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

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2015 (US), Oct. 16, 2015 (EU)


PS4 Preview - 'Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below'

by Thomas Wilde on June 18, 2015 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

The Dragon Quest franchise leaves behind its strict RPG roots and adds more action to the mix with this new installment.

In action, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below looks like a Dynasty Warriors game on heavy anti-depressants. There are dozens of monsters bearing down on you, ready to beat you to death with hammers or smash you into the pavement, and the only things standing between them and you are your weapons and your three friends, but everything's smiling. It's a colorful world, full of shining sun and bright grass and terrible monsters, and they won't stop smiling.

After a while, it gets a little weird.

In the spirit of games like Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest: Heroes is a high-volume beat-'em-up starring a who's-who of protagonists and monsters from the lengthy Dragon Quest series of JRPGs, many of which were localized in North America under the name Dragon Warrior. The series's trademark slimes are here, of course, and will show up in groups of two dozen to cheerfully attempt to murder you, but you can also expect many of the bats, goblins, skeletons, and assorted overworld monsters that you had to grind on for hours in the original game.

Returning characters include Princess Aurora from DQ4, a bare-knuckle brawler who seems imported from Dragon Ball: Xenoverse; Jessica, the whip-wielding sorceress from DQ7; and a pair of opposite-gender protagonists that can easily stand in for the user-created Hero of the fourth game. You can control up to four characters at a time, swapping between them with the touch of a button, with the others following obediently behind you.

There were two levels available for play on the E3 show floor. One was a simple run through the countryside, starring a number of the monsters from the first Dragon Quest/Warrior, such as bats, slimes, skeletons, and the odd heavily armored knight. The second level was much harder, featuring a two-story-tall giant as it tried to destroy a town, and it had enough health that even multiple hits from a magically empowered siege weapon weren't enough to take it out.

The Warriors games are somewhat notorious, and justly so, for being the pinnacle of hack-and-slash; the gameplay largely consists of running toward a few dozen enemies at once and mashing the primary attack button until they stop moving. Heroes isn't much of an exception but changes things up by having short, simple combos that end in surprisingly damaging elemental attacks, and with a broader variety of available enemies. Hammer-wielding goblins are harmless if you fight them one at a time, but eight of them are harder to deal with, and self-healing is at a premium.

I'll say this much: Heroes is probably the most cheerful way I've ever mowed down a couple of hundred hostile monsters. It's simple but promised more complexity even from the small sample of gameplay that was available at the show. (The second stage, with the giant, might not have been properly balanced. Even on a second try, when I knew what I was doing, the giant seemed practically indestructible.)

If it can provide more challenges and more innovative maps as it progresses, it could make a useful companion game to Hyrule Warriors and breathe some more life into the weirdly long-absent Dragon Quest franchise.

If it can't, well, Dragon Quest Heroes lets you punch 800 smiling monsters in the face — simultaneously. That's got to count for something.

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