Dragon Quest Treasures Review – A Loot-Filled Wonderland

    Title: Dragon Quest Treasures
    Developer: Square Enix
    Release Date: December 9, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Action-Adventure

Following Dragon Quest XI, I don’t believe anyone was quite expecting a whole spinoff dedicated to one of that game’s party members, Erik, and his sister, Mia. But I sure haven’t complained. Erik was one of the stronger characters in the title, and I was yearning to see Mia receive additional screen time. Plus, as someone possessing a brief history with the Monsters spinoffs, Dragon Quest Treasures was immediately on my radar. And after playing it, I had a reasonably enjoyable time, though noteworthy elements made the experience boring and monotonous at points.

Dragon Quest Treasures stars protagonists Erik and Mia, prominent characters from the franchise’s latest mainline outing, Dragon Quest XI. The youths are orphans raised by Vikings and, as such, have grown an almost instinctual yearning for treasure. However, during one seemingly ordinary night when the crew is partying, Erik and Mia sneakily slip out onto the deck, freeing two bizarre creatures that were trapped, Porcus and Purrsula.

Soon after, the siblings decide to pursue their treasure-hunting dreams by utilizing a nearby mini boat, and with the two flying beings in tow, land on an island housing two magical daggers. As Erik and Mia grab them, the world warps, transporting the party to the continent of Draconia, a collective locale made up of five explorable islands. Here, the youths are granted the opportunity to find treasure to their hearts’ collective content and are tasked with finding the fabled Seven Dragonstones for Porcus’ and Purrsula’s benefit.

The narrative in Dragon Quest Treasures is not an emphasis, acting as more of a backdrop to justify the current circumstances. Admittedly, later scenes make the premise and involved cast moderately compelling, but they will not be what players stick around for. Instead, the gameplay is the primary focus here, and there’s plenty to dive into. Firstly, following the introductions and tutorials, with the latter being a tad too long for how simple the mechanics are, Erik and Mia form their own nameable gang, enabling free exploration across five vast landmasses.

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While usage of this term has grown too common for its own good, it’s appropriate to call Dragon Quest Treasures semi-open world. The areas are expansive, perhaps intimidatingly so, at least initially. Despite being tasked with finding the Seven Dragonstones, you’re free to explore at your leisure and find treasure entirely unrelated to the story-centric tasks at hand. In fact, you can even considerably progress without unlocking the various facilities in the base. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

One of this spinoff’s crucial mechanics and features is the ability to tame monsters, allowing them to join your party and aid in combative encounters. Getting them to join you is strikingly simple; they randomly appear as recruitable at the base once slain, though a special type of projectile shot by Erik and Mia can heighten those chances. Then, the final step for getting them to join is giving them the materials they desire.

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Still, even when considering the luck involved, the frequency and ease of encountering several monsters mitigate potential frustration. Additionally, each monster’s uniqueness doesn’t require players to catch them all, as their only manual active benefits arise from field skills. Some monsters let you ride them for swifter traversal, while others can fly you to specific parts of the map. As long as your monster party’s field abilities are varied and their levels are up to snuff, you don’t have much to worry about.

They are also vital for this game’s namesake, finding treasure. Erik and Mia have the ability to identify the general location of a treasure if they’re in close enough range, and once they’re even closer, the monster in the party will transmit their sight, more clearly depicting where the loot is to be found. However, utilizing their vision isn’t quite so straightforward since, depending on which monster’s eyes you’re viewing, the presentation alters. It’s obstructed in differing ways, which I found clever and humorous because it gives the mechanic some personality, alongside it potentially impacting how one organizes their party formation.

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Interestingly, the Slime family of monsters has human-like sight, so having one with you when searching for treasure is a viable strategy. It’s also worth noting that more common treasures, bric-a-bracs, can be easily found. And as for what all of this treasure does, it heightens your collective treasure value, which boosts your rank and earned benefits by extension. Moreover, monsters not in the active party can be sent on expeditions of their own, possibly bringing back loot of their own. Summatively, the myriad of ways to numerically progress provides constant windows of fulfillment. Other facets, like stealing other gangs’ treasure and completing daily missions, can add variety.

Unfortunately, the combat in Dragon Quest Treasures hampers the experience by a few notches. Despite exploration and treasure-finding being a primary focus, you’ll often find yourself in action. Aside from the previously mentioned scouting potentiality, there are also levels to gain and materials to gather in the world, with enemies being in the way of the latter. And the monster AI will passively fight for you, with general directives able to be stated. Further, Erik and Mia can shoot out pellets and attack with their dagger, but it’s usually relatively minimal compared to what your allies can do.

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Regrettably, even when considering the special maneuvers dubbed Wild Sides, the combat remains incredibly shallow and simple. The latter trait is usually a pursued focus in Dragon Quest. Yet, with how frequently one will find themselves embroiled in combat, more fighting methods would have been appreciated to stave dullness. There are even dungeons solely dedicated to fighting, and for as brief as they sometimes are, I was perplexed by its inclusion since these battle mechanics don’t have much going for them.

Another critique I have that’s tangentially related has to do with the soundtrack. Opinions on Dragon Quest’s audio have usually been pretty mixed from what I’ve seen, though I’ve always been a general fan. But the way it’s incorporated into Treasures is head-scratching, to say the least. When exploring a map, the song remains the same regardless of whether you’re in a combative scenario or not, which, at least for me, weakened the tension and atmosphere.

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It’s clear that Treasures is meant to be a casually enjoyable experience, but this lack of implemented audio caused these encounters to feel less eventful. While this may sound like a minor throwaway point, it got to me more than I initially liked to admit. Facing a wave of foes with the lively field music playing in the background sent mixed messages. Thankfully, the title performs well. You’ll certainly notice frame drops in a few contexts, though it’s never debilitating to the overall experience.

One last collective point worth bringing attention to is the base’s vendors. After completing specific missions, you’ll gain access to a workshop to craft pellets, a cafeteria to cook food, and an item shop. These functionalities are all apparent, adding spice to the gameplay loop. Currency is almost humorously common, so purchasing essentials should never be a concern.  On an offhanded note, online features are present that I did not get the chance to try out due to this review occurring pre-release, but based on what has been officially stated about it, the mode is merely supplemental, enabling players to interact with each other’s treasures and monsters for gameplay benefits.

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Dragon Quest Treasures is a fun time with plenty of adventuring to be had. Its charming writing expected of the series, and the endearing cast creates a distinct, inviting ambiance, even if the story isn’t exactly compelling. Of course, there are plenty of tasks to complete and items to find to keep busy as well.

However, the mindless and recurring combat can make progression a chore and blatantly unenjoyable if playing for lengthy sessions. The maps themselves can grow same-y because of it too, and the odd audio implementation is another fault that stood out. Still, the overall gameplay loop here can draw you in for dozens and dozens of hours, with an impressive quantity of content to appease dedicated players.

I tried to avoid saying “monster” and “treasure” as often as possible in this review, but alas…

Score:
7.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.