While Square Enix has seen the Final Fantasy brand grow worldwide, their Dragon Quest IP has mostly been a phenomenon only in Japan. Over the last few years, more and more entries in the Dragon Quest franchise have been localised and it is great to see Square Enix show no signs of stopping. While late 2016 saw the amazing Dragon Quest Builders release on PlayStation platforms, 2017 has already seen Dragon Quest VIII get released on 3DS in English and now Dragon Quest Heroes II being released on PlayStation 4 and Steam. Dragon Quest Heroes II is a hack and slash action rpg and it drops the pointlessly long name the previous entry had. It impressed me a lot with its additions and enhancements to what I played in the previous entry. Omega Force and Square Enix have done a superb job here.
You play as one of two cousins who end up in the middle of a war between two kingdoms. What initially starts out as you protecting a town from all hell breaking lose, ends up in an old fashioned journey to restore peace across the land. While the plot’s main purpose is a means to more combat, it does the job well. There are voiced cutscenes and a lot of characters from previous Dragon Quest games who make their way into the story. The lovely voice acting makes each character in the party memorable.
The more open aspect of the world is also a welcome addition. Instead of just having you go from one mission to the next, you can explore a region and unlock teleport points to different areas and you end up going from one area to another just like you would in a mainline game. The mission structure as well gives you some breathing space with variations rather than the usual Warriors escort missions and horde missions. I feel like Omega Force is getting better with every spinoff they do and can’t wait to see what will happen with a hypothetical Dragon Quest Heroes III.
Combat is where you will spend the most of your playtime here and the improvements across the board are great. It is still a Warriors style game so things will feel repetitive but the strides made to mix things up are very good. Control options allow you to even button mash your way to flashy combos if you don’t want to invest time learning combinations. I appreciate accessibility options like this that make the game more welcoming to newcomers to both Dragon Quest franchise and also Warriors or Musuo games in general. You have the ability to switch party members on the fly in combat and it feels great executing special skills and quickly switching to another member only to chain some more skills causing quite a visual spectacle on the screen.
As you plough your way through hundreds of enemies in hordes, the medal system makes a return. This has been overhauled for Dragon Quest Heroes II and you can now gain one of three medal types. The substitute type is my favourite because it lets you become into one of the larger enemies on the field and wreak havoc for a few seconds. Normal combat has a tension meter that fills up as you attack. Once this is filled, you can activate a mode that turns things to 11 with you being temporarily invincible. You can perform skills with no cost while in this state and end it with a devastating finisher.
Warriors games have a ton of weapons to play with and each person will have to find their own favourite. You gain more party members as the main story progresses but need to pick a balanced set for actually heading into story battles. The class system lets you switch classes for the protagonist but I’d recommend doing this as soon as possible because every class change results in the new class starting from Level 1.
Visuals are great nearly across the board. While the character models look fantastic and portraits are straight out of a mainline game with lovely Toriyama art, the environments could look better. Lighting has been improved and it is good to see a Warriors game that doesn’t look like a last generation one visually. I hope to see some more effort go into making the environments not look ugly as some of them are an eyesore here. Performance is mostly perfect on PlayStation 4 with the rare stutter that slightly takes away from an otherwise locked 60fps. Combat animations and skills are all a sight to behold and these actually make the repetitive combat more fun. Slick animations with tons of enemies on screen while retaining the classic Dragon Quest damage indicators is really something.
Voice acting is great in English and Japanese. The English dub has a British cast again and it delivers in spades. I just cannot get over how annoying Healix sounds. The music and sound effects are a combination of being straight out of classic Dragon Quest games and arrangements of classic tunes. The music perfectly suits the clichéd narrative and will serve as some great fan service to Dragon Quest fans while being plain great music in general for newcomers.
While the addition of coop is new, I was hoping it would let you play through the full campaign in coop and not just a part of it with a friend or friends. Maybe the next entry will allow for it but this is a step in the right direction as it is fun to party up with a friend and take on bosses and more in story battles or in a specific dungeon. There’s also only so much that can be done to mask the repetitive nature of the Warriors games’ combat. If you aren’t a fan, you might find yourself bored fairly quickly here although there’s a lot more here than just button mashing through hordes of enemies.
Dragon Quest Heroes II is my favourite Warriors style game now dethroning Hyrule Warriors Legends on the 3DS. It is packed with content and is fun almost all the way. If you are a fan of action RPGs and enjoy trying out new things, give this game a chance. There’s even a free demo available on PS4.