Following the success of the first Dragon Quest Heroes game back in 2015, it’s no surprise that Square Enix have teamed up with Omega Force again to bring players back into the monster-smashing action with Dragon Quest Heroes II. The sequel continues the trend of offering action-packed musou combat, though this time it comes with a few additional improvements including the likes of more RPG-focused elements as well as the highly sought after online multiplayer. Whilst it does improve on itself in a lot of ways though, there isn’t a whole lot different from a gameplay perspective. Does the already proven successful formula really need changing though, or will fans be a bit underwhelmed by the ‘more of the same but better’ approach that the game has taken?
If you didn’t play the original game you needn’t worry, since Dragon Quest Heroes II has its own unique storyline that sets itself apart from its predecessor. You play as one of two cousins, Teresia or Raziel, who are knights-in-training that get caught up in an invasion from what was once a peaceful neighbouring Kingdom. After managing to fight off the initial assault, they’re tasked by the King to attempt to defuse the situation and try and bring peace to the nations once more. Of course, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, with an evil villain pulling the strings on all of the conflicts going on. For what reason though? Well, you have to play the game to find out.
The first Dragon Quest Heroes game followed a simple plotline that saw the monsters of the world turning evil, but this time around there’s a more intricate tale on offer that’s drawn out with more detail. It actually feels like a traditional Dragon Quest adventure, with the game featuring a plot that could’ve easily come straight out of one of the mainline games and not feel like a spin-off side story.
This is helped by the fact that you have a huge open world to explore this time around. In the last game, everything had a mission-like approach where the plot would mostly progress whilst aboard a flying ship that acted like a main hub. Now you’re actually exploring the world on foot, going from town to town within each Kingdom and seeing the plot thicken in real-time with each event. It might seem like a minor detail, but given the RPG roots of the series and the fact that this was overlooked in the first game, it’s something fans might be able to appreciate a little more. It makes Dragon Quest Heroes II feel more like a huge action RPG than just some kind of mission-structured Dynasty Warriors clone.
There are also plenty of side quests with sub-plots on offer too, further expanding the world and its lore. These don’t simply involve returning to a pre-visited area and clearing out familiar enemies over and over either, but actually have a beginning and an end that see you assisting someone who needed your help in true side quest style. It was in areas like this that the original game suffered – whilst there were plenty of optional missions to undertake, they lacked the personality of a true RPG side quest. This time around the game embraces the Dragon Quest sense of adventure and has you discovering these quests as you roam the world; it just felt more natural and enjoyable.
Much like the last game, there are some all-new characters in Dragon Quest Heroes II as well as the return of some familiar faces. Characters like the cousins Teresia and Raziel, the mighty prince Cesar, and ferocious warrior Desdemona are all new to the series, but fit in perfectly as if they’ve always been around. Then you’ve got returning heroes from previous Dragon Quest games such as Carver, Terry, Ruff, Maribel, and Kiryl just to name a few. Long-time fans will be really happy with the selection of characters available, with the game not only featuring a wide-range but perfectly re-creating their appearance and their fighting styles. There’s a real sense of camaraderie to be found between both old and new characters in the party too, which encounters and interactions between everyone always providing plenty of entertainment.
As mentioned, Dragon Quest Heroes II’s gameplay no longer takes place across specific environments with pre-set missions, but instead in an open sprawling world. You still have a hub akin to the flying ship from the first game, but this time around it’s the Kingdom of Accordia – your home and a location where you can rest up, purchase new equipment, and confer with your party and NPCs in-game. From here you’re able to explore the vast world and head across the other six Kingdoms, with the freedom given to you to explore each environment through inter-connected sections. This new approach makes you feel like you’re actually part of a huge world, with each location having its own unique look that adds a natural sense of variety to your surroundings. It makes everything feel more believable, with the feeling of adventure from exploring the world a lot more apparent than in the first game.
Whilst the first Dragon Quest Heroes game did have plenty of varying locales to explore, the fact you were randomly dropped into them with a pre-set mission took away from the vastness of the world. Being able to explore areas freely and without being forced to follow an objective makes things more exciting, with plenty of secrets to be found for those willing to explore. It might be an all new location, extra quests to complete, hidden treasure, or, if you’re particularly unlucky, a nasty secret boss who’ll pulverise you if you’re not prepared. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I got distracted from following the main plotline and just wandered off to find something new – it’s a great distraction though and one I simply couldn’t get enough of.
Of course, the world is inhabited with plenty of monsters, and given the musou nature of the game you’ll be defeating thousands upon thousands of them throughout the adventure. Whilst Dragon Quest Heroes II offers more RPG-like elements than its predecessor, the core gameplay is based around musou action; you’ll be swinging your weapon at a huge amount of enemies as you explore each area, with the more free and open world to explore bringing more groups of enemies with it. How much of a fan of the musou genre you are will dictate how much you’ll enjoy playing through Dragon Quest Heroes II – it can be a bit of a grind taking down countless foes who don’t always pose a threat, after all. Luckily, taking down enemies is well rewarded, so you’ll never feel like it’s all for nothing. I’m a fan of the musou genre too, so naturally it was all good fun for me.
