When it comes to the action genre, the Warriors games are usually more well-known for catharsis than deep mechanics. To an extent, that’s true with Dragon Quest Heroes too. But in my time playing the game, some battles surprised me as being genuinely clever. Those moments were mostly during the boss battles, and that’s where Dragon Quest Heroes really stand out to me.
One of the first bosses you take on is a giant trying to destroy a city you’re in. This guy is huge, blue, and has a giant club that does tons of damage. You also can’t just hit him like a normal boss; his weak spot is up on his head. If you try to take him on at ground level, you’ll do little damage and become open to a club in the face. The worst part is, he’s not particularly interested in you: he’s slowly lumbering his way towards something you need to protect on the opposite side of town.
The giant impressed me because of the scale and tension involved in his fight more than anything. He’s one of the first bosses, so he’s fairly easy to figure out: you need to hit him with ranged spells or do enough damage to his legs to make him stagger. If he falls down, his head is open season. The real threat comes from executing on that strategy before he reaches the other side of town and causes you to fail the mission. It was a close call for me: he was only a few steps away when I finally brought him down.
Some bosses do make things more complicated, however. Later on, you have to face a tag-team duo of a large bird and even larger troll. The troll is reminiscent of the giant boss, give or take a few feet shorter. He’s slow and it’s easy to dodge his attacks, and if it was just him then the battle would be trivial. However, if you go for the troll first you’ll quickly find out that it’s a bad idea: the bird will continually heal the troll faster than you’re able to do damage.
The battle then becomes about taking out the bird as fast as you can. But it’s not as simple as just whacking it to death. The bird flies all around the stage and likes to cover itself up in a magical barrier, making it temporarily invincible. Just jumping and swiping at it really isn’t the best approach. Instead, there’s arrow shooting machines littered throughout the area that you can commandeer to shoot the dastardly bird in the face.
Of course, there’s another layer to the fight, too. If you can aim at the bird in peace then the fight will go smoothly, but while shooting you’re completely vulnerable to everything around you. There are dozens of smaller enemies around to help out the troll, and if you get surrounded then you’ll get into real trouble.
I ended up having to do a lot of balancing between thinning the minor enemies and shooting the bird. Constantly having to maintain sections of the battlefield feels very much like a Warriors game, and having that aspect balanced with looking for openings to shoot the bird boss felt genuinely exciting. Finally depleting the annoying bird’s health bar and getting to go one-on-one with the troll was a real accomplishment that caused me to celebrate before the battle was even over. I probably celebrated a little too early, as I ended up getting lazy on my dodges and got my character killed. Thankfully, I had quite a few revival items in stock.
Just about every boss in Dragon Quest Heroes has a similarly engaging hook, and I was constantly looking forward to the next one. Their uniqueness actually goes a long way in making the game feel like a genuine RPG, too, hailing back to bosses requiring specific strategies or set ups to overcome. I was inspired to keep playing even after the millionth “protect X from the enemies” mission just because I knew a cool boss was right around the corner to make things interesting, and that’s really one of the best possible compliments I can give.