Dragon Quest Heroes II should show off the fun adventure of what makes Dragon Quest great. Instead, you get an overextended and repetitive experience for players.
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
I have never played a Dragon Quest game of any kind. After my experience with Dragon Quest Heroes II, I am not sure if I ever want to play a Dragon Quest game. After reviewing such excellent titles throughout the month of March, it feels weird to come back to a game so intent on never truly challenging player expectations.
There are few things more annoying in video game design than the ways in which they will anchor you to a hub world where there is so little to do beyond run from shop to shop to shop upgrading various parts of yourself where a simple menu option or automatic cash in for items like quests would be simple enough.
This was a frustration of mine in Destiny, a much better playing experience than this, where the annoyance was merely that I wanted to get to the fun part of the game quicker. The story would be moving along, but then I must come to a screeching halt because I need to go back to tell the quest giver speaking to me in my helmet that I finished the quest. It was asinine.
Why force the player to go back to a player hub to hear a nonplayable character say the exact same things they said the last time over and over again? It only highlights the very limits of making video games, in that you cannot truly simulate the dynamics of everyday conversation as it happens in real life.
Dragon Quest Heroes II never swells into any kind of moments that combine the visuals on the screen with the urgency of the moment.
Where Destiny did this with quests, Dragon Quest Heroes II has more moving parts as a party RPG. You return to the hub world to switch your party around. You return to the hub world to save if you are in the middle of a stretch of story battles that will not save until you finish them. You have to return even to simply receive a level up for your proficiency with a weapon to give your party more abilities just so they can make you hear an old man say, “FOCUS ALWAYS” every hour.
Accordia, this game’s hub, provides access to the remaining realms. Each realm is suffering varieties of attacks as an evil foe tries to turn the various kingdoms against each other. By volunteering to the king of Accordia you set out to solve these conflicts and bring peace to the domain.
Your character and their sibling stumble across various Dragon Quest characters throughout the game. These characters join your party as you try to get to the bottom of why all of the seven realms are seemingly on the brink of another large scale war.
Walk into a realm, clear it of enemies, find a way to get into the kingdom of the realm to confront the ruler. Once you get in, prepare yourself to run through a 4-step process of getting to the end of the kingdom to talk with the ruler, ask them why they attacked you, then go back to the hub world.
This happens in each world you go to without change. On top of this repeating cycle, the combat you use is very simplistic, but so far from stylish. A game like Nier Automata doesn’t expand beyond much in the way of combos either, but they literally twisted the dimensions you played in as you went through the game to add flair and drama to it. Plus, it understood if you are going to be a simple game, you cannot ask a player to simply mash buttons for over 30 hours of play.
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Visually, there is something to appreciate about Dragon Quest Heroes II. The game runs at a smooth 60 fps on the PS4 and it has well done, high-def graphics to show off the colorful animations of the game. However, there is no flair to this title. It is missing something extra to make the visual fidelity and smooth performance feel grandiose as you take parts in battles. The effects that are used mostly feel generic because you need to use them so often to break the monotony of the regular combo attacks you do.
Additionally, the soundtrack is basically white noise. It is not bad. However, no video game soundtrack should serve as white noise. Where other games are known for their dynamism, Dragon Quest Heroes II never swells into any kind of moments that combine the visuals on the screen with the urgency of the moment. Boss fights feel no different than regular open world battles beyond the fact they are damage sponges. The soundtrack has a lot to do with why so little about Dragon Quest Heroes II‘s performance quality feels so underutilized in the actual visuals of the combat and gameplay.
Speaking of combat, there is something of a metered system at play. As you hit enemies, your character builds up Tension. Once you fill the Tension meter, you can then release it for a period of time. This will allow the player to have unlimited power for their magic attacks for a brief period of time and finally, you get a Coup De Grace which is each players’ large-scale special attack.
All of this stuff sounds really normal, except the fighting has little satisfaction as enemies feel so weightless. You can send scores of rank and file enemies flying with your most basic combos. So when you get into a large group of pawns, you are almost obligated to use the Coup De Grace; it is the only way removing the horde will be satisfying. This wears down the visual effect, so by hour five, you are already looking to find some new power for your character that never really comes.
By the way, you can only start combos with your light attack button. The heavy attack button is merely a one hit heavy attack. This is the most useless feature, as the attack itself is almost worthless without being able to chain a combo to it for most characters.
To recap the combat more in depth, you have combo attack button for light attacks. There is a pretty worthless heavy attack. Another button is used to “Fire up,” which can fill the tension meter faster. Then there is jump and dash. The right trigger lets you run or dodge. The left trigger is how you switch characters. The left shoulder button is to pull the camera behind you. The right shoulder button is used to toggle special attacks you can map to the face buttons. You can also use the right shoulder and left trigger to pull off an attack as you swap characters.
Even the swap attacks are underwhelming. Where a game like Marvel Ultimate Alliance let you choose who you did combo attacks with and had a special effect for each combo, Dragon Quest Heroes II saddles players with an order selected back in the hub world with no option to choose which player to switch within a given moment. It misses on a great opportunity to showcase more teamwork between the characters. Instead, this feature exists merely as another strong attack you spam against powerful enemies.
Without much in the way of combat variety and no stimulating soundtrack to associate with the scenery, the visual showcase with this smooth framerate never is really taken to the heights it could have hit. This leaves a well-performing, great-looking, shallow game that feels like a waste of time.
With so little complexity to Dragon Quest Heroes II, it asks you to play this very simple concept of a game for well over 30 hours. 20+ hours into Dragon Quest Heroes II and I begged to make it end. Make it stop. I do not want to pass go. Do not give me $200. Just finish out this story as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.