Dragon Quest Heroes II – Review
Dragon Quest Heroes II, the sequel to 2015’s Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, has finally made the long journey from Japan to our fair shores. Thankfully Player2 has an enthusiastic pair of Dragon Quest aficionados who were both eager to share their thoughts about the latest from the Dragon Quest X Dynasty Warriors crossover. We’ll leave it to Player2’s own Stephen Del Prado and Paul James to take it from here.
Paul: So Stephen, we’ll not drag our feet too long in some of the initial formalities, Dragon Quest Heroes II to me doesn’t engage me to the same level that the first did. I attribute this largely due to the fact that there are very few differences between the original, which I enjoyed, but began to tire of as I pushed beyond hour 30, and its sequel. Now to an extent this is expected, after all, the core Dragon Quest series has hardly evolved over its many years, but in the case of Heroes, it quickly left me with a “been there, done that” attitude. Before we get into some of the finer points of the game, what was your overall feeling of the experience?
Stephen: I have to echo your sentiments Paul, despite some of the positive changes the developers have made to the formula Dragon Quest Heroes II just hasn’t grabbed me – that’s not to say that the game isn’t enjoyable, but I certainly don’t feel compelled to race through it. Instead, it feels like something I’ll jump into for an hour or so when I’m short on time and want to obliterate swarms of enemies, which is what the Dynasty Warriors games have always been good for in my opinion. While this might sound a bit down on the game, there has actually been a few quality of life improvements made by the developers which I think help put it above the first title. Personally, I’ve found the switch to a slightly more open game world a positive one. Even though it’s really just a clever variation on the map screen from the previous game, it provides the illusion of a more complete world to explore.
Paul: Back in the day the Dynasty Warriors games were something of a comfort food for me; they were mindless hack-and-slashers, and I feel as though Dragon Quest Heroes II, where its predecessor had me engaged throughout, hasn’t quite gripped me in the same way. Part of that is fuelled by my hatred towards Healix, the heal-slime ally who drove me around the bend in the first game and has driven me mad once again in the sequel. The other part is that the sequel has done very little to differentiate itself from its older sibling, sure there are some small attempts to shake things up; the open world aspect is cool while the attempted online multiplayer is clever but could have been broader in scope. I do like those, as well as a handful of the other inclusions, but they all felt as though they could have been expanded further. You and I messed about with some of the online options, what was your take on them?
Stephen: For some reason, I was under the impression that it was possible to co-op the entire campaign, which is sorely not the case here. Instead, players can partner up to conquer dungeon maps that in reality are little more than horde style waves with a beefed-up boss enemy to cap it off. While this was enjoyable in short bursts, I can’t see it as something I’d go back to regularly, especially with the inconvenient multiplayer system which requires getting through multiple menus to access. Unlike you Paul, I don’t actually mind Healix or his slime based puns. What I take the most offence at is the uninspired storyline that is even more daft than that of the first game. The main characters Lazarel and Teresa are almost identical to Luceus and Aurora from Dragon Quest Heroes, albeit with a personality swap. Once again, Square-Enix prefers to wallow in nostalgia, contriving to bring many characters from past main series DQ games into the fold. To be completely honest, I find it difficult to cycle through the amount of characters on offer after I settle into the rhythm of a set group, so such a large cast of characters feels wasted on me. How do you approach the stable of characters?
Paul: That actually was one of my primary complaints about the original, that hasn’t been rectified in the sequel. I would have loved to have faced scenarios where you will require the skills of particular party members. This would have created an added layer of strategy that would keep me immersed that little bit more; consequently, I spend all my time with largely the same party, and just went through the motions from encounter to encounter. There’s just not enough to differentiate each of the playable characters to convince me to take the time to learn each of their nuances. I’ve been hammering into the game so far, so I might take a step back and discuss some of the positives, outside of Healix I was quite happy with the voicework, while the world is quite nicely detailed and the musical score lifts a few tracks from previous DQ games to add a comforting feel to the experience, one I very much appreciated. What did you make of the overall presentation of the game?
Stephen: I really enjoy Dragon Quest aesthetically, from Akira Toriyama’s design work to the music by Koichi Sugiyama. I think one of the most appealing things about the series is unlike some of its peers, Dragon Quest has retained the same look through multiple generations, becoming close to ‘comfort food’ for longtime genre fans. While the gameplay here differs greatly from main-series DQ titles, there’s no faulting the presentation and it actually has me more excited for the eventual release of Dragon Quest XI. As you’ve said, up to this point it probably sounds like we’ve been very down on Dragon Quest Heroes 2, but I think it has more to do with the fact that it retreads a lot of familiar ground for both of us. For hardcore fans of the first title, there’s no reason not to pick up Dragon Quest Heroes 2.
Paul: Familiarity is a good thing for fans of long term franchises – it grounds the player with something familiar, before introducing new concepts and ideas that allows you to differentiate between titles within the same series. The problem for Dragon Quest Heroes II is that it fails to provide anything different of substance and so for a more casual consumer of the Dragon Quest franchise, there’s little incentive to pick the game up. On the other hand, if you’re a long-time fan of one of Japan’s greatest IP, you’ll no doubt appreciate the many touchstones present, and will relish in another opportunity to play in the Dragon Quest universe.