Posts by Tag / GAME: Dragon Quest Heroes II (6)


Go places and do things

I think my favorite game genre is “go places and do things”. Especially when there are multiple objectives that I can pursue in an order and pace of my choosing.

Prominent examples include 3D platformers like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, open world games like inFAMOUS and Saints Row, and action RPGs like Dragon Quest Heroes II and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Some games from adjacent genres qualify as well, such as MMO City of Heroes, Metroidvania SteamWorld Dig 2, and life sim Disney Magical World.


Look How Far You’ve Come

One of my favorite game tropes is what I call the “Look How Far You’ve Come” sequence that shows up shortly before the ending.

It can be done a variety of ways, but in some manner it reintroduces areas, characters, enemies, or other story elements that you haven’t seen in a while, emphasizing what’s changed and what hasn’t, reminding you where your journey began and how far it’s taken you. It’s a great way for games to add weight, consequence, and meaning to your adventure and actions while making the ending that much more climactic.

One of my favorite examples actually comes from Dragon Quest Heroes II. (Minor spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph.) In the lead-in to the final battle, you essentially go through a nostalgia gauntlet - fighting groups of monsters from each area of the game, in the order you explored them. The fights are easy and clearly more of a reminder than a skill test, and over the course of them every single one of your accumulated party members speaks up about your travels together.

It’s more common for this sort of reflection to be presented in cinematics after beating the game. But I find it more impactful when you can actually play through it. Which of course is why EarthBound has the best ending of any video game, ever.


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.



Expectation... Dragonment?

I think that Dragon Quest Heroes II hurt its marketing and reception by titling itself in a misleading way (much like Bubsy: Paws on Fire! did).

Dragon Quest Heroes (the first one) is one of several Musou crossover games (see also One Piece: Pirate Warriors, Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors, etc. etc.). These games feature Dynasty Warriors-like (a.k.a. Musou) gameplay flavored with a few mechanics inspired by the particular crossover franchise, set in the world of and starring the characters of that franchise. These games tend to be loaded with fan service for the crossover franchise, but it’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t enjoy Musou gameplay could enjoy these games.

The first Dragon Quest Heroes was absolutely one of these games, but Dragon Quest Heroes II is not. As I’ve mentioned briefly, Dragon Quest Heroes II pushes things much farther in the Dragon Heroes direction, and while it still has clear Musou influences the result is really an action RPG. Large-scale battles do happen but they are the exception rather than the rule, and there’s almost no tactical management of multiple simultaneous threats. The emphasis is much more on individual combat encounters between your party and small groups of enemies in an interconnected and semi-open world. I really enjoyed this (though there’s clear room for improvement in a sequel) but it’s definitely not Musou.

So, we have a sequel that’s in a different genre from its predecessor. And as much as I might wish otherwise, Musou is niche. Plenty of people are uninterested in Dynasty Warriors and its crossovers. Those people, even if they were Dragon Quest fans, would likely have ignored Dragon Quest Heroes and paid even less attention to its sequel - they never would have learned it’s not a Musou game, even if they like action RPGs.

Meanwhile, the people drawn to Dragon Quest Heroes specifically because it is Musou have a high chance of feeling disappointed or outright betrayed by the sequel not being Musou. I’m saddened by this Steam review of the game, which starts by acknowledging the game is not really Musou and proceeds to list many of the game’s “mistakes,” the supposed-worst of which are just consequences of the game not being Musou - such as enemy groups being smaller and enemies having more health than you’d expect in a Musou game. (While I’m not going to accuse the reviewer of being biased against the game, I will note that most other listed “mistakes” didn’t match my experience or were misleading/exaggerated/inaccurate. Though I do agree that it’s crap that enemy aggro causes your character to stop running to draw their weapons and walk more slowly.)

The review closes with the question, “When a musou fails to meet the requirements to even be a good musou, what’s the ♥♥♥♥ing point?” Of course the response is that this game isn’t a Musou because it’s an action RPG - but can you blame the reviewer for expecting a numbered sequel to a Musou game to be a Musou game?

By titling itself as the direct numbered sequel to a Musou crossover and then not being a Musou crossover, Dragon Quest Heroes II made itself harder to find for the people who’d like it and set up the people who did play it to be disappointed. It’s a shame, because I actually think the game is quite good at being what it is - but even I came very close to never playing it and was surprised by what it turned out to be.


