Musou or Dynasty Warrior-like games have grown in popularity over the years. No longer the weird game you saw Seth playing in the popular TV show, The O.C , it’s become its own massive franchise, with multiple spin offs, and some would even refer to it as a genre unto itself. Yet, it’s still very much an acquired taste. Mindlessly hacking and slashing through thousands of generic enemies might seem like a quick way to the dull the senses, but I’ve always found the experience to be particularly alluring as it’s one of those games that feels both empowering and cathartic to play, as you’re quite literally an all-powerful killing machine on the battlefield. I can’t deny that the formula has grown quite stale and, at the time, I found the spin-off, Hyrule Warriors to be the best Musou game I’ve played in a while, that was however, until Dragon Quest Heroes 2 came along.
The story of Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is nothing special really and it could even be best described as mundane and cliché. Nations around the world are being duped into going to war with each other and you take on the role of either one of 2 young warriors as you journey to discover and put an end to the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes. The narrative never really deviates too far from what you’d expect and that’s perfectly fine, had this been a mainline Dragon Quest game. The franchise has always been known for its simplistic stories, but it was never an issue due to superb writing, localization and characterization, and while the dialogue and cast (both old and new characters) are enjoyable, the main focus of the game is action, and thus the story itself needs to keep up, foregoing things like character development and world building. In the end, while fun at times, the story is forgettable.
The best thing about Heroes 2 is that it feels much more like a RPG. While a lot of the core mechanics carried over from the first game, there are a few key changes that really made me connect with this title in a way I just couldn’t with the first. Where the original game had you choosing battlefield after battlefield from a menu, here everything is interconnected. There are still separate warzone that you enter but to get there you have to go through a large open area that’s filled with monsters, treasures, and other little secrets. I have to acknowledge the fact that this is nothing but a veil covering up the usual Musou battlefields, but it’s one I wholly appreciate. The sense of exploration is refreshing and it’s fun to experience the combat outside of set pieces, especially testing your skills against some of the tougher enemies.
There is still a central hub area, but it’s an actual town this time, which is not only much easier to navigate than the previous game but it’s a much more colourful and vibrant place to be in. Apart from the usual equipment vendors, there’s a crafting station, a sort of fashion outlet where you change costumes and transmogrify your weapons. There’s also the quest-giver station as well as the Multiplayer lobby which I’ll touch on a bit later. Even though the town is essentially just a hub, the various NPC and party conversations you can partake in goes a long way in making it feel like a place you want to be in. The fact that this game made me want to be present in the world is a huge step forward for a Musou game, where locations are especially throwaway and meaningless.
Simplistic combat is usually associated to Dynasty Warrior games, and for the most part, you could say the same applies here, but I was surprised to see how much more there is under the hood. The core of battles consists of using a combination of light and heavy attacks as well as executing any one of 4 assigned skills. Apart from that, there’s team attacks you can do as well and the series staple, High Tension mode makes a return too whereby you can enter a powerful state for a short period of time. The Monster Medals from the first game makes a return as well, where you can collect medals dropped by slain monsters, and summon them to the battlefield, only this time, you can actually transform into some of them. I found myself making use of everything available to me, because while most of the mob encounters are trivial at best, the bigger baddies actually require a certain level of involvement, which I found to be a welcomed change of pace from the entire mindless hack and slashing.
High-level enemies and bosses demand that you pay attention to their attacks and movements as a few hits from them could easily wreck you. I found myself thinking about battles and how I would like to approach encounters. I always kept a healer in my team of 4 and I would often use hit and run tactics, instantly swapping between party members and making sure I manage my health accordingly. Most of the characters are fun to experiment with and their unique traits only added to combat and ensured that I always wanted to try them out whenever someone new joined my crew. Don’t get me wrong though, this is no Dark Souls, but the level of engagement required for some fights was truly refreshing.
The customization options are equally as impressive. Each character has their own individual skill tree where abilities and stat boosts can be unlocked with skill points you gained after levelling up. There’s a weapon proficiency system too which grants you new combos and passive buffs the more you use a particular weapon type. You can even change your main character’s vocation (the Dragon Quest term for a class), level them up and unlock new specialised ones. All of this helps in making me feel like I’m always working towards something, and even when the combat gets a bit repetitive, there’s always an incentive to keep moving forward. The same can’t be said about the multiplayer however as I found my interest in it came to screeching halt after trying it out for a few sessions.
One of the major complaints about the first game is that it didn’t have any multiplayer functionality, which is usually present in these types of games. While Heroes 2 does remedy this to some degree, the multiplayer component feels completely tacked on and basic. You can join up with 3 other people to either tackle special maps or boss battles. It’s consists of nothing more than hacking away at waves of enemies with other players, which gets old, really fast. You unfortunately can’t get your friends together to go out and explore the bigger areas of the main game, which is a shame, as that could’ve been really fun. Square Enix has announced a free DLC roadmap for the game, which should be adding more stuff to the main game and multiplayer, like the Monster Medal Battle.
On the presentation side of things, Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is full of that classic Toriyama charm, and there’s just a really special and overwhelmingly jolly feeling you get when you see his art style translated into a living, breathing virtual world. The one main issue I have is with the PS4Pro version of the game. There are 2 graphical settings, one focusing on performance with the other on resolution. The high graphics setting makes the game run incredibly slow, to the point that the horrible framerate actually affected my enjoyment of the game. I would highly recommend that you play this game on the default graphical setting if you’re playing on the Pro.
Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is a surprising game. I went in expecting it to be a typical Musou game, but what I got instead was a fantastic action-RPG that’s really worthy of the Dragon Quest name. I’ve played many Musou games over the course of my life, more than I would like to admit, but I have to say that this is probably one of, if not the best game of its kind that I’ve played.
Last Updated: May 16, 2017