Fighting through hordes and hordes of enemies with multiple characters; you'd think we were playing Dynasty Warriors. Well nearly, this is Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below, a game published by Square Enix and developed by Omega Force.
Let us start off by saying that whilst this definitely has the Musou formula and style of gameplay, that is the only thing it has in common with 'Musou games' and the Warriors franchise. We've spent around sixty hours and have loved near enough every moment of it. The combat is very much Dynasty Warriors-esque. It's not as quick as that series or Samurai Warriors but it doesn't matter because it fits the game perfectly; you have to be a bit more careful and tactical. In Dragon Quest Heroes each character has unique abilities. These abilities are also easy to perform, it's a simple hold R1 and press one of the face buttons, however these abilities do use Magic Points. The inclusion of MP is great, it stops you from being completely overpowered as some of the abilities are pretty potent.
Dragon Quest Heroes has RPG mechanics and this is where it starts to differentiate itself from the Warriors series. That said, the inclusion of MP and abilities is just the beginning of the RPG mechanics on offer. There is alchemy/crafting that allows the player to make a variety of accessories which help in certain ways (poison resistance, critical hit chance and how much EXP is gained). These accessories can be created multiple times and then melded together to create upgraded equipment. Now this isn't the most complex or varied crafting system in the world but it adds to the RPG feel of the game. There are shops where you can buy weapons and orbs (orbs increase the defence of your character). Of course crafting and buying weapons have been in the Dynasty Warriors games but they've never had this amount of depth.
Another RPG mechanic is the quest master. This is basically where you go to get your side-quests, and there's a lot of them. 104 to be exact. We completed every single one to see if they were all different. They aren't. There are six types of missions; rescue, escort, objective, defend, resource gathering, and boss fights. We wish there was more variety. There are also grottoes, effectively these are places where there are bosses and raid bosses. Some of them are easy, just simply hacking away at them will do. However some do provide a challenge and require a high level and a tactical approach. Defeating these bosses will make them drop rare items, equipment, or mini medals (the game's secondary currency).
The mini medals could've been easier to get. Luckily there is an accessory you can get that increases their drop rate. In fact, the game impressed us in this area. When you unlock the Trophies you can get mini medals; the trophies in this game are worth getting as they actually give you something in-game. You can also get mini medals by defeating certain numbers of each monster.
Talking of medals, we can't forget one of the game's best mechanics, Monster Medals. These you get from defeating enemies, so defeat an enemy and there's a chance that they'll become a Monster Medal. Monster Medals are separated into two classes, 'sentry' and 'saviour'. A sentry medal means that the monster will stay out and fight alongside you or defend a certain area. A saviour medal only show up briefly and cast out an effect. These effects vary from; slowed enemies, healing your HP or MP, increased attack, or increased defence. There are a lot of Monster Medals and they add more depth.
The music in Dragon Quest Heroes is good but there's nothing memorable except for the main theme. The iconic Dragon Quest theme brings a smile like slime to our face. That said, whilst the intro music is good, the rest of the soundtrack isn't great and some themes becomes boring and somewhat tedious after time. The boss fights have their own music and they aren't spectacular (except for the main antagonist and one of the post-game bosses; their music is pretty good).
Of course one of the biggest positives in this game is the art. Akira Toriyama's famous and iconic art style shines beautifully in this game. The presentation is great, the graphics are good, but it's the addition of Akira Toriyama's work that makes it. (For those who don't know, Akira Toriyama is the artist/illustrator for the Dragon Ball manga and anime.)
The story in Dragon Quest Heroes is the usual 'Light vs Dark' affair but its quirky humour and cool characters (including the adorable healslime Healix) keep the story from going stale. That said, it's a solid story but it could have been better; it's nowhere near as good as the stories in Dragon Quest VIII or IX.
Talking of previous Dragon Quest games, characters from other Dragon Quest games make an appearance. Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII and characters from Dragon Quest IV, V and VI are in the game as playable characters. These aren't copy and paste jobs, they have their own play style. Each character handles differently and has a specialty.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below is a great hack 'n' slash game with undeniable charm and a fantastic art style. Its minimal mission design does impact on the fun sometimes but if you're a fan and an avid player of the 'Warriors' games, then you'll have no problem getting through that. It's fun, bright, colourful and quirky. The story might not be spectacular, but the characters are fun and unique, and the art style is fantastic.