Dragon Quest Heroes II Review
Once again the Dynasty Warriors formula of taking your heroes out on the open road to flatten war mongering monsters that have the artificial intelligence of a plank of wood is back again. This form of hack ‘n slash has a well-tried and tested formula and is starting to become quite monotonous and stale. However, there are times where it can become less of a chore and more fun to slay the brainless. The question is: Has Dragon Quest Heroes II made it fun?
The story has a familiar ring to it. You have two heroes thrust into a war-torn world where they need to save the day by preventing a war between kingdoms using monsters as an army to wreak havoc. Similar to its forebear, characters that have no idea how they arrived into your realm join your party to help restore the peace to the world and the Seven Kingdoms – it’s like a Game of Thrones but without the headache of knowing who backstabbed whom.
Having characters appear out of nowhere does mean that the story can be kept to only a few main characters purely for development purposes, but it would be nice to have some background to their caricature dispositions. Having a despairingly large void of history is not such a bad thing, as the designers instead were able to spritz the uniqueness of each character with wonderfully animated and well-dubbed voice acting instead – this is a rarity!
Some of the returning characters were present in The World Tree’s Woe and The Blight Below, and while it might seem easy to disregard the prequel and start anew, the acquainted characters act in kind when seeing their old friends. It’s a touch that would normally be dismissed from separate game-to-game series.
Each character’s personalities is reflected in their choices of weaponry. Desdemona might be a tall, yet diminutive figure, but she wields a halberd that respects her sentiment of protectorate over the crown in the Seven Kingdoms. The two cousins (your main characters) have similar styles but have differing elemental alignments – Fire and Ice.
It’s a shame that when you race towards the latter stages of the game, you are given several new heroes to try out, because by then they’re almost pointless to use due to spending a lavish amount of time training and learning the gameplay style of each skill system and weapon. Not just that, but your entire playtime is recorded in a book of unlockable passive skills, and it would be far too detrimental to leave that character out of your party to substitute for a newcomer.
You could substitute the characters but generally, the level of them are lower than your current party, thus having fewer skill points to aid in the main quests. Unused characters do level up with your main party but at a slower rate.
Many aspects have been tweaked from before. No longer can you unlock every skill before the end of the game at a leisurely pace. This time you’re forced into progressing through the story to combat the grinding nature of the first game. It is now possible to complete the game without taking much time away from the story, with grinding and extras for instance, although there are some points where completing some side quests are a necessity.
Unlocking weaponry is done via completing quests and side-quests, but unless you do the side quests, you’ll be stuck on weapons that deal as much damage as slapping a monster in the face with a trout; your weapons are almost useless until you step off the beaten path. Simply equipping weapons and letting the – somewhat useless – AI level up the weapons for your characters doesn’t work here. You will need to frequently swap between your party members to make the best of the situations while levelling up your weapons for that character. Upon reaching a star rating, you will unlock even more skills. Another new addition is the use of party skills where you can assign differing slot based skills to help your party as they fight.
An addition to the monster medals is the ability to control certain monsters for a short period of time. If you’re in a tight spot, then they’re extremely handy but cost more slots than regular monster medals. The other two forms of medals are the sentries (which attack on their own) and a one-time use monster medal that is like casting a skill.
In The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, you had to choose a mission based on the location selected from the airship. These missions were typically all similar despite the various scenarios available to you. Twin Kings and the Prophecy’s End has almost done away with the system and instead opened up the world for you to explore, reminiscent of the Toukiden series. Exploring the world has never been so much fun.
Opening up the world is a nice touch. However, portions of the game are locked off until you have either completed a side quest or main story quests. This places you on the straight and narrow initially and for those of you that get lost in open world games – I’m one of them – it’s nice to have some guidance to kickstart your trial of horde mashing and jelly whomping.
Each of the sections of the game opens up depending on the position of the main story. Choosing among the illustrious possible characters to take on your journey might seem tough, but it ends up being a simple affair of looking at their skills and customising them depending on the section in question. These sections are different kingdoms with their own accustomed elemental atmosphere. Taking characters with ice and wind-based skills won’t serve you well in the snowy mountains!
The first few kingdoms are quite small and can be navigated swiftly, but as the map starts opening up the distance to travel becomes excruciatingly lengthy, but this is eased with the tweak to the zoom stone system. Before zoom stones were situated for fast access at certain points in a mission, now there are two or three places in each kingdom to attune yourself so you can zoom to any location in an instead – assuming you’re not underneath anywhere with a roof – after all, smacking one’s head serves a great reminder to saving your game and preparing yourself before moving out.
From time to time, you need to kick your feet up and rest at your main hub – the Seven Kingdom’s centre Accordia. Here you have the options to save your game, gear up, earn money from tallying your monster hunting, acquire mini-medals from achievements and completing monster slaying tally, go on more quests, and customise your accessories. All of the outlets are occupied by the familiar folk from Dragon Quest Heroes.
There is a major change in the way accessories are crafted. Instead of requiring two of the same item and hoping for the best to get a better item, this time you will always keep the same item, but you require a set number of materials to beef up the statistics in question. It is now impossible to fail to craft – something that I loathed before due to its random number game nature. Finding yourself low on materials or unable to collect them on your travels? There is now a handy merchant that lets you exchange materials for another. This isn’t a sure-go thing, however, as it’s pot luck whether the material you want will be available from the NPC.
With so much collecting, items to purchase, in-game achievements, monster-slaying, and more, the game can be easily extended for those completionists out there, even if it does involve nothing but slaying copious amounts of big cuddly looking giants and monsters; at times you just have to feel for them.
What sets Dragon Quest Heroes II apart from its predecessor is that the game feels more fluid and much more action oriented! While the first game did have decently sized battles, the size of some of the battles here is mind-bogglingly large and required some decent strategy to complete. This can require trial and error at times until you realise what order to accomplish various objectives in. By and large, the game is far more entertaining, and it will keep you going until the conclusion.