Despite the more open approach to exploration in Dragon Quest Heroes II, there are still plenty of epic conflicts that take place in a more confined area. These are structured battles that are based around specific groups of enemies rather than ones that spawn randomly in the field, so you’ll need to be a bit more strategic in your approach and environmentally aware if you want to survive. There’ll also be objectives to complete too, meaning it’s never as straightforward as simply beating all the enemies to succeed. It’s all good fun though adds a decent amount of variety to compliment the combat.
What’s most impressive about these showdowns is just how many enemies will appear on the screen at once; the sense of scale in the game never failed to blow me away, especially when it felt like I was taking on thousands upon thousands of enemies. The game never suffered for their presence either, with a smooth and consistent frame rate ever-present regardless of how many enemies were wandering across the screen. It just felt incredibly epic and made me feel like I was really taking part in this huge battle.
I don’t feel like it’s necessary to go into great depth about how the combat mechanics work – it’s more of the same with huge battles, a ton of enemies, and button mashing gameplay that’ll see you pull off combos that reach the thousands whilst smashing enemies apart. There aren’t any real intricacies to your combos either, though they do feel great to pull off and make for entertaining gameplay. It’s a tried and tested formula that works. Simple.
However, Dragon Quest Heroes II varies things up in other ways by not only allowing you to change your character’s class as you progress through the game, but also expanding upon the ‘Monster Medals’ from the first game too. The class changing system allows you to vary up your protagonist’s fighting style – you might start off as a Warrior, but you can switch to different classes including a Mage, Marital Artist, or even a Priest. You can switch between classes freely, though each class is levelled up individually meaning you’ll have to grind if you want to maintain your strength between them all. You’re more than welcome to play as just the one class throughout and get incredibly buffed up though, but this does mean you’ll miss out on seeing what other tricks your protagonist might have up their sleeve.
To counter this though is the fact that you can switch between and control different party members with ease. Party members have different classes to the main character too, so why bother changing and levelling up classes if they’re readily available with other playable characters? It actually felt more satisfying to play as a different character than change class too, so it could make the whole class changing system feel a little redundant. Some players will certainly enjoy the feeling of customisation though, so your appreciation of the system will vary depending on what kind of gamer you are.
The returning Monster Medals are great though, allowing you to summon monsters to assist you on the battlefield. They come in more varieties this time around: ‘Saviours’ which appear and either unleash an attack on your opponents or provide your characters with a buff, ‘Sentries’ which fight by your side until they run out of HP, and the ‘Substitutes’ which replace your character on the battlefield with a controllable powerful monster for a short time. Whilst they’re all great and add an extra dimension to the game, the ‘Substitutes’ are the most fun to use. Dragon Quest has a rich selection of well-known monsters, so actually being able to use them in battle is a lot of fun – I mean, who doesn’t want to unleash hell upon their opponents as a Golem?!
Of course, things like the ‘Tension’ system that allows you to build up and unleash a powerful attack return too, as well as the use of magic, items, and the skills you unlock as you level up. It’s easy to look at the combat as being based solely around button mashing, but there’s a lot more depth to it than that. You’ll need to utilise all of these different mechanics carefully if you want to succeed – Dragon Quest Heroes II is no push over, with some of the tricky boss encounters seeing me meet many a game over during my twenty plus hours with the game.
One of the biggest additions to Dragon Quest Heroes II is the inclusion of online multiplayer, allowing the player and three others to head to the battlefields to take down enemies as a team. Online multiplayer is a blast – the fact it was omitted from the first game was insane, so finally being able to take on story missions and dungeons with friends is a real treat. Granted, having actual players instead of AI ones assisting you in story missions could make them a little TOO easy, but there are additional multiplayer-focused dungeons that’ll really put your skills to the test. They’ve kept me coming back for more and more, adding an extra dose of longevity to the game in the form of excellent co-operative play.
At its core, Dragon Quest Heroes II offers a lot more of the same we saw in its predecessor – there’s button-mashing musou style combat that sees us venturing across huge battlefields, all in the hope of saving the world from an evil threat.
However, whilst a lot of the game feels the same, there have also been an abundance of additions to the gameplay that further enhance the experience. The new open-world environments adds a greater sense of exploration, the varied side quests add a more traditional RPG-like feel to the game, the improved ‘Monster Medals’ are a blast to use in combat, whilst the newly incorporated online multiplayer offers a fantastic co-operative experience to share with friends. Square Enix have really gone all out in making Dragon Quest Heroes II a bigger and more diverse game, and it really shows in the final product.
Dragon Quest Heroes II doesn’t only maintain the essence of the original release, but improves upon it in almost all facets of design. It’s a fantastic game that really embraces the sense of adventure and quality that has forever been ever-present in the world of Dragon Quest.
Developer: Omega Force, KOEI Tecmo
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 28/04/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC