General game information
Game name: Dragon Quest Heroes II
Release date: April 25, 2017
Price: US$ 59.99
Available on: Steam
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Dragon Quest Heroes II is a much improved sequel to the first Dragon Quest Heroes, a Musou spin-off of the acclaimed JRPG franchise. Developed by Omega Force and published by Square Enix, this action RPG title drops the tower defense elements present in its prequel and brings a big open world to the Musou formula, letting players control one of two cousins as they attempt to prevent a war that would prove catastrophic for the Dragon Quest universe.
The story is told through pre-rendered cutscenes and ingame events, and, while it isn’t groundbreaking or free of cliches, it fits the tone of the series quite well, and I rather enjoyed the humor brought by the cast of quirky characters that will join our party as the adventure unfolds. At some points I felt that the story was getting a bit too fanservice-y, and that certain characters were only present to make cameos that would be appreciated by series fans, but luckily it was never too on the nose and I had fun with the main campaign from beginning to end.
As expected from a Musou title, our heroes will have to fight their way through hordes of enemies, engaging in large scale battles in order to complete most quests. Two different controls systems can be selected, one for players who want to be in control at all times, and other for gamers who prefer to pull off combos and flashy moves effortlessly. As we said before, the tower defense element present in Dragon Quest Heroes is now gone, but thankfully, the Monster Coins system didn’t suffer the same fate. For those who didn’t play the first title in the Heroes series, this mechanic lets us collect some of the monsters we’ve defeated and summon them to aid us (or even temporarily transform our playable character into a powerful monster using a new coin type that wasn’t available in the first Heroes game).
The biggest new addition to the Dragon Quest Heroes formula is the introduction of a big open world that links the main mission areas (called War Zones). Before getting to a War Zone, we’ll usually have to traverse Wild Zones, open areas full of enemies to defeat and side quests to complete. Clearing certain specific conditions will also grant us the ability to enter the Space-Time Labyrinth, a dangerous dungeon full of loot waiting to be plundered. Since Dragon Quest Heroes II is also an RPG, the opportunity to engage in non-critical content is always welcome, as it lets us gain extra experience that will be invaluable when dealing with late game challenges.
Speaking about RPG elements, every playable character has their own skill tree and can use a number of weapons to augment their power as the foes become more challenging. We can learn new attacks and magic spells, respec our character in order to be able to use other weapons, or even acquire knowledge of passive abilities that affect the whole party. Thanks to the respec option, we won’t be forced into a specific playstyle when choosing our character, something that will probably make many Heroes players very happy. A crafting system is also in place, letting us obtain materials from fallen enemies and create new gear or upgrade our existing equipment.
Another big addition to the Heroes formula is the introduction of an online co-op system, which supports up to four players at any time, both during the story campaign and the challenging optional dungeons. I didn’t have any issues finding online partners in America, but the Steam Community forums suggest that players in other regions may not have the same pleasant experience when playing the cooperative challenges (which, I must add, can be completed as a solo player).
The combat system lets us perform powerful combos with button combinations, and while we won’t be fighting as many enemies as in other Musous, their toughness and varied skillsets ensure that we won’t get bored after beating the first few battles. Aside from normal attacks and combos, we can also take advantage of powerful magic spells, tag team attacks and a special mode named High Tension which lets us deal more damage than usual and use spells without having to keep an eye on the MP bar.
Graphically, Dragon Quest Heroes II is probably the prettiest looking game in the entire franchise, with beautiful models bringing both friend and foe to life. This attention to detail is probably the reason for the relatively small number of enemies we’ll face at any given time, considering that previous Musou experiences would throw hundreds of foes at the player, but their models/texture work were not on the level of the ones we’ll find here. I didn’t experience any performance issues, but some players have reported that they needed to open a Youtube video/Twitch stream in the background in order for the game to fully utilize the power of their graphics card. An alternative option for people experiencing these issues would be to put their GPU in max performance mode using a graphics card control panel toggle (the setting varies for AMD and Nvidia cards). Moving on to the audio front, I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, and the English voice acting wasn’t as jarring as in the first game, but I ended up switching to the original Japanese voices after a while.
To summarize, Dragon Quest Heroes II is a marked improvement over its prequel, removing divisive elements and introducing an online co-op mode and a big open world full of side content to explore. Most players will fall in love with the game’s excellent combat system and existing Dragon Quest fans will probably be attracted by the constant references to previous games in the series.