Well, there goes my October.
It's completely understandable if you shudder at the thought of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below. Maybe it's the exhaustingly long title (it could be abbreviated DQHTWTTatBB and it will still be too long), but maybe it's the thought of Omega Force, the developer known for all those Dynasty Warriors titles, just touching Square Enix's sacred Dragon Quest series that makes you recoil in fear.
But Omega Force seems to be turning a new leaf, especially when it comes to adapting its popular "Musou" gameplay to other franchises like Hyrule Warriors. Now, if import reviews of the game can be trusted, as DQH has already been released in Japan for months now, it's already looking like the best Omega Force game – and actually one of the best Dragon Quest spinoffs – ever. In fact, our very own Heath Hindman wrote an import review for the game on PlayStation LifeStyle and awarded it a stunning 9 out of 10. And my second hands-on experience with the English version of the game at PAX (after my first preview at a pre-E3 event) only reinforces those praises and gives me confidence that this will likely be a surprise sleeper hit of 2015 in the States.
The demo started with the game's introduction which comes with a quick refresher of the battle system, in a land named Arba where both monsters and humans lived in harmony. Of course all that love and peace stops when a seemingly evil sorcerer summons forth an evil shockwave that makes the monsters turn on their human friends. Protagonists Luceus and Aurora, both Captains of the Guard in Alba, race through storage tunnels in order to reach King Doric, who might as well be a grey-haired Hulk Hogan (sans scandal of course), who can take care of himself, thank you very much.
After a fight against a dragon, which requires careful dodging and crowd control, the demo advanced to a later chapter when your party has access to an airship with pretty much everything you might need: a pub for switching party members, a marketplace for lots of items, and a priestess to save and restore rechargeable healing stones that can restore every member of the party no matter where they are on the field. You can find an alchemist to create items from special components and a mini-medal vendor (mini-medals can be found as item drops) that will exchange your medals for awesome items (55 for Metal King Shield and 75 medals for Orichalcum Gauntlets, for a starter).
But the best part of the demo were the monster medals which are occasionally dropped by monsters and add a dynamically strategic element. Many missions have you protect a person or an object while monsters race down two lanes from spawn portals, so you have to switch between these lanes to take care of the threat. But sometimes you need a helping hand, and that's where monster medals come in. You can summon the corresponding monster to help protect a certain area, so if you happen to claim a monster medal of a golem which has a high amount of HP, it's worth plopping him down to give you some wiggle room.
Better yet, I learned that the game has a New Game Plus which gives every character 50 extra skill points and opens new challenges on the second pass. So when October 13 rolls around, which is when Dragon Quest Heroes releases for PS4 and PS3, please don't be surprised if you can't reach me. I've got very important business to do.