Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is a fun little game about defending towns, battling hordes, and causing unspeakable existential crises.
DQH:TWTWatBB is a Dynasty Warriors-esque game (wow, I haven’t reviewed any straight DW games in the last 300 entries? Weird) like Hyrule Warriors. In fact, this game was likely partially inspired by Hyrule Warriors, as, after toying with Gundams for a while, Dynasty Warriors now seems to be in the cross over business. The main appeal of Dragon Quest Heroes is that Dragon Quest part of the title, and that you can battle as all your favorite characters (and Kiryl) from the DQ games that actually featured memorable characters. And don’t underestimate how appealing this can be to fans of a JRPG series! There’s an indescribable joy at seeing characters previously confined to menus and text busting out of their battle screens to finally jump kick across continents as they were always meant to do. Even the less dynamic spell casters of the franchise come alive when they’re dashing around dungeons and actually participating in their kasizziles. And those high tension super moves? Nothing more exciting than seeing a real, screen-clearing giga slash. Take that, you blighting monsters!
And, of course, that’s the other fun part of DQH. While Dynasty Warriors or even Hyrule Warriors can only hope for an interesting boss/general after mowing down swarms of unnamed and uninteresting trash mobs, Dragon Quest has literally decades worth of additions to its bestiary. And many of those creatures were designed by Akira Toriyama, the master of transforming inanimate objects and heaps of ripped muscles into beings brimming with personality by adding only two eyes and a mouth (and occasionally some dangerously spiky hair). Why fight ten thousand generic goblins when slimes, dracies, and chimeras are available? Even the more common beasts (Living Armor comes immediately to mind) are more interesting than “anonymous guy with a sword and shield”. And is there a more iconic recolor than the humble metal slime? You’ve lost your spot, Reptile. Nobody farms you for experience.
But those monsters are where we run into problems. While I know nobody shows up to the Warriors series for the plot, DQ is a JRPG franchise (and a charming one at that), so there has to be something of a overarching story to the proceedings, and it’s a little better than “angry king wants to rule the world”. Well, okay, it does contain that, but the inciting incident of the piece involves all the previously friendly monsters in the (this) DQ world going haywire at the behest of a dark tribe/dude/dragon. But for monsters to come unraveled, they must once have been raveled, right? Yes, apparently the monsters of this world were universally friendly before the events of the game, and the opening cinematic shows gigantic golems handing out balloons, and potentially malevolent magicians putting on happy elemental shows for kids. This… is confusing.
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way: they’re called monsters. That is not a word with a good connotation, and it’s hard to believe there were centuries of DQ denizens telling their children, “Go out and play with the nice monsters, honey.” Let’s just assume that “monster” is something of a genus in this world, and be done with that line of thinking. Similarly, the more… monstrous of the monsters must have some greater, less-balloon based functions in this DQ’s society. We’ve already seen vicious saber cats used as mounts in other games, and one could argue that creatures literally called Killing Machines are maybe killing deer or cows or other living things that need killing for whatever reason. Slimes and Genie Sanguinis are likely just the hamsters of this universe, and a King Cure Slime or two probably assists in medical procedures. Trolls are just, ya know, trolls. Maybe they eat billy goats, but otherwise they’re just helpful sorts that assist in reaching that top shelf. Gigantes are there when you need to work on the roof.
But while I can forgive walking masonry and sentient puddles running around the place, there’s one monster that always makes me scratch my head.
This is a Walking Corpse. It is clearly a zombie. It is a monster known for being part of the undead class, and traditionally uses “undead” style attacks, with darkness or poison style properties. It is a mobile, rotting cadaver. By all accounts, this is a person that used to be alive, is now dead, but is somehow still up and about. This is a living dead guy.
And what the hell does that mean!?
There are monsters and humans in this world. There is a clear line of distinction between the two. With the exception of Healix the Blessed Heal Slime, every last monster goes crazy at the start of the adventure. Every single one, from wee Man o’ Wars to Marquis de Léon. Conversely, there is not a solitary human that joins the dark brotherhood. It would really help the villainous Velasco to have a human, elf, or dwarf army on his side, but he proves that he’s only capable of controlling monsters and one Lightling (and that only lasts for a chapter or two). In short, there’s an easy way to tell if you’re a monster or human (or approximation thereof) in this world: if you started rampaging the minute a dark dragon said so, you’re a monster. If not, you got a human there, fella. Very simple distinction.
So what does this mean to our friend the Walking Corpse? If there is a clear line between human and monster, how does a human become a monster? Is this a simple matter of eating a brain before death, and then being cursed to wander as a walking corpse for the rest of your days? But, wait, if monsters are usually friendly in this environment, then… how would that be a curse? Eternal life for the low, low cost of always being smelly and maybe losing an eyeball? Sign me up! But is it consensual? Is a Walking Corpse summoned by a necromancer, and it doesn’t matter if you were a saint or a sinner, your body is part of the undead army now? Or is it a matter of individual spirits possessing individual bodies, once again completely devoid of any consent? Is cremation popular in this universe for that very reason? And what of remaining family members? Do the little ones play with Grandpa Zombie? Are you expected to visit your parents decades after they’ve died just because they have undead mobility? And are we expected to buy birthday presents for creatures that cannot die?
Walking corpses raise way too many questions! And I killed thousands of them over the course of the game! This raises only further questions!
Luckily, they’re the only monster in the Dragon Quest Heroes that…
Oh Goddess dammit. I’m just going to let Bjørn the Behemoose stomp that world to paste and be done with it.
FGC #310 Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below
- System: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, PC, and… Switch? Uh… are we ever getting that port? I’m pretty sure portable would work well with this game.
- Number of players: One. This is a point of contention.
- Longest title in the FGC? Maybe. It’s between that and that Adventure Time game.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I’m starting to wonder if I really enjoy Warriors-like games. They’re fun for a few minutes at a time (and the levels here are blissfully much shorter than similar stages from Hyrule Warriors), but that quickly wears thin. What’s more, it seems like the only innovation the game can show for various levels is different kinds of escort missions, and whether you’re protecting a wall or a random village, it’s still a damn escort mission. All that said, I am all about controlling DQ Heroes in non-JRPG settings, and would also be down for Dragon Quest: Theatrhythm, Dragon Quest: The Platformer, and Dragon Quest: Ultra Chess. Dragon Quest: Minecraft is a maybe.
- Favorite Character: Alena always needed a world where she could stretch her legs, and her wild combat style here does not disappoint. And her accent, like her ridiculous hat, is adorable. Contrariwise, Terry is so terrible that I never want to play Dragon Quest VI again. Shut up about your stupid sword, Terry!
- Did you know? “Dragon Quest Heroes” seemed to just be the coverall moniker for spin-off Dragon Quest games, like the best DQ game ever, Rocket Slime. However, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below and its sequel seems to have snatched that title for the Warriors-esque franchise, as any searches for “Dragon Quest Heroes” returns almost exclusively this title. So, long story short, Rocket Slime is again ignored forever.
- Would I play again: Nope! What? I like this game well enough, but there’s a sequel with… Angelo instead of Yangus? Oh, bullocks, I might never play this franchise ever again.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari for the NES! It’s the gorilla my dreams! Or something! Please look forward to it!
Counterpoint: Dragon Quest Heroes II may have that asshole Angelo in place of Yangus, but it also has Torneko Taloon. And Maribel and Ruff. And Meena (the fortune teller twin). And Carver, one of the good DQ6 characters. And Ragnar McRyan in the Switch port.
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