At PAX Prime in late August, we spent some time with Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below. After an hour of playing, it was clear that this was a big departure from the traditional Dragon Quest games, largely due to its developer. Omega Force is more well-known for its hack-and-slash titles, most notably the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises.
From that background, one would expect that tackling the Dragon Quest franchise, which has deeply-rooted RPG elements, would be a challenge. On the contrary, the developers came through to present a game that's able to adequately blend both playstyles into a fun game.
It all starts with the game's story. Even though developers will definitely add elements of its trademark hack-and-slash gameplay, it needs some sort of storyline to keep the Dragon Quest name. As a matter of fact, there's an overarching plot to the entire thing. It centers on the relationship between humans and monsters, which lived alongside each other as friends.
However, a dark spell from a volcanic island changed all the monsters from friendly to hostile, and it's up to the game's heroes to not only fight their way through every city in the land to remove the threat, but to also find out the source of the spell. Players choose from one of two characters, Luceus or Aurora, to begin the game. Along with King Doric, the trio travel the land and recruit other characters from the Dragon Quest series.
The game is chopped into a series of missions, with your party returning to camp to recuperate in between. It's here that the game's loose RPG elements come to life. You can allocate earned skill points, buy and sell equipment, craft accessories, manage your party members and talk to other characters.
Even with these options, you don't spend too much time on the base. It becomes a routine of just adding skills to each character, checking if there are new items to equip, and then maybe crafting a few accessories to give your friends a small boost. After a few minutes, you're back to the world map to continue the journey.
The short break from the action isn't a bad thing at all, but RPG fanatics shouldn't expect to spend hours at a time going in-depth on building their character or creating new items. The entire process is simple as it can be with a specific merchant for equipment, items, and crafting, yet it also provides just enough options within each seller to choose a perfect loadout for each character before heading back into the field.
On the battlefield, Omega Force lives up to its trademark style of hack-and-slash gameplay. Regardless of the number of enemies in the way, you can charge in and decimate them with a combination of hits. Larger enemies require a more tactical approach of jumping around and flanking them to reduce the amount of damage inflicted on you, but it's all straightforward action. Multiply your actions by four (due to the number of people in your party), and the screen lights up with bright flashes of magical attacks and auditory yells as the group makes its way to an objective.
While you continue to hit enemies, a Tension bar fills up on the left side of the screen, allowing you to unleash the character's powerful series of attacks, inflicting larger amounts of damage while increasing defense. It's an effective tool in whittling down the health of the more intimidating enemies, but it's also useful to effectively wipe out a small horde of smaller units.
This is another one of Omega Force's trademarks, but it's known as a Musou attack in its other games. In the end, it's all a simple press of two to three buttons to unleash a fury of attacks. It's relieving to see that the team's recipe for combat hasn't changed much. It's a shining example of the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
What did change in combat is the addition of monster medals. Sometimes a fallen enemy will leave behind a large medal in its place, which you can use to summon to fight on your side. These monsters can either go on the offensive to help an attack or defend a flank, or it can perform a unique one-time ability and then leave. The monsters are helpful in tight spots, such as keeping a group of enemies at bay while attacking another target or covering an exposed flank when multiple groups of enemies come from all sides.
At first, they seem like an unnecessary addition, as your group's strength can easily mow down any foes in their way, but the game forces you to utilize the medals through levels of multiple passages and large areas that can easily fill up with monsters if you're not careful. However, they're easy to deploy anywhere, and you can be sure it will hold its ground against a certain number of enemies before succumbing to damage.
Even though you start with controlling one character at the beginning, the game will let you switch between characters in the middle of battle a few missions later, giving a little diversity in combat, especially if you get tired of the routine sword and shield attacks. Other characters use lances, magic, and even a boomerang. Regardless of who you choose, it's a relief that you're not stuck with playing only one character in a game that emphasizes teamwork in every mission.
Fight, Prepare, Repeat
After a few levels, the process of going through a mission, restocking at home base and then returning to the field seems repetitive. Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors fans are all too familiar with the concept, but surprisingly, it's easy to overlook the constant cycle because it's still an enjoyable game. Despite encountering the same type of beasts numerous times, fighting your way through a large number of monsters never gets old. Not only that, but missions can also be replayed in addition to a number of non-story related challenges throughout the map, allowing for countless hours of gameplay. Managing your team between missions is easy, and yet it provides a hint of freedom based on the various configurations of each character's loadout based on the equipment available for purchase and the accessories that can be crafted.
Most of the popular AAA titles these days require a lot of depth, such as a vast world, inventory management, multiple missions tiers, and so on. This game goes against the grain in those regards by keeping everything simple, allowing players of varying ages and skills to easily pick it up and play it for hours on end. It's the kind of game you play on a lazy weekend when you don't want to think too much, or when you're pressed for time and looking for a quick dose of hacking through enemies before leaving for more pressing matters. Either way, it's all good fun.
Rexly Peñaflorida II is a Contributor at Tom’s Hardware. He writes news on tech and hardware, but mostly focuses on gaming news. As a Chicagoan, he believes that deep dish pizza is real pizza and ketchup should never be on hot dogs. Ever. Also, Portillo’s is amazing.