Dragon Quest Treasures Review
With a series as long and storied as Dragon Quest, new releases, especially those that are not iterations on older titles, always fill me with a bit of apprehension. Will this game look and feel like all the Dragon Quests that came before it? Will it be as pun-filled and cheeky as fans expect it to be? Will all of my favorite monsters be there? With its worldwide release this December, Dragon Quest Treasures launches a brand new spin-off subseries and answers those questions with two resounding yeses and one unfortunate no.
Treasures opens with siblings Erik and Mia, of Dragon Quest XI fame, riding the open seas on a Viking ship as children. They’re the lowest, least experienced crew members, but they dream of gold and adventure as much as the adults. One evening, mysterious monsters Purrsula and Porcus come into their lives and lead them off the boat to a fog-shrouded island where they find magical daggers. These daggers allow the siblings to understand the monster language, and soon Erik and Mia agree to follow their new friends to a far-away land of floating dragon islands in search of piles of treasure and the occasional dragon stone. Purrsula and Porcus desire to bring the seven sacred dragon stones back to their own realm, but there are teams of evil pirates that desire both the stones and the treasures the siblings dig up during their adventures. Much in the same way that the Dragon Quest Monsters and Mystery Dungeon subseries gave characters from Dragon Quest VI, VII, and VIII childhood spinoff games, this game works well as a launching pad for the siblings to have a new adventure in a world outside their mainline entry.
The music and sound direction is a strength for this title. The score is primarily the same tracks that have been used in multiple mainline Dragon Quest games and spin-offs. It’s familiar and appropriate, but it’s not going to blow any players away with originality. There are a few new tracks, and they fit right in and are perfectly cromulent. The high note for Treasures is definitely the voice acting. Erik and Mia have the most lines, and they fully convey the feelings of childhood wonder and excitement about the situations they find themselves in. It was refreshing to hear the main protagonists of a Dragon Quest game actually speak! All of the various important NPCs have primarily spoken lines with varied accents and phrasing that made their short time on screen memorable and unique. Even the monsters recruited into the party utter some phrases while out adventuring with the siblings. Those utterances come often and could have been annoying if not for how punny and well-delivered they each are.
Once the story has been introduced, players are given a few missions to get their feet wet before earning their very own adventuring base from which to launch treasure hunts to five other floating continents. Each continent plays like its own open world, with players able to go anywhere they can set their sights on. Players can freely choose Erik or Mia to lead a band of up to three monsters on expeditions looking primarily for treasure, but stopping to collect crafting materials from gathering points along the way. The monsters chosen to travel with each have abilities to help traverse the land easier, such as speed boosts, crouching down low, jumping up high, or floating down from heights gently.
The monsters will also help locate treasure by informing players when they draw near, and carrying said treasure chests after they’re dug up. There are multiple little subsystems involved in all this, and they all work quite well together to make the exploration and treasure hunting the most enjoyable part of the game. Using the siblings’ compass abilities to uncover the general area treasures are located and then each monsters’ unique view of the world to pinpoint exact locations gives the players the excitement of uncovering the unknown. The main islands each have wonderful, uniquely designed landscapes with tons of verticality. Walking to the edge of any island, players can see the other ones floating out there in the sky providing an amazingly scenic backdrop at any given time. Even with such far visible distances and detailed islands and monsters, the Switch handles everything smoothly, without any graphical glitches or slowdowns noticed during the review playthrough. The visuals match the excellent 3D graphics with the same anime tilt that has been a staple of the series since Dragon Quest VIII.
If freely walking around, exploring, and digging up treasures doesn’t sound like a straightforward enough experience, do not fear, Dragon Quest Treasures has an almost excessive breadth of tasks ready and waiting! In addition to the main quest objectives surrounding the search for the dragon stones, Erik and Mia have an astounding seven other categories of quests to guide players towards a monstrous variety of goals. Each category often has multiple questlines going and each of those have multiple objectives. Plenty of NPCs have jobs for the siblings to take on, and the rewards are generally worth the effort of completing them. Any quest can be designated as a main objective with a bright red symbol on the overworld map, but all open quests are always indicated, leading to small quest-marking arrows spread throughout the world in all directions. Many of these are easy to take care of as passing tasks while out exploring, but there are a few that require a more specialized approach. Such a wide variety is both a blessing and a curse as there’s never a time when the main story is pushing players to progress. Countless hours can be spent on the most mundane of tasks before a friendly companion tries to gently nudge players back on track. For those that are interested, there are also some online features that will be available when the game launches, but weren’t available during the review period.
