Twins of peace and twins of war.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, albeit a mouthful, gave fans of Square Enix’s Dragon Warrior / Quest series a unique experience. They were treated to a pretty successful hack-and-slash / RPG game that incorporated many of the series’ beloved heroes and heroines as they battled together in a foreign world against the might of darkness. The game performed well enough and received decent critical acclaim that Square Enix decided to produce a sequel. While the game itself follows a separate story line from the first–and most of its repeat characters seem to have forgotten their prior experiences–the game boasts a number of improvements from the first.
The story in Dragon Quest Heroes II follows cousins Lazarel and Teresa, boon companions and students from their homeland of Dunisia. While studying in Harba, Lazarel is visited by Teresa. In her short visit, Harba is assaulted by Dunisia–led by the Cesar, the prince, and childhood friends of the cousins. After a grueling battle—one in which Cesar initiated after his father, the king, was murdered—the cousins are able to calm down their friend and organize a party to uncover the mysteries surrounding the king’s death. From here, our heroes venture forth onto a quest of betrayals and discoveries throughout the world.
Gameplay in Dragon Quest Heroes II is nearly identical to the original. Like any Warriors game, Heroes II pits the player against hordes of enemies and bosses. Combining your square and triangle buttons can create some devastating combos, and combining your buttons with R1 will launch impressive skill / magic attacks (they differ depending on which character you use). In battle, you can switch between four characters from a decent sized roster who all have a different set of unique skills. Your two main characters can also switch job types, allowing for a pretty vast set of weapons, skills, and feats to unlock.
The intricacies of Dragon Quest Heroes II does the game well if you’re willing to dive into the process. Since you can change Lazarel or Teresa’s professions, you’re ultimately treated to an enormous task if you want to master them all, and particularly so if you’re a trophy hunter. You can change your job from the hub town or ad-hoc base, which opens up a new set of abilities / feats that you can choose from (both characters have character specific spells / feats, but they have a hefty number of job specific traits you can spend points on, too). Additionally, as your proficiency grows with each weapon type, party abilities and powers grow, and any wielder of each leveled up weapon type will reap the benefits. For example, if Cesar reached a threshold with his greatsword that unlocked a +5 strength bonus when wielding a greatsword, any character who uses that weapon type will be granted the +5 strength bonus.
The freshest piece of the game in my opinion, however, was the ability to free roam the world map. As you progress in the story, different pathways are open to you and your party, eventually allowing you to traverse the entire world. Initially, some pathways are blocked (you can eventually open the blocked paths as more characters join your party), but each piece of the world allows you the freedom to explore and find hidden treasures and new dungeons. Of course, Dragon Quest Heroes II still sends you into mission specific levels, but the freedom of exploration makes for a better quest and gathering system.
Visually, Dragon Quest Heroes II doesn’t feel like much of an upgrade from the original. While it’s optimized for the PS4 Pro, I believe those optimizations were geared toward performance rather than visuals. On that note, it succeeded (it’s a smooth play on my PS4 Pro), but its overall graphical fidelity left a bit to be desired. Still, for a Dragon Quest game, the visuals are a massive upgrade over the typical sprites or blocky characters, and the style fits the storied series well. In a sense, I’m not sure the game would work in any other way. The characters have always sported a sort of Dragon Ball-esque look, and it works in this situation. Fortunately, I never noticed any frame rate issues when pounding through loads of enemies that is typical of a KOEI game (perhaps again because of the PS4 Pro), so the visuals work on the whole.
Sound was Dragon Quest Heroes‘ greatest triumph, and, for the most part, serves to enhance Dragon Quest Heroes II. The voice acting, again, was stellar, and each character was unique, down to his or her accent. Music, too, fits Dragon Quest like no other, and the game featured classic Dragon Quest tunes mixed with its powerful new compositions. My biggest concern with Heroes II’s sound was that it often overpowered the voice acting, and while I certainly turned down the overall sound power, the balance never felt quite right.
Perhaps the most underutilized feature of Dragon Quest Heroes II was its multiplayer facet. During the week of its release, I was able to run a co-op dungeon, which happened to be a blast. Unfortunately, I was only ever able to get into one more group, and that group fizzled before the mission began. Still, the concept was strong, and players were given the opportunity to recruit those willing to help in story missions (some of which were pretty difficult). I never used the help (I tried once to test it out, but no warrior heeded my call), nor was I ever able to assist another. The concept itself was a solid one, but the lack of players certainly seemed to damage the overall execution.
In all, Dragon Quest Heroes II is an excellent addition to Square-Enix’s catalogue and worthy of a purchase. It offers over 25 hours of story-driven gameplay alone, and the time for completionists would be exponentially greater. If you have a dedicated group of friends who can run dungeons together (you get maps at certain character thresholds), I can see a lot of extra time and fun to be had. Still, a 25 hour campaign is nothing to scoff at, especially when that count (mine personally) includes only about a 30-40% side quest completion rate. If you’re a fan of Dragon Quest and hack-and-slash Warriors games, Dragon Quest Heroes II is one of the better titles available and worth your investment.