creative variety of them. All of them are straight from Dragon Quest and cartoony as hell (which isn’t a bad thing). The variety, much like the coin/POG, helps to break up potential monotonous action. Beyond those garden variety low-hanging fruit enemies, skeletons and mummies, though they are pretty fruit, the bosses are something to behold. The bosses are generally huge, vicious and flex their muscles at every given chance. This means that if you’re expecting a cakewalk to earn goodies or progress the story in Dragon Quest Heroes II, then you’re in for a rude awakening. You’re going to have to strategize your characters, their powers and make sure you find the patterns within the boss’ attacks. They have patterns, but there is little flex room for misfires. Be cautious and also sit back and enjoy the challenge.
Now, if there is any downside to this title that is glaring, it would have to be the A.I.. I will say the bosses are fine with A.I., though some patterns of attack from bosses are easily recognizable. I have to give that a pass because there are going to be a lot of young gamers diving into this game, so it’s more for them than for us seasoned veterans. The easier time they have with the game, then the more likely they’re going to adopt the series. That creates some nice longevity, so I can’t fault Omega Force for doing this. That said, A.I. issues come into play, at least in my experience with the title, when you depend on your teammates a bit.
Once in a while your teammates might have a problem recognizing situations where you need help. Six out of 10 times you will have a teammate, who is predominantly a healer, heal you during battle. The other four times you might be waiting around the war zone for them to recognize you need healing. Sometimes that waiting becomes a problem when enemies come after you. If you move, the A.I. seems to reset a bit and you have to find another place to stop and wait for healing. This pattern of A.I. isn’t consistent at all, so sometimes you’ll be right as rain with constant healing. Regardless, it is noticeable when it does occur and it’s an issue, at least for me. Is it a deal breaker? Psshhhh, no. But it can be annoying.
What’s not annoying about Dragon Quest Heroes II is the girth of the game. Graphically, and I was playing this on the PS4 Pro when reviewing it, the draw distance is huge. You can see enemies in the far background moving and waiting for you. The environments are detailed and go with the Dragon Quest theme — even the cities. There is so much visual life to the world that you’ll find yourself enjoying the surroundings in the middle of a battle. What’s even cooler is that the land is not flat. You’ll see this the first time out and about in the world, where mounds of deserts and hills go up and down with depth. Again, it’s visually stunning and truly breathes some life into a game series that needed some upgrading.
Environments aside, the characters that live within the world are beautifully detailed and go along with the DQ theme. Giant golems that you might have encountered in previous DQ games, including Dragon Quest Builders, will seem bigger and more visually appealing. I’m not sure if the developers at Omega Force have finally figured out the hardware of the PlayStation 4, but whatever they’re doing they need to continue to do in future titles. Even the main characters are colorful and beautifully drawn. Hell, even the NPCs in town, which are generally worthless in games like this, are given great details and visual love.
In short, the visuals, both environments and characters, are quite stunning.
If visuals weren’t enough, the inclusion of good audio that is well-acted helps to push along the personalities of the characters and pull gamers into the world that Omega Force carefully crafted. It’s really nice stuff that compliments what your eyes are seeing.
Before wrapping, is this game fun? Dragon Quest Heroes II is a beast of a game that contains a large amount of fun in the form of familiar RPG elements and some grinding action that doesn’t seem monotonous as the word ‘grinding’ assumes. Getting the best of RPG and action in one game can be a rare treat, therefore the balance between the two in Dragon Quest Heroes II makes this game instantly fun. You certainly won’t be bored.
Overall, Dragon Quest Heroes II is an upgrade over its predecessor. It’s packed with plenty of content, long action sequences and a healthy dose of role-playing elements to keep your interest firmly hooked. The balance between action and RPG helps make this more than just a Dragon Quest title with the beating heart of Dynasty Warriors. It’s a worthy sequel.
Just excuse the A.I. here and there.