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Dragon Quest Heroes is a fast-paced, challenging spin-off

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I’ve got quite the soft spot for Omega Force’s series of Musou titles. If you’ve heard of or played Dynasty Warriors,
then you know exactly what they are. As the popularity of the studio’s
games grow with every release, it branches out into new genres and
applies its Musou brand onto new properties. Even though it’s been
referred to as a guilty-pleasure series by many, I actually take issue
with that.
Granted, there is a feeling of repetition that’s current throughout
every entry — because you can only mow down waves of foes so many times
— but the level of richness in content, variety, and the sense of
scope is unmatched within the action genre.
I got just that with the upcoming release of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below (yes, that’s the full title). Even though it’s been out in Japan since February, Square Enix is keeping the Dragon Quest
momentum going for its upcoming Western release. While at PAX Prime
2015, I played over an hour of the English version of the game, and I
was pleased to see that this spin-off title has got just as much bite
and heft to it that the series is known for.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below (PS4)
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: October 13, 2015
MSRP: $59:99

Set in the kingdom of Erusaze, humans and monsters live in relative
harmony with one another, until one day, the capital city of Arba is
attacked by an army of monsters led by an evil sorcerer. Taking up arms
against them are two heroes from the king’s guard who must band together
a group of adventurers, warriors, and even monsters of their own from
across the land to combat the legion of foes seeking to destroy
civilization.

Given the scope and detail of both the Dragon Quest series
and the Musou titles, the story does well to fit itself nicely into the
themes and styles of both. With the vivid and colorful setting of the DQ
games, which channels Akira Toriyama’s signature art style quite well
along with the vast number of foes to battle, there’s a undeniable
richness to the world. Exploring it was quite a treat.

In traditional Dragon Quest fashion, players can name their central character and then proceed on their epic quest. However, Dragon Quest Heroes
presents players with the choice of two unique characters, Luceus and
Aurora, both of whom are fully voiced, have their own personalities, and
posses their unique play-styles. Selecting one will allow players to
view the story from their perspective, with the other serving as another
member of the party.

Much like other titles in the Musou series, players will be able to
choose multiple characters with their own unique move-sets and
abilities. Many of the classic DQ archetypes and classes are recreated with new fleshed-out characters, and even some returning from past Dragon Quest titles will join your party to battle the evils that corrupt the land.

Moving away from the random battles and turn-based combat, the
developers incorporated many of RPG systems from the series into their
brand of Dynasty Warriors-style combat and gameplay structure.
Battles are entirely action-oriented, using quick and strong attacks,
magic, and even the tried-and-true Tension abilities from recent Dragon Quest
games to beat down the legions of monsters. Stages take place with in
vast open areas with waves of monsters, while tasking players with
completing objectives from active quests.

You’ll have to manage your MP for magic attacks, and keep your
inventory of support items well-stocked for when you travel out into the
field. The gameplay is very similar to titles like Dynasty Warriors, but it still has the DNA of Dragon Quest.
I was happy with the marriage of different genres. Even though I felt
more a twitch-focused approach to gameplay, I still felt a sense of
progression as I grew in power along with my party.

Keep in mind, the general structure of Dragon Quest Heroes
is focused on the singular adventure with your party. Unlike the other
Musou titles, which focus on a particular characters and their campaign,
your party of heroes in DQH will be with you throughout your
journey, and while you can switch between them during battle with ease,
your chosen characters are still the main focus.

Eventually, your band of heroes will gain access to a flying fortress
made of stone, which will serve as your base of operations as you
travel around the world taking on new challenges. With the airship,
you’ll essentially have a mobile town from which you can shop, interact
with other characters, find new quests, and perform any other needs you
may need. Battles are much faster and to the point compared to most
other Musou titles, which is great for the focus on narrative and the
RPG systems.

With its October release approaching, this title will be up the alley for both fans of Dragon Quest
and the Musou series. For the classic RPG series, this is largely new
territory to be exploring. Action-RPG gameplay with its rich and
finely-tuned systems would be challenging to do justice, but I was
pleased with how Omega Force made the transition.

To make things more enticing for the Western release, all the
released DLC from the original launch in Japan will be available for
free to all players. Even with its new gameplay, Dragon Quest Heroes still exudes the same sense of adventure and wonder found in the much-loved series.

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