Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below Preview

An epic side quest.

I wouldn't be surprised if one day I found out that Omega Force was run by androids. In the last two years, they've remastered and recalibrated versions of Warriors Orochi, Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors, Bladestorm, One Piece, and the surprisingly successful Hyrule Warriors. How do they even find the time? I haven't even mentioned Dragon Quest Heroes which came out in Japan in late February this year, and it's already been so well-received that Square Enix will be publishing the game in North America.

Of course, it's always awkward to preview a game that's already out in Japan and has multiple import reviews, but my hands-on time with the English version of the game at a pre-E3 event in Santa Monica was convincing enough. Like Hyrule Warriors before it, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below (what, couldn't make it longer?) is an adaptation of the traditional Warriors hack-'n'-slash shtick with Dragon Quest nostalgia plastered all over it. This PlayStation 4 exclusive has everything to make you want to leap back into that Dragon Quest cel-shaded fantasy with adorable slimes and the curious knights that ride them.

Set in the kingdom of Erusaze, the story begins with the once peaceful monsters suddenly attacking humans, forcing the Pro-Guards to protect the citizenry and discover what kind of evil has made these monsters hostile. On the field, you'll control one of four characters, some new and some old, with the remaining party members controlled by AI. You can switch between characters at any time, taking advantage of certain character's strengths with spells or crowd control.

Before delving into the meat of the demo, it must be said first and foremost just how well the game integrates the Dragon Quest themes: the undulating landscapes, the sound effects for healing and leveling up, and the fluidity of the animations. All of the character models designed by Akira Toriyama are wonderfully translated, as is the musical score by Koichi Sugiyama and Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii.

The hands-on demo I played spanned two missions, with the easier one entitled Field of Fiends, a simple kill-all stage that had me guide the new characters Luceus and Aurora alongside favorites Alena and Kiyrl. Dispatching all manner of slimes, drackies, hammerhoods, and tougher golems in an open field that reminded me of the fantastic Dragon Quest VIII, my chosen party member could perform simple attack chains and spells with the cost of some MP. Since MP regenerates quickly, I was urged to pull off as many special abilities as possible. Raising tension acts similar to raising the more traditional Musuo Gauge and will allow characters to perform a powerful attack once it's full.

The second mission, Whacksody in Blue, spiked up the difficulty quite a bit, having me fight a towering Gigantes as it tramples through town. This time around, Luceus and Aurora teamed up with the lovely Jessica and the axe-wielding Yangus. Fighting in tighter city streets, I needed to poke at the Gigantes' feet (which proved rather ineffective) and occasionally man spellcaster machines that could fire three rounds of bullets, hopefully directly into the Gigantes' cyclopic eye for critical damage. Unfortunately, I didn't figure out that last bit quickly enough, so I ran out of time.

Not in the demo was the collection of monster medals, which will allow you to bring up to 24 monsters to fight for you on the battlefield as allies and support. Along with the extensive levelling system, there will be plenty of areas for character enhancement, through the Blacksmith for weapons, item fusion with the Alchemy Pot, and equipment boosting through the Armor Orb Shop.

Dragon Quest Heroes will release for PlayStation 4 for $59.99 on October 13, 2015. We also have a preview based on a full 40-hour playthrough of the Japanese version right here.