I Don't Love Warriors Games, But I Love This
Branded by Square Enix as an action RPG, tagged as a Warriors game by anyone with eyeballs, Dragon Quest Heroes is a mix of the two. While signature Warriors gameplay is at the core — fighting off hundreds of enemies at a time with wide-sweeping combos and brutal special moves — publisher Square Enix has made sure that developer Koei Tecmo included growth systems and gameplay staples of action RPGs.
Beyond that, many missions throw in tower defense elements. Waves of bad guys will be storming a gate or attacking a stationary NPC, meaning you'll have to set up a competent defense of the area. Then, using your judgment, find the right moment to leave the area in the hands of your defenders while you charge at the enemy spawn point to destroy it and halt the onslaught. This game has Warriors, it has action RPG, and it has tower defense all coursing its blood. It's certainly not just "a Warriors game" and nothing more.
In fact, it's been hard for me to play other Musou/Warriors games after Dragon Quest Heroes, because the battle flow feels so damn good. After gaining a full party, you'll be able to switch characters with a simple push of a button. More than a dozen playable characters eventually join the party, and you'll bring four of them into most missions. So you're Terry laying a beatdown on an ogre, then you can quickly switch to Bianca firing arrows into the crowd from afar, then, oh hey, Jessica has a special ready… you know what to do.
During battle, freely switching among anyone I like made every fight a joy. It was the most pure fun I've had in a game in several months, if not a whole freaking year.
The only real downside are that there's no co-op mode and the menus are, per Dragon Quest usual, horribly slow and inefficient. All game long, I was wishing I could turn on a second controller and bring in another players. The tower defense missions in particular could be amazing two-player fun.
Meanwhile, Dragon Quest continues to make you sit through 10-second celebratory songs after doing simple shit like recharge healing stones. You have to do these one at a time, which is ridiculous to begin with, and sit through a theme song for the first of every batch of recharges. This means, after any tough battle in which you needed to heal, you need to go to the church and just sit there mashing O and waiting for fanfare to play out. It kills the game flow.
Elsewhere, some shopping menus allow you to buy and sell more than one item at a time, while others require you to go one-at-a-time with purchases and sales. I'm not joking. This is happening in 2015. Why? Because it's Dragon Quest, that's why.
As you might have guessed, Dragon Quest Heroes has the best visuals the series has ever seen. New console power plus the classic, always-wonderful Dragon Quest art style combine to make a truly beautiful game. Beyond aesthetics, it also runs very smoothly. DQH runs at 60 frames per second and rarely slows down. In my 50 hours with the game, I can't recall any slowdown during battle. Maybe once? But if it happened, I don't remember it anymore.
The frame rate does dip visibly in the root town. When you run and rotate the camera at the same time, you'll see it drop a little bit. It's doesn't go low and it doesn't break the game or anything, but I'm just saying that it goes below the usual. Thankfully, these moments are kept within town and a few in-game-engine story sequences rather than during battle. Keeping the dips out of combat is impressive and more important.
Dragon Quest has these certain sound effects and fanfares that have a way of sticking around. Level ups, treasures opening, clearing an area and such all come with audio that longtime fans will recognize and appreciate.
Combat missions are carried out to tunes long cherished from all throughout the almost 30-year-old series, appearing in arranged versions nearly identical to those of Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. If you like Dragon Quest music, you'll be pleased by the OST of Dragon Quest Heroes for sure.
Overall, Dragon Quest Heroes is, for my money, one of the best PS4 games out there. It looks wonderful and plays even better. It has all kinds of goodies for Dragon Quest fans, but its gameplay is plenty accessible for anyone and everyone to jump right in. And given how much fun I had, I openly encourage the curious to do just that.
Dragon Quest Heroes is available now in Japan and Asia for PS3 and PS4, and will come to North America and Europe as a PS4 exclusive later in 2015.