Capsule Review: Dragon Quest Heroes II

An action role-playing game set in a crossover Dragon Quest world featuring some original characters as well as some fan favorites from previous games. Despite being the direct sequel to a Musou game, Dragon Quest Heroes II takes several steps away from that formula. The large-scale hack-and-slash battles with multiple simultaneous threats to manage are mostly gone and the emphasis is on individual combat encounters between a four-character party and small groups of monsters in an interconnected and semi-open world.

The gameplay uses Musou-like controls, but adapts them to an action RPG setting. Enemies group by the handful instead of by the hundred and individual enemies often take more than a couple of hits to defeat. As a a result, single-target and area-of-effect abilities are both useful, as are buffs and debuffs. Along with the fact that you can have four active party members at a time, this allows the individual characters to be quite specialized. They have unique movesets (though the two “hero” characters can also use many of the other characters' movesets) including ranged and melee characters, tank/DPS/support characters, and characters with varying reliance on combos. Unfortunately, this presents much less tactical depth than it could due to the lack of effective aggro management - the enemies preferentially target whatever character the player is currently controlling. Still, there are benefits to a balanced party and keeping one will allow you to handle just about any threat in the game (outside of a couple of quirky boss fights where a different team composition is more or less required).

Instead of disconnected mission maps selected from a menu, the game is structured as a semi-open-world RPG. You can walk from nearly any game location to any other, getting into random fights and finding a few secrets or resources along the way (though there are boundary transitions and loading screens in between zones). The world feels a little unpopulated for an RPG, mostly because there is only a single explorable town - other residential areas are implied but not visited outside of combat scenarios. Engaging in combat results in things you can do back in town - learning new equippable perks as a result of increased weapon proficiency, getting rewards for killing certain numbers of enemies, using enemy drops to power up accessories, and so on. But because the town is a place in the world instead of a stand-in for the between-battle menu as it was in the previous game, you can return to it on your own schedule, deciding when you want active combat and when you want downtime.

The story starts strong, with more depth and richness than most Musou crossover games get, including some genuine intrigue. Unfortunately, it becomes much more straightforward and predictable around halfway through, so hopefully by then you’ve latched on to the gameplay and characters. It helps that there are good scenes featuring and developing each character, often with good voice acting (assuming you can handle the English accents). The ending adequately wraps up the plot, but don’t expect it to be especially satisfying beyond that.

Overall, Dragon Quest Heroes II is a game with the immediacy of real-time combo-based combat set in a world you can occupy outside of the context of combat. While some aspects could use a bit more polish, the result is promising and scratches a unique collection of itches. If you like the idea of a semi-open-world action RPG with your favorite Dragon Quest characters and monsters, you can have a good time here - I sure did and would love to see another sequel with this structure.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the story and did some but not all of the optional and post-game content. I probably would have done more, but Dragon Quest Builders 2 had just come out and I was eager to start playing that.

Docprof's Rating:

Five Stars: Favorite. This is one of my all-time favorite games that made a significant impact on me or that I've returned to time and again.

You can get it or learn more here.