“Man, I wish games stun locked me more!”
-No one, ever
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below isn’t a new game. In many ways it’s a reskin of the old Dynasty Warriors series with some Dragon Quest bits strewn about. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but purchasers should know what they’re getting before purchasing. You can have fun here, but only if you’re in the right mood.
The story begins in the Kingdom of Arba where man and monster live side-by-side in peace until a black fog drives the monsters mad. This is the moment where Dragon Quest Heroes sets up on of the most unnecessary narrative contradiction I’ve ever seen and establishes a fantastically amateurish approach to storytelling in general. The game acknowledges the obvious tension between needing to fight the rampaging monsters and knowing that they were once friends, but the gameplay didn’t seem to get the memo. Quests in the game talk about slaughtering huge waves of monsters in retribution for them trampling a garden or making off with a pie. Regretting monster killing doesn’t count for much if you’re going to murder them over a rose bush. Sadly, the rest of the story is filled with these silly moments where developer W-Omega stumbles over the problems it creates. It should then come as no surprise that characters pulled in from other Dragon Quest series aren’t supported well either. They’re largely one note and will only satisfy their most devoted fans. Still, there is more of a narrative than your average Dynasty Warriors game. Given the developer’s “skills” as a storyteller, it’s a wonder that the game is coherent as it is.
The gameplay is bog standard Dynasty Warriors hack-and-slash. Players control a party of four lead by one of two main characters. They fight through a series of maps with effectively one of two objectives: kill all the things or protect something while killing all the things. There isn’t much complexity anywhere, though the ability to swap characters on a whim and to invest in a skill tree for each character adds a little more interest than the usual Dynasty Warriors formula. Mindless slashing works for most of the game, though the end stages ask for a little more strategy as they rely heavily on stun attacks which force the player to sway mindlessly for several seconds while the game plays itself. It’s a pointless game mechanic that breaks up the monotony with frustration. The game includes a few other features, but they’re largely designed to improve the player’s ability to smash things or give them another reason to smash things. There really isn’t any other goal to this game.
Dragon Quest Heroes scratches the Dynasty Warriors itch. If you’re looking for that kind of game, Dragon Quest Heroes will satisfy you as well as any of the other competent entries in the series. Wait for a Steam sale and pick it up for 20 bucks. Dragon Quest fans should add a little more on top of that, but not much.
Bonus Story Surprise!: Remember how I said the story trips over itself? There’s an even better example. In most stories, the author tries to avoid a deus ex machina (where the author needs a totally unsupported plot element to get them out of the dead end that they’ve written themselves into). This narrative technique is only called upon when the flaw in the story is buried deep and difficult to remove. Dragon Quest Heroes included both the dead end and deus ex machina in the same scene. Towards the end, the heroes flee a crumbling island. They happen across a boss who, in his death throws, destroys the only way out. Rather than have the gang saved by their flying cloud fortress, W-Omega has them saved by a magical bird from another dimension that is mentioned exactly zero times before that moment. It’s so terrible that it’s beautiful.