831st played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Square Enix

This week I had some extra time and it only seemed right to invest that in a long, deep game. Dragon Quest VIII seemed like a good pick: Dragon Quest V was a game I enjoyed a lot and this had a lot of contents that would easily carry me through these hours. I’m not even sure whether it’ll give me that far, but it’ll be a good time to experience this one.

Our Thoughts

There is something small about the way the eighth Dragon Quest game starts. You enter a town as the bodyguard of a king who has been turned into an imp, as well as the princess who’s been turned into a horse (and seems happy to pull the cart). You chase the jester who’s transformed the king and princess and from there a story starts that I’m sure will be more world threatening as the story goes on. You’re joined from the start by the bandit Yangus and gain two more as time goes on, covering some of the other stereotypes. There’s a decent world built up around this, which isn’t quite as in depth as it could be, but functions well to tell the story.

That world still looks decent – the more cartoony style works well to both set the tone of the (early) game and to keep it from getting too dated. There’s some rough edges, but it works and the colourful world builds into the mood the series sets. They’ve also paid a lot of attention to the details that make the world more real. The most subtle but most immersive is that while you’re traveling around the world map, you’ll occasionally hear the sounds of the horse and cart behind you, as the king follows you around the map. You never actually see them, but it feels like they’re really there. Add to that things like a day/night cycle that has an effect on the encounters and behaviour of folks in the towns and it really starts to feel like the world is alive.

The combat sticks to the series’ turn based roots. The characters attack and use their spells and abilities, which you rank up by investing points in one of a few skills which differ between characters. They allow for some nice specialization while still allowing for some ongoing growth. It has a monster collecting mini game as is common to the series by now, as well as some changes to allow a character to psyche up and get stronger. On the whole, it’s not too innovative, but it’s a system that works.

Final Thoughts

Although the core battle system may not have been as innovative, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King creates a surprisingly alive world, with some nice touches, down to you playing as your pet mouse several times to explore places you can’t get to otherwise. With all of that, it has all the elements of what an RPG like this needs, with the only downside that there’s a bit too much grinding required at times – that’s why I had to call it off before I really wanted to – I had a full day, but needed to do other things.