Dragon Quest Treasures
I finished this game at 23 hours, but I'm now 40 hours in. This is unusual for me.
The thing about me is that I usually speed through games and then drop them as soon as I hit the last cutscene. Even games I love usually end after I've exhausted the story content. Disgaea is the perfect example: as soon as that last battle is done, I might play for another hour to just see what the postgame is like, but I'm not motivated once the characters stop having things to do and places to go. It seems like other folks can play those games just for the systems for hundreds of hours, but that's not me.
But I am loving every minute of post-game here. I think partially this is because the story was absolutely nothing at all. They literally drop a "The real treasures were the friends we made along the way!!" line in the ending. Like, literally that. I'm misquoting but only barely. And luckily, they provide the barest of story goals to complete in the post-game anyway, so I can convince myself there's more to see.
The game itself is hard to describe, but the loop is simple enough: leave your base, find some randomized treasure through a game of hot and cold, come back and get it evaluated. The total treasure value will level up your base, which brings various benefits that make it easier to find more treasure. Most everything in the game contributes to this loop in some way, like train stations you unlock that help you get around faster, to monster abilities, etc.
The details, though, are many and fairly complex. A particular focus is on the monsters you bring to the various islands. The three things that they bring are:
- Their combat abilities - each monsters has up to 4 spells, plus a level and stats to back up all their attacks
- Their field ability, such as sprinting, high jumps, scanning for resources/chests, etc.
- Their favorite treasure, which determines what kind of treasures you will find on the island
These three variables aren't always of equal importance - particularly the favorite treasures are only really important once you start trying to maximize your treasure seeking time, or seeking specific treasures. So basically the postgame. The field abilities also start out really important, become less important in the midgame as you gain more monsters, and then more important again as you try to find monsters with specific ability/combat/favorite treasure combinations to maximize your efficiency.
And that's just one system! Other systems include pellets (that serve as your main way of attacking/healing/buffing/debuffing via your slingshot), dispatch missions, food, treasure forecasts, treasure polishing, pirate raids, counter-raids, base defense, dungeon diving, monster scouting, monster medals, metal monsters, bejewelled monsters, etc. etc. Each of these systems comes in and out of importance through different phases of the game.
And many of the systems aren't even important until the postgame. Particularly for me, I had no use for pellets until after I beat the last boss, which is when the combat really took an upturn in difficulty. I could let my monsters handle it before; now I'm an active participant.
The game is also overflowing with typical Dragon Quest charm. My guess is that they took advantage of the fact that we've had multiple generations of 3D DQ games to just rip those resources and dump them into the game. There are over 800 treasures by my count, and all of them are references to previous games or cute little things from the current game. They're delightful!
And the monsters are incredibly fleshed out, with many many skills, bespoke animations, strengths and weaknesses, sounds, dialogue lines, etc. Just an absolute wealth of charm and cuteness. There's also a thing you have to do where you see where the treasure is through the monster's eyes, and each monster family has different vision. Orcs are colorblind, Sabrecats see everything kinda blurry (because they're so fast), and the pigs with the big hats can barely see anything around their hat and nose. They're all very, very different, to the point that if you show me a picture of one I could tell you what monster it is. It's incredibly cute, and what a beautiful detail!
My favorite part is that as you fight and defeat more of them, you slowly unlock a 3 line poem that describes their personalities. There are cute poems in this game. I fucking love it.
The levels themselves are also gigantic. I would guess that I only saw about half of the mass of the 5 islands by the time I finished the game - I'm now exploring them inch-by-inch to uncover the non-randomized treasures and other little hidden corners. They're really interesting to navigate as well, with the feeling of pressing up against the borders in unintended ways. I often find myself asking "Was this how I was supposed to get here?" and that always makes me happy.
Honestly, the game is closest in my mind to a mobile Gacha style game. But it's never predatory, it's never monetized, it's only using those mechanics to show you cool things. I get the sense too that Tose (the developers) truly love Dragon Quest, and these mechanics are a way for them to get the player to explore their lovely levels, combat their capricious creatures, and take stock of their terrific treasure trove.
Dragon Quest alliteration is harder than it looks...
Anyway despite all my praise I don't know how much I'd recommend this game if you're not already in love with Dragon Quest in some form. I love every Dragon Quest spinoff I've played (By my count I've completed 7 spinoff games now, but only 1 mainline game lol) and this is no exception. But it's also tremendously easy and the loop is pretty repetitive. I think it works really well, but I wish there was a demo so people could get an idea of what they were diving into before playing it. It feels a bit like licorice in that way - you'll either love it or hate it.
But if any/all of the above intrigue you, I plead with you most piteously to play it, and participate in the prepostorous and peculiar pilgrimage that is Dragon Quest Treasures. Also send me your friend code.