The signs were there in the demo of Dragon Quest Treasures. I read in more than one place how it was one of those tasters for a new game that you just didn’t want to end. Now the whole shebang is here, I can confirm that the good vibes stretch way beyond the opening sections. This is a sublime Dragon Quest spinoff that will enchant a wide demographic of fans – old and new, young and old. It does what Arceus did recently to reinvigorate the Pokemon universe, bringing new ideas to the fold whilst clinging on to plenty of goodness from the past
Nostalgia kicks in immediately as you take control of a child version of renowned tealeaf Erik who long-time fans will recognise from the classic Dragon Quest XI. Erik and his sister Mia are orphans who reside on a Viking vessel. One day after a surprise encounter with two impossibly cute monsters, the pair are transported to the magical land of Draconia, which is teeming with a huge variety of creatures, many of whom will be instantly recognisable to anyone that has played a DQ or Monsters title. As you would expect from the title, Draconia is a place that is also abound with a huge bounty of collectable treasures that can be plundered, often with the help of your monster pals that can be recruited to aid you in a number of ways.
Not only can the monsters assist you in the way you traverse the landscape, allowing you to glide, bounce, sprint, bound and even be thrown to new and hitherto inaccessible areas, they also offer other abilities such as buffs and assists in combat, and treasure hunting capabilities such as giving hints and allowing you to literally see Draconia through their eyes, telling you when there is something tasty hidden nearby.
You get to build your own treasure hunting gang headquarters, which serves a number of different functions. From this hub you can appraise and value the items you have found and add them to a veritable Scrooge McDuck-esque treasure vault. The more valuable your mountain of booty, the more your gang level up. From your lair you can also recruit new party members – at a fee of course – many of whom are not only incredibly cute, but have knowingly hilarious names very much in keeping with the rich vein of humour that has always run through the series. As well as changing your own party of monstrous pals, you can also send gangs of recruited allies out on independent missions, known as a “Dispatch Team”, with the levels of success dependent on matching the correct type and level of characters to the difficulty and parameters of their destination.
Your base also comes equipped with a craftsman who can manufacture and sell you a variety of different pellet projectiles, an item shop, and a cafeteria which is run by a hilarious French-speaking Slime who can cook up status-boosting meals if you furnish them with the right ingredients
There is an overarching plot which features a well-worn trope of seven collectible magic crystals, which of course plenty of other treasure hunting crews are after. Fairly soon into the game you unlock a magical flying train which allows easy access to the various islands that make up the Draconia archipelago. There are plenty of side quests and hustles along the way, and of course loads of combat with the denizens of the islands. No random encounters here – all enemies can be seen on the play field and battle is instantaneous.
The action RPG combat is fun and easy to master, with familiar mechanics like cooldown on magical moves, and elemental considerations at play. The monsters you recruit fight alongside you in a way that reminded me very much of Ni No Kuni, and when defeating foes, unlike Pokemon where you are made to capture, here they will decide whether or not they take a fancy to you, and then appear in the recruitment section of your base if they do.
This is just an infinitely likeable game, that had had me beaming from ear to ear from the word go. It is difficult to pick fault with it, as it just feels so joyous to explore the world, satisfying to hoover up the treasure, and utterly compulsive to seek out and recruit a kooky menagerie of genuinely charming, often laugh out loud daft monsters.
It is a much more fun and technically more carefully executed adventure than the recent canon Pokemon game, and with Christmas on the horizon will be a first-rate gift for the young budding RPG player in your life. But as someone who has enjoyed the series like I have for so long (Dragon Quest 8, with its world-class Ricky Grover acting chops is one of my favourites of all time) then this is very much one for the grownups too, a great escape from the drudgery of everyday life as you escape into a colourful, charming, whimsical world where exploration and discovery are king.
Superb music and voice acting
Loads to see and do for gamers of all levels
Some draw distance shenanigans and blur in places