‘Dragon Quest Treasures’ review: the sky’s the limit
In Dragon Quest Treasures, life comes at you fast. Square Enix’s latest action role-playing game (ARPG) begins when blue-haired orphan siblings Erik and Mia sneak away from a rowdy Viking longship in search of treasure and stumble upon an ancient ruin that hides a pair of glowing daggers.
The couple clearly hasn’t seen Indiana Jones, and make the rookie mistake of taking the loot from the shelves without thinking. Minutes later, a portal sucks them into a strange land of flying islands, sky pirates and a whole bunch of treasure to be unearthed.
From there starts one of 2022’s best RPGs. For anyone who hasn’t played one Dragon Quest game, Taxes reminiscent of our favorite childhood gaming adventures – think The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon and Final Fantasy – where you are sent into a vast world on an epic mission that, inexplicably, always ends up with children being entrusted. IN Dragon Quest Treasuresyour task is two-fold: uncover the seven powerful dragonstones scattered throughout the world of Draconia, and scale your band of scrawny robbers into the world’s flashiest treasure hunters.
To do so, Erik and Mia must traverse Draconia’s floating islands in search of valuable treasure, building their base out of a giant train station that has seen better days. However, the couple cannot do it alone. Draconia’s islands may contain buried riches, but they are also littered with monsters. These are fought in fairly simple ARPG battles, dodging around as you slice them to ribbons, but battles can feel mundane when hacking some of Draconia’s smaller enemies to pieces, as some enemies have very few attacks and use them sparingly.
The creature design i Taxes is brilliant, and keeps things light – one moment you might be scrapping with a towering cyclops, the next a little pig with a talking witch’s hat. As well as beating them, these monsters can also be scouted as budding talent for your treasure hunting enterprise – if a defeated beast likes your jibe (or you’ve shot a lot of friendship-altering pellets into their hideout) they’ll show up at your base looking for a job.
Since you are traveling around Dragon Quest Treasures with a party of three monsters and either Erik and Mia (you can switch between them at any time), it’s important to choose which applicants to hire. Not only because stronger ones will prove invaluable in battle, but because each type of monster comes with a skill that can be used as you roam Draconia. While some are simply useful – like a quick mount or the ability to sneak – others can prove crucial to exploration, allowing you to reach areas you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. With your companions’ abilities, exploring the Treasure Islands is a joy – and when you’re not tackling the main quest or helping a beleaguered conductor restore the world’s derelict train stations, you’ll likely be taking on a variety of side quests as an excuse to talk to your party .
That said, their usefulness comes with a major downside: these monsters are some of the most annoying creatures you’ll ever encounter. It starts early – your very first companion is a bright pink slime that makes slime-related puns every few seconds, and while the bar starts low, it never really gets much higher. Imagine if Pikachu spoke English in an intolerably high-pitched falsetto, and kept saying “I’ll Pika-Pika spark you out” every three seconds – if that sounds excruciating, you’ve got the gist of what Dragon Quest Treasures‘monsters are like exploring with.
Personalities aside, these monsters are invaluable for sniffing out treasures. The general routine involves taking a train to one of Draconia’s many floating islands, leaving the station, and using your magical compass to find buried treasure. When you get close enough, the accompanying monsters will give you visions of where a treasure is buried, and you must match the image they provide with its real location.
Not all monsters’ visions will be the same – a bat’s image will be in grainy black and white, while the vision of a mud-slick sentient hand will be obscured by mud globs. However, the core treasure hunting aspect of the game is never difficult enough to become boring, and instead serves as a brilliant reason to find the islands’ gorgeous vistas and dig through their hidden nooks and crannies.
On your quest to find the Dragon Stones, you’ll visit biomes ranging from damp swamps, to frozen lakes and sun-baked deserts. Although some textures may look a little off when you’re up close, Dragon Quest Treasures‘ cartoonish graphics look gorgeous on the OLED when you’re high up and looking down on your next land to explore. It’s bright and colorful and adds to the game’s overwhelming sense of adventure – you’re never really just chasing the next score or the newest party member, you’re looking for the next subgame.
Combined with a sweeping score and a lively cast of eccentric characters, Taxes feels sweetly nostalgic for an almost bygone era of wholesome adventure. Regardless if you’ve played one Dragon Quest the game before, Taxes‘ easy to follow story and compelling open world make it remarkably easy to recommend.
Dragon Quest Treasures launches on December 9 for Nintendo Switch.
An ode to traditional RPGs, Dragon Quest Treasures is a joyful adventure. A well-paced story means you’re free to take in Square Enix’s expansive open world at your own leisure, and the game offers no shortage of compelling reasons to explore each beautiful island.
- An exciting score
- An inviting open world that feels worth exploring
- Beautiful nature
- Incredibly annoying party talk
- Fighting against weaker enemies can get boring