Dragon Warrior: Begin a New Quest - Deep Look

This Is The Stuff Which Slimes Are Made Of
by Michael Baker

Dragon Warrior: Begin a New Quest
Platform: PC
Developer: Matt "Wonderslime" Demers
Release Date: 9.20.2015
Definitely for the fans!
"The squishy pseudopods of the Wonderslime have left their traces all over its graphics, its style, and its story, and the results speak for themselves in my opinion."
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   Once upon a time, there was a wondrous little slime who ran the RPGamer Q&A column. He slogged through letters and glooped together eloquent replies, but his dreams aimed for higher. With much study and effort, he would ascend through the vocations of the Temple of Dharma and achieve his goal of becoming a Professor of Splattemathics at Goo-Elf University, but he never forgot the primordial ooze from which he sprung. So, to celebrate his origins, he made a game: Dragon Warrior: Begin a New Quest

   (The man in question is Matt "Wonderslime" Demers, and in the interests of full disclosure he not only worked here at RPGamer for many years, but his column is what pulled me personally into the site's community and eventually led to my long tenure as the Japandemonium guy. Oh, and happy belated birthday, Matt.)

   DW:BANQ is, quite obviously, an homage to the Dragon Warrior/Quest titles of the 8-bit era, filtered through a fan's eyes and then built up into something that deconstructs, inverts, or subverts quite a lot of tropes associated with that venerable section of the series. The story begins as the player's character, son of the local innkeeper, is about to come into his inheritance and take over the family establishment. The only person not on hand for the festivities is his friend Benjamin, who was prophesied to be the Legendary Hero™ many years ago by a wandering prophet. A quick jaunt to locate his friend takes a sudden turn into adventure when servants of the world's newest up-and-coming lord of darkness pre-emptively kidnap the Hero before he can become a true threat. The plot then barrels through a series of twists, curves, and emotional hairpin turns designed specifically to undermine expectations and play with the entire concept of a fated war between Light and Darkness.

   The writing is consistently good throughout, with a lot of planning evident in the way certain events are foreshadowed. The biggest complaint would be how three-quarters of the planetary population speaks Early Modern English (heavy on the thees and thous) and yet has essentially no grasp of the EME verb conjugations. However, this is entirely in keeping with the state of the NES Dragon Warrior localizations as a whole, so it simply adds one more layer to the gâteau de homage that is this game.

   The battle system is like just about every DQ game ever, within the limitations of the RPGMaker VX Ace engine. The shifting cast of party members strikes an interesting balance of ability sets, while some pieces of equipment add special moves to a character's repertoire. A decent number of those items are cursed, and it's surprising just how long the player can make do with a warrior outfitted with nothing but such artifacts. Sure, he was magically muted, EXP-nerfed, constantly deluded and with halved hit points, but the dude was a walking tank (literally; AttackBot Armor) that could hit several levels above his weight class and had access to laser cannons. There is more than enough variety to equipment — between the store-bought, the enemy drops, the alchemic creations, and the Medal King goods — to let the player mess around with all sorts of strategic variations.

   Strategy can be important, as this game doesn't pull many punches. The difficulty steadily ramps up as the game progresses, with several bosses that require the player to consider all the options available in order to figure a path to victory. The final boss in particular is just plain nasty, but there will be other points earlier on where the game seems to delight in presenting apparently insurmountable obstacles. DW:BANQ also showcases its creator's penchant for math-based puzzles at times, as well as a general literary philosophy that means players are well advised to check every available bookshelf for useful information.

   Reading is also an important part of the game's principal collection side quest. Scattered throughout the world are over three hundred pages from the Monster Library, which details every single enemy in the game. These pages take the form of bromides, with pictures, a description, a list of item drops, likes and dislikes, and a personal quote from the enemy in question. Always funny and frequently punny, they also sometimes include clues to enemy weaknesses that might otherwise be overlooked.

   The core of the game's graphics lie in the NES generation, and more specifically Dragon Quest III seems to have donated heavily to the background tiles fund. Monster sprites are more varied, but generally come in three types. First are the monsters who appeared in the first DW trilogy; these look like their sprites were taken directly from those games. Next are the DQ monsters from later titles, retroactively made over into 8-bit graphics that are still notably better than their confrères. Finally, there is a fair number of original monster designs, including almost all of the bosses. At least some of these began their existence as creature graphics for Wonderslime's Q&A games (the S.O.C.K. and S.O.C.K. 2) circa 2006-2008. While their designs look good, they are very obviously not Akira Toriyama's work, and overall the three graphical styles do not mesh completely in battle. A game with nothing but original designs would be interesting, however.

   This game is still in late beta (v.98 as of right now), so there are a few glitches apparent. Foremost is the way the text boxes have little frames around words — barely visible, but all the more annoying. Other glitches are related to how enemies enter or leave battle, with a handful which affect NPCs in the field. None are game-breaking by any measure, and throughout my playthrough DW:BANQ was remarkably stable.

   For the most part, this game takes its music directly from the source, but a few tracks were arranged specifically for this game by Wonderslime himself. The boss battle themes in particular are bouncy, energetic, and a pleasant precursor to getting beaten up. As with most of DW:BANQ, the sound effects were kept to help preserve the atmosphere of a DQ game, for better or for worse.

   DW:BANQ is the very definition of a labor of love. The squishy pseudopods of the Wonderslime have left their traces all over its graphics, its style, and its story, and the results speak for themselves in my opinion. The big event at the end of the game's third act had me muttering to myself in amazement well into the next morning — that's how much impact it had on me. The entire thing clocks in at well over thirty hours of play, even without exploring the depths of the game's optional dungeon to completion, and it holds up throughout. Fans nostalgic for those halcyon slimes of yore should definitely give this one a go.

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