Game Comment: "Dragon Quest VIII" (PS2)

5 Feb

In Dragon Quest VIII – The Return Of The Cursed King you’re playing a male hero who travels with his king and the king’s daughter to find the one who cursed them so that the curse can be reversed. It’s a very linear story, there are side quests of course, but basically you move from one place to the next. This is especially true for the beginning. Later you get means to go back to places already visited. There are random enemy encounters which follow a some kind of turn-based system.

What I liked

  • the world: The developers created a beautiful world for this game. There are lush green landscapes, deserts, and snowy parts. There are night-and-day changes and yes, I took the time to watch the sun come up on the ocean.
  • the bonus dungeon: There’s a bonus dungeon after you finish the game for the first time where you’re getting some background information about the hero. It’s here that the boss fight of the boss fights take place.
  • a loooooong ending sequence

What I didn’t like

  • story:
    Dragon Quest VIII tells a generic story. You’re a no-name hero and nothing to say. You accompany your king and his daughter on their quest to find the one who cursed them. He leaves a path of destruction so that’s easy to do. Which means that you’re goal now is not only to find Sephiroth him but also to stop Sephiroth him. The last dungeon in the game (not the bonus dungeon) reminded me strongly of a location in Final Fantasy VIII so the similarities between Final Fantasy and this game don’t end with the Sephiroth-like villain and story.

    The story starts really slow. I was bored and it was only after playing for a considerable amount of time that I was developing some interest in the story.

    The characters in your party are also pretty generic. After their lengthy introductions, which slowed the start of the game even more, the interaction between the characters was nearly non-existent.

  • cumbersome controls:
    – There’s a lot of dialogue to save your game. I know it’s keeping this element in the story – you talk to a priest for saving – but it takes about 30 seconds to do it and that gets annoying in time. For each dialogue box you have to press a button to get the next one.

    – The same is true for your alchemy pot. A lot of dialogue to get your ingredients in the pot and before that some button pressing to even get to the pot.

    – There’s a skill that draws enemies to you. Useful, when you have to level up, and you’ll do in this game. But to use it, you have to – yeah, you guessed right – press buttons. 4 in all. For each fight. It nearly takes as long as running around and waiting for a fight to happen on its own.

  • game balance:
    – Levelling up. Levelling up is slooooooow (see investment and reward). And to make things worse, the characters in your party don’t need the same amount of experience points from one level to the next. Jessica (level 53) needs nearly twice the experience points Yangus (level 56) needs right now. Why?
    There’re enemies which are supposed to help here. You get a huge amount of experience points when you beat them. But, 1) they have to turn up first; 2) they have to stay for the battle (they tend to flee right away); 3) you have to kill them – taking only one or two life points away or hoping for a critical hit (and they can always flee at the last minute). If you want to beat the last dungeon, you’ll know what you have to be prepared for: hours and hours of mindless and boring fights.

    – Investment and Reward. Also known as running around (and fighting) with no end to it only to finally reach the treasure chest with a healing herb you’re able to get in the first shop of the game. Or: fighting dangerous random battles to get a small amount of bucks and experience points which translate into fighting a lot and a lot and then some more to get one more level for your character.

    – Battle System. Or who goes first? You would think that in two battles which take place right after each other (and nothing changed), the order who acts when in your party would stay the same. Well, it doesn’t. There are sometimes fights where this order is messed up, messing up your commands in return and possibly even getting you into trouble.

  • skill system:
    You don’t know what you’re going to get for your (sometimes measly) skill points. You can easily end up with skills worth nothing at all and be unable to finish the game. I want to know what I get after all the fighting I had to do to level up. Is it any wonder I relied on a guidebook?
  • Casino anyone?
    This side quest is something that drives home the point that it’s not always good to want to do everything in a game and get the best. One would be hard pressed to come up with a more boring and luck-based thing. The hours I spent on this …

You might get the impression, counting the dislikes, that I didn’t like this game. That’s not true. I think it’s a good game. It’s just that is has so many small, irritating things and nothing that really made me go “WOW” that it seems I didn’t care for it.

Did I enjoy playing this game? Difficult to say. I had fun with it after playing for some time. After twenty hours? Or even more? I can’t remember. Maybe it was after I got more “freedom” doing things and I no longer had only the story line to follow.

Would I recommend this game? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 / 5


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