Unsurprisingly for a game called Treasures, there’s ample swag to secure, with over 700 unique items to collect; mainly statues of characters, monsters, and equipment previously found in Dragon Quest mainline, mobile, or spin-off games. Unfortunately, for a game initially announced as part of the Monsters subseries, fans will be disappointed, with a mediocre 74 total monsters to fight and recruit. To add further frustration, two-thirds of this amount are simple palette swaps. While collecting monsters to build a treasure-hunting party is part of the game’s charm, being limited to two dozen choices, in a series boasting more than 1,000 monsters to draw from, is both perplexing and frankly depressing. With the vast openness the various islands provided, seeing the same few monsters over and over from early to late-game areas took away from the grandeur.
While some monsters will hear of Erik and Mia’s exploits and be drawn to travel to the home base island in search of employment, most new recruits join after combat. Occasionally, while out battling monsters, a message will appear that says one was recruited after being defeated. These monsters are then able to formally join the team back at base, provided their asking price is met. Monsters will request forgeable items and cooked goods before they join and are able to be used. For the most part this system works well, but as the game progresses, higher-rated monsters start asking for increasingly rare cooked recipes. While many recipes are given when the canteen opens for business and others are available for purchase, the best recipes are hidden away in the world. If players haven’t found a very specific recipe hidden in a specific treasure chest located in a remote corner of a single island, certain monsters are impossible to recruit. This lessens the already small number of available monsters even further.
Battles play out in real time and mainly involve the player’s party battling other monsters on the field. All opponents are clearly labeled with their name and level as well as an HP bar. Monsters too high-level or low-level are color-coded for easy identification at a distance. Players control either Erik or Mia and can either melee attack with their daggers or fire any variety of materials from their handheld catapult. The catapult acts as the de facto magic system for the game and pellets that can be used with it all bear names of Dragon Quest series staple spells. Players can provide healing or buffs for their party and elemental damage or debuffs to enemies by firing various pellets. With so few options on hand, the combat is difficult to master. Attacking with the single dagger does little damage, and shooting pellets is tricky on the fingers with the trigger being the ZR button and the need to scroll through a menu while navigating the battlefield to select the correct pellets.
After quite the learning curve, the battle system ends up working adequately enough, but always seems quite simplistic compared to what Dragon Quest has offered in the past. Dating back to Dragon Quest IV in the early 1990s, players have been able to use a variety of AI settings for party members not under direct control. Sadly, there are no such options in Treasures; monsters attack and use their skills as they see fit, often blowing through their MP pools quickly. With each major island being so large and exploration being so important, party wipes occur frequently due to drained teams of monsters not being able to fight their way back to safe campgrounds to recover. Seeing a game over screen in Treasures forces players to reload a previous save, a harsher penalty than Dragon Quest players are likely used to. The combination of tricky combat and the party wipe penalty led to a frustrating number of lost hours and treasures.
Some of the shortcomings of the battle system could be excused if not for an even more glaring lack of customization. There is no armor to equip on either sibling or monsters, no weapons to brandish, no additional skills or spells to learn or choose between. The only piece of customization comes in the form of monster medals, tiny coins dropped occasionally by monsters or found in treasure chests. Players can equip the coins onto Erik and Mia and each monster to boost base stats, but outside of them and equipping different pellets in the catapult, but outside of simply switching team members, there’s no other way to customize one’s team, and even this is held back by some frustrating hurdles.
Dragon Quest Treasures is a fun game for those looking to just wander around a Dragon Quest world and dig up treasure. Long-time series fans and those used to deeper ARPG combat systems might find the game to be too feature-lite though, with a dearth of monsters being the primary culprit from a series with more than a thousand to choose from. The main narrative can be breezed through in about 20 hours, but there are easily several times as many hours of fun to be had for those that enjoy a game with sidequests galore and post-game content. For a series with upwards of three dozen titles to its name over more than 36 years, it’s been a surprisingly long time since fans received a Dragon Quest console release. Mobile games aside, Dragon Quest Treasures is the first new release since 2019’s Dragon Quest Builders 2. While not as feature-rich as that preceding spin-off, Treasures forges its own way with a mountain of treasure to find and an expansive world that’s endlessly fun to explore.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Lots of treasures to find and quests to undertake
Excellent voice acting compliments a good story presentation
The battle system lacks player agency or customization
Far too few monster types and models
Most music is recycled from previous titles