[First Impressions] Dragon Quest Bore? More? Score!

21 Sep

I had been looking forward to Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. Aside from craving a more simplistic, linear RPG experience, I was intrigued by the way DQIV‘s plot is split into chapters, each with its own star, all of which meet up in the end with you, the hero. The concept reminded me of MOTHER 3, which is also split into chapters. I was convinced that the chapters, along with the charming style of both titles would provide much of the same experience.

I was wrong in that regard, and DQIV didn’t please me all that much in the beginning, but by the end of the chapter two, I was well on my way to having some real fun.

After a short prologue introducing the hero you named, you begin the short tale of Ragnar McRyan, a royal guard tasked with rescuing the kingdom’s missing children.

The chapter mostly serves as a basic introduction to the game’s mechanics as it’s fairly short and devoid of most strategy. McRyan has no abilities to speak, so you’re left with nothing to do but attack and use the occasional healing herb (unless you manage to recruit a computer controlled healing slime as a partner.)

The plot is fairly weak, but it does eventually tie in quite obviously with the overall story.

Chapter 2 leaves in control of Alena, a rebellious princess, and her two retainers: one a paladin-type warrior; the other a wizened black mage. Alena, like McRyan, has no abilities to speak of, her high attack power being her only stand-out characteristic. The mage introduces what I’ve been told is the Dragon Quest series’ unique take on the RPG genre.

Rather than relying upon brute force, Dragon Quest games actually allow players to make practical use of status and buff spells. With the unique (yet occasionally frustrating) way DQIV groups up certain enemies, spells like Snooze become incredibly useful, allowing you to play the game in a refreshingly different way when compared to other typical RPGs.

Alena’s chapter is significantly longer than McRyan’s, but it too doesn’t contribute much to the overall plot until the end. The chapter itself is far more satisfying, however, as there is a lot more direction within the scenario and a lot more to do within battle.

I’m not yet finished with chapter 3, but it’s already my favorite. It has you assume control of Tarneko, an overweight family man who aspired to be a famous merchant. What makes this chapter so great is how the scenario ties into the actual gameplay.

You begin without much direction. All you’re told is that you’re late for work at the weapons store. When you arrive, you’re put to work buying and selling arms until closing time when you make a small commission. There are a few other odd jobs you can do around town, but after spending a few days working in the shop, you (the player) will begin to realize that the job is going nowhere and that you need to branch out.

So, with the money you’ve earned, you can gear up and head out to find fame and fotune. On the way, you’ll serve as a messenger boy between kingdoms and eventually open your own store where you’ll serve the king. What’s so fun about this is how unconventional it is for a fairly traditional RPG as well as how much grinding and dungeon exploration has to do with your progress.

You have to purchase your own store to open business,  but to get that much gold you need to find some rare treasure, as well as some rare item drops. One of the kingdoms is experiencing a lack of armor, so selling armor to the merchants there will net you extra gold compared to other towns.

It feels like an entire game could be built around this concept. I’m aware that there’s already a mystery dungeon type game surrounding Tarkneko already, but I doubt it’s all that faithful to chapter 3 of DQIV.

Overall, I’m enjoying myself. I think I’m only about halfway through chapter 3, and there’s still another chapter of new faces before all the characters unite with the hero. The game starts slow, but builds into a very unconventional and refreshing RPG experience.

Aside from the occasional longing for plot touch-ups here and there, I suppose the Square-tax was worth it in the case of Dragon Quest IV.

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One Response to “[First Impressions] Dragon Quest Bore? More? Score!”

  1. zpte September 22, 2008 at 11:29 AM #

    I managed to beat it a couple of days ago. At first it doesn’t seem like a game worth spending hours on level grinding but eventually it sinks into you and you can’t stop until you’ve finished it. It’s been quite a while since a game has done that to me, last game being FFIV DS but not in the same way.

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