The Texture of Musou

Other People: Why are there so many Dynasty Warriors games and spin-offs? They’re all the same. Play one and you’ve played them all.

Me: Why are the Dynasty Warriors games all two hundred hours long when there are so many of them? I’ll never be able to play them all!

I love musou games but they are so bad about having texture that drastically outlasts structure and has attached achievements. Primarily through grind and random drops that are tuned to be much slower than necessary. I suppose this is a good thing if you’re looking to get a lot out of each game… and you’re okay with what you get being repetition that is not meaningfully contextualized.

After I beat One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, I got the platinum trophy for it by grinding it out half an hour every day while walking on the treadmill. That was okay. It was a reasonable way to enhance my exercise routine.

I’m about to beat Dragon Quest Heroes II and while I probably could grind out the platinum on the treadmill, I don’t think I’m going to. Dragon Quest Builders 2 awaits, and even aside from that I have an embarrassingly large backlog and a full GameFly queue (which includes several other musou games I haven’t tried yet). I don’t regret any of the hundred hours I’ve spent on Dragon Quest Heroes II, but I don’t want to spend another hundred just farming for rare drops.


Three Things about Dragon Quest Heroes II

One good, one bad, one silly.

1. The Good

I previously theorized that the key to a good Musou crossover game is deep integration of the iconic aspects of the crossed-with franchise, and opined that the first Dragon Quest Heroes had shallow integration of important JRPG elements and suffered for it.

Well, Dragon Quest Heroes II has much deeper integration of these elements, to the point where it’s not even really a Musou game anymore. You can still see the Musou DNA if you squint, but I’d call it an action RPG and the experience of playing it reminds me more of Kingdoms of Amalur than Dynasty Warriors.

I’ll write more about this later, but for now I’ll just say that while I’m still a fan of Musou, this approach really suits Dragon Quest and I’m enjoying this game a lot.

2. The Bad

Fast travel is provided via the series-standard spell Zoom. As in other Dragon Quest games, this spell shoots your characters up into the sky and then back down at their destination. Thus, it can only be used outdoors - cast it in a building and your characters just hit their heads on the ceiling.

This is cute in concept, and the first time you bump your head in Dragon Quest Heroes II you get a trophy/achievement for it - like you’ve fallen for the game’s little prank but it’s showing you it was all in good fun. You learn not to cast the spell indoors and move on.

But certain outdoor areas also have obstacles above your head - rocky outcroppings, half-collapsed ceilings in ancient ruins, forest canopies, etc. - and these also block Zoom. It’s not so funny after the first time - the joke gets old fast and you can only get the achievement once. It’s just a delay - instead of warping to your destination, the spell fails and you must reposition yourself, go back into the menu, pick Zoom again, and pick your destination again.

This could be leveraged for tactical depth - there could be areas that are dangerous because you can’t Zoom out of them. In practice, I saw no such pattern, and it seemed to just be based on the visual world design that I doubt was created with this mechanical effect in mind. Even if that were the intent, they could just gray out the menu option when you’re under an obstruction rather than letting you attempt the spell and pick a destination when it’s just going to fail.

And the cherry on top of all of this? You can’t look straight up. You can’t confirm for sure whether the spell will work where you are currently standing. Multiple times, I’ve angled the camera as far up as it will go, seen what looked like clear skies, cast Zoom, failed, moved, tried to look up again, cast Zoom again, failed again. This no longer feels like it’s all in good fun.

Zoom should just always work outdoors. Failing that, it should gray out in the menu when it can’t be used. And failing that, the player should be able to look straight up and see whether the spell will work. The current arrangement wastes the player’s time in a frustrating way for no benefit.

3. The Silly

Several times in the game’s story, you prepare for an audience with the king. Each time, one of your party members tells you you’ve got some time so you might as well do some shopping or whatever, and the next time you talk to her you can go see the king.

At one point, the story pretends it’s the end of the game. You’ve won and it’s time to go see the king again for a big celebration. A couple of things give away that the story can’t be over yet, like unexplored map regions and huge dangling plot threads, but my favorite clue is the way the party member talks to you before the celebration. Her tone is less, “We have some time to kill, so do some shopping,” and more, “No, really. Do all your shopping. If there’s any shopping you think you’ll want to do, do it now. And save your game. Then we’ll go to the castle and I’M SURE EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE BUT JUST DO ALL YOUR SHOPPING FIRST ALL OF IT.”