As far as gratuitously long Japanese game titles go, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Blight and the Woe Below is actually not half bad. The “Woe Below” part carries a particularly nice ring to it. That said, you’re best to avoid this game unless you’re a veteran DQ fan, or you’re really into games that throw waves of minions at you for hours on end with little variety.
The game starts out with a cut-scene that explains the setup for our two main heroes. At first we’re shown humans and monsters living together in harmony, only for the big bad to show up and turn them all hostile with a dash of black magic. You’re immediately tasked with protecting the king (who is a pretty great character, to be fair) by slaughtering hordes of monsters without a second thought for the rest of the game.
Yes, there are many things wrong with this but I decided to go with it. However by the next hour I was electing to skip all cut-scenes because it doesn’t get any better.
Oh well, a hopeless fantasy story can be backed up with some good gameplay and presentation, right? Square Enix knows why you’re really here.
Unfortunately, only one of these ascpects pulls through.
Let’s start with the presentation. Firstly, it’s great to have an option to play through the game with Japanese voices + subtitles. Japanese games are often spoiled by poor localization but this is a non-issue here. It’s great to see this option in the game and I hope it remains a feature for future titles. The Japanese voice acting is enthusiastic and lends some welcome flair to the game as a whole.
The OST is neat, sound design is great and all the jingles you know and love from the series are out in force. The game looks and sounds great… But that’s where it all ends.
The gameplay is relentlessly mind-numbing. Battles take place in closed arenas where you and 3 other characters are charged with killing everything that moves. I’ve learnt that the game opens up and offers some more interesting fights later on, but forgive me for bailing out on this game early – It’s just so damn repetitive. 99% of enemies are weak as hell, to the point where it’s almost impossible to lose. Even if your main character gets caught off guard by a wayward ogre fist there are 3 more superpowered heroes nearby who are more than ready to mop up without even draining half an MP bar. The game uses an old formula which is OK, but brings almost nothing to make it more exciting which just leaves the player bored way too soon.
Fighting off hordes can be exciting and stressful when there is real pressure, but after yet another cycle of turning a million small creatures into XP followed by a predictable boss battle, it just felt plain boring. If the idea of eradicating a species of small bats or goblin-like monsters in 10 minutes works for you then you will no doubt enjoy this game. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Additional aspects to compliment the gameplay are also undercooked. There is an array of items and equipment to discover although it’s stock standard fantasy gear we’ve seen a million times before. Upgrading your characters is almost interesting but it doesn’t count for much when everyone has such similar spells and combo moves. Switching party members in and out is a nice option to have, although there aren’t enough strengths and weaknesses across the group for it to be totally necessary here. Your party formation doesn’t really effect the flow of battle at all unless someone is hopelessly under-leveled, or has decided to fight with plastic scissors. You’re still going to be fine.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Blight and the Woe Below looks appealing, but an ultimately hollow experience lies beneath its bright exterior. It’s a shame to see such a prestigious franchise take a nose-dive like this but fans of previous games (or people who like to beat up millions of enemies in a short space of time) will probably still enjoy it.
*There are some online features for this game too but I didn’t really get to know them because (at the time of writing) PSN is… Well, you know.