In a world of serious games that expect a deep emotional commitment from players, it's nice when something comes along that just lets you zone out. This is how I've always viewed the Destiny Warriors series: a game that expects fairly little of its players, in return for a simple but enjoyable button mashing romp. This is the exact category that Dragon Quest Heroes falls into.
Developed by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is an attempt to capitalise on the relative success of the first title by adding a small flurry of updates and improvements. It’s also the second Dragon Quest spin-off to release in the past few months, coming off the back of the excellent Dragon Quest Builders.
The plot for Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is summed in in two sentences on Wikipedia, which kinda gives you an idea of how important the narrative is. The game starts with cousins Razel and Teresa sparring innocently before they are alerted to the presence of monster in the local area. Before long they are embroiled in an escalating conflict that will see them meeting new and old faces alike, whilst trying to quell full scale global conflict. It’s not the most original premise, but it isn’t too big of an issue considering the story plays more of a support role to the gameplay and combat.
Dragon Quest 2 takes a big leap over its predecessor in how the game world is presented. Rather than the level select screen on the previous title, players can now freely traverse the game world between missions. It's a nice touch that manages to shake off the looming shadow of the Dynasty Warriors titles by implementing a system that is very obviously inspired by Dragon Quest's world exploration. Unfortunately, the world areas do feel a little flat as they are essentially just large areas filled with cannon fodder, rather than an engaging world with points of interest. There are events that players can trigger across the map, but they are often inconsequential, amounting to nothing more than saving a person in return for a gold bonus. It is definitely a step forward for the series, as it starts to set itself apart from hack & slash predecessors it very clearly took inspiration from.
The combat is still very similar to the first game, with players using only a few buttons to deliver a mix of light, heavy and special attacks. Each character also has an overdrive mode that can be activated after the player has filled the bar. Players take no damage in this mode, and special and magic attacks use no magic points. To top it all off, players can press the circle button to deliver a devastating attack that damages enemies in the immediate area. It’s a great system that encourages clever use of overdrive mode in order to maximise your damage output.
I’d recommend playing this game with Japanese audio and English subtitles.The English voice work is absolutely dreadful. All of the characters are hilariously overacted, with comically delivered English accents and cheesy writing. Healslime - a blue floating blob that wears a beret - has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. It’s not possible for me to describe just how annoying the voice is, but it made me switch over to the Japanese audio dub instead.
One thing that tends to really bother me about Dragon Quest Heroes 2 - and other hack and slash titles - is just how dumb the AI can be. The enemies are often nothing more than cannon fodder: wandering into the path of your character to be chopped down, offering little challenge even when they form a larger group. While I understand the allure of these titles is the concept of large scale battles, it feels shallow when you take into consideration the limited scope of the action that is happening.
A huge addition to Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is the new multiplayer mode. Players can now enjoy non-story missions alongside friends or strangers. It’s undoubtedly a welcome addition, but the fact that player’s can’t play through the story together leaves it feeling like only a minor step up. A fully-fledged story mode would have undoubtedly increased the allure of the game over other hack & slash titles, but the limited scope of the mode means it ends up feeling flat compared to what it could have been.
Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t feel like a big enough leap. There are minor gameplay improvements that result in a more unique and refined experience, but at it’s core the game is still struggling to pull itself away from the Dynasty Warriors series, without any success. At its core Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is a perfect game for people that want a simple action-packed experience, which is exactly what a hack & slash game should be.
Dragon Quest Heroes II (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t feel like a big enough leap. There are minor gameplay improvements that result in a more unique and refined experience, but at it’s core the game is still struggling to pull itself away from the Dynasty Warriors series.