Dragon Quest Heroes surprised me as one of the best PS4 games of 2015. Its mix of musou (“warriors”) gameplay with a few action RPG systems and recognizable Dragon Quest staples made it a favorite. A year later, Dragon Quest Heroes II repeats the success while making some fine modifications.
If it Ain’t Broken, Don’t Fix It; But if You Fix It, Fix It Awesomely
Dragon Quest Heroes II makes some changes to the original’s formula. It’s still a musou game swirled with a helping of action RPG, but it handles some systems differently.
Rather than have players select their destinations from a menu in the hub, Dragon Quest Heroes II requires an initial trek out to each new place. Once you’ve been out there, you can activate a Rula stone and teleport if you really want to, but your first trip has to be on foot. The world is beautiful, traversing it feels nice, and of course, there are plenty of monsters to squish and treasures to hunt.
While in these fields, the team occasionally stumbles across commoners in trouble. Do a simple job of smashing whatever enemies are surrounding these kind NPCs and they’ll reward you with a nice chunk of bonus experience.
Dragon Quest Heroes 2 Review (PS4, Single Player)
Monster coins function a little differently here than in the first game. This time around, the drops don’t come as often, especially in certain areas, so you’ll need to be more careful about what you throw out and when. Bigger monsters now tend to drop coins that allow you to take control of that beast and use its attacks for a few seconds. It’s sometimes a drag to not be able to have a golem defend a key NPC or zone, but at least you get to walk around smashing stuff, which is its own kind of fun.
The original DQ Heroes kept up steam for all of the hours I ended up putting into it, but it was also a brand new experience. This time around, the idea of taking an all-star cast of Dragon Quest characters around a new world while we musou the crap out of everything isn’t new anymore, so my play sessions didn’t tend to be as long.
That’s not to say what’s there is bad — quite the opposite, it’s great. Battling hoards of monsters with a mix of new and familiar Dragon Quest characters feels just as satisfying this time as it did last time, on a combat level. No doubt, if you liked the original, I see no reason not to love this sequel.
Leveling up comes with token advancements for each character, and a few skill points that players can spend. This feature makes a return from the first DQH, but now, players aren’t free to spend the points on any skill for which they have enough points; one must have the points and a minimum level, which I dislike. If I want to put all my points into the Big Damn Destructo skill while at level 12, I obviously have to ignore a bunch of other upgrades in order to have enough points to afford it, right? It’s a tradeoff — one that’s long been essential to the role playing process that gave the “RPG” its name. But with the introduction of level caps on certain skills and stat boost options, there are now more restrictions in place, giving players fewer possible ways to craft a character.
In this way, Dragon Quest Heroes II takes another step away from DQ‘s RPG roots and toward the musou makings of other Koei Tecmo/Omega Force “Warriors” titles.
And yet, in another way, it adds to customization. The main characters can now have their weapons and classes switched up, allowing them access to leveling up new ranks with each and learning new skills.
Special moves come up a little less often in II than they did in the original Dragon Quest Heroes. At least before you spend skill points to improve your special rate, you’ll notice that the pink bar fills up a bit more slowly. Furthermore, Omega Force took out a little way that players were once able to cheat the system; no longer can one simply stand in one spot and hold a button to power the special bar, then switch characters and do it all again.
Multiplayer is possible online and offline, but you’ll need multiple versions of the game if you want to do the latter. For the most part, online seems to go smoothly for those who delve into it, though I can’t speak much to it myself and it’s not been considered for this single-player review. As I have no friends, local multiplayer has can not be considered in this review.
Wider areas and the long haul in between missions serve to make the pacing better and add more variety to gameplay, but don’t go expecting an open-world RPG here. This is still very much a musou game first and foremost. DQH2, however, simply adds the ability to enjoy scenic landscapes and chase up some treasure in more ways than its predecessor did.
The Colour and the Shape
This is, naturally, the best that Dragon Quest has ever looked. Rich colors, smooth animation, and pretty spell effects greet the eyes in every shot. Of course the franchise’s signature monsters look as good as the characters and environments, making them almost hard to kill sometimes. Though a cross-gen game with other versions on PS3 and Vita, this PS4 version doesn’t look out of place on the system at all. While it’s not leaps and bounds ahead of its 2015 predecessor, Dragon Quest Heroes II is a damn fine looking game.
Marching to a Different Drum. Or the Same Drum Sometimes.
Once again, fans will recognize a selection of music from earlier Dragon Quest games, arranged to fit the modern era. New, catchy music tracks are present as well, though it’s not the kind of soundtrack that’ll be remembered long after end credits. During stretches of smashing slimes, I generally preferred to turn on a podcast or some music of my own.
Sound effects and jingles are as important to Dragon Quest‘s audio as the music, and longtime fans won’t be disappointed in how many of them live on in Heroes II. The downside of this is that the game insists that players do noting else while its little fanfares play out. Five seconds might sound like a long time, but when we’re talking about your ability to navigate menus being completely locked up because the game has to play a tune, that’s an eternity. But hey, it wouldn’t be Dragon Quest without some slow-paced menu jank, would it?
*Level-up Fanfare Here.* Alex, Can We Have That Fanfare Autoplay on This Page? No. Well Crap, Then This is Heading Awkward
Dragon Quest Heroes II comes as an easy recommendation to any musou fan and anyone who liked the first Dragon Quest Heroes. It keeps the classic Dragon Quest world and Warriors-style combat that made the first so fun while tossing in some small changes and additions that make this sequel a worthy successor.