I think Dragon Quest Heroes took everyone by surprise when it came out in 2015. A crossover between Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series and Square Enix’s Dragon Quest could have easily been a disaster, but instead, it combined the best aspects of each franchise into something that was more than the sum of its parts. Fast forward two years, and Dragon Quest Heroes II is here to take that delightful experiment to the next level.
The basic idea is still the same: you travel from battlefield to battlefield, downing enemies by the thousands – as you do in any Warriors game – but with a story, characters, and RPG systems all inherited from Dragon Quest. Only now, there’s more variety in the missions you undertake, a wider pool of characters to use, and even more ways to strengthen and customise your heroes.
I’ll start with that last point, because Dragon Quest Heroes II’s single greatest improvement is the introduction of a vocation system. While most characters are locked into a specific role, you can freely change the two protagonists’ jobs – and by extension, the weapons and skills they have access to. There are five vocations to choose from initially (Warrior, Mage, Priest, Martial Artist, and Thief), with another two unlocked later in the game. That may not seem like a lot, but each class is essentially a separate character with its own skill tree, and access to different weapons means access to completely different fighting styles. Each job also has a few skills and stat boosts that apply across all others once unlocked, so there’s very good reason to experiment with them all.
Alongside vocations is a weapon proficiency system. It’s rather straightforward: the more time a character spends using a particular weapon, the higher their proficiency with it becomes, unlocking new abilities and boosting stats. Some of these rewards are limited to their particular armament, but others are weapon-agnostic, so it’s worth experimenting rather than just doggedly sticking with one option from start to finish.
The accessory upgrade system has also been reworked to remove a lot of the randomization. Each individual accessory has a pre-defined upgrade path, with specific stat boosts or special effects at each level; as long as you have the required materials, you can upgrade. There can still be some variance even within accessories of the same type – for instance, one Silver Ring might look quite different to another – but that random element is only present when you obtain the item. When you upgrade the item and spend those all-important materials to do so, you know exactly what the outcome is going to be.
What all this amounts to is a game where you can spend a lot of time maxing out your characters and perfecting their builds, if you’re that way inclined. The RPG systems in Dragon Quest Heroes II are easily as deep as those in a main-series Dragon Quest game, if not deeper, which is impressive in a game that was originally envisaged as a more action-focused spinoff.
To go along with that, Dragon Quest Heroes II has a greater focus on exploration. Most of the main story missions play out with Warriors-style battles, but getting to the sites of those missions involves traversing large “Wild Zones”. They’re filled with monsters to kill, but also treasure to find, people to help, and hidden paths to uncover. These Wild Zones are all connected, so you can feasibly walk from one side of the world to the other without ever having to return to the hub city or use Zoom. It’s not an open-world – you’ll have to go through some loading screens – but it nonetheless gives the world a sense of cohesion that was missing from Dragon Quest Heroes and its isolated maps.
That said, the Warriors influence is still present, and combat is still the core part of the experience. This hasn’t had the same extensive revamp as other parts of the game, but that’s because it doesn’t really need to. Omega Force has spent the last 20 years refining its hack and slash combat systems, and Dragon Quest’s familiar monsters and abilities fit into that perfectly – that was true in 2015, and it’s still true now. That said, there are a few little tweaks to mix things up, like the ability to turn into monsters for short periods, and a bit more variety in mission objectives.
Surrounding all of this is a quintessential Dragon Quest story: comical high fantasy nonsense that’s captivating and poignant nonetheless. When a world that’s known nothing but peace for hundreds of years is suddenly thrown into war, it’s up to an unlikely pair of heroes to figure out what’s causing the conflict and save the day. They’re not alone though, thanks to a speight of strange incidents where heroes from other worlds (in other words, other Dragon Quest games) find themselves transported to this one. Tying this all together is a fantastic localisation job, which is particularly impressive given how heavily the game relies on puns and other wordplay.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Dragon Quest Heroes II is an excellent game, taking everything that was great about the first game and doubling down on it. It’s still fundamentally a Warriors game, but now there’s even more focus on the Dragon Quest heritage with deeper RPG systems and increased focus. Dragon Quest Heroes did a fine job of combining the two franchises, but Dragon Quest Heroes II takes that to the next level.
Matt received a physical copy of Dragon Quest Heroes II from Square Enix for review.