Siliconera sat down with Square Enix producer Ryota Aomi and Omega Force’s director Tomohiko Sho to talk about Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Darkness Below. While the game runs using the Warriors engine, I noticed some differences between Dragon Quest Heroes and Hyrule Warriors, another Omega Force project, so I began our conversation with that:
How did you approach Dragon Quest Heroes differently from Hyrule Warriors?
Tomohiko Sho, Director at Omega Force: For Hyrule Warriors, what we really set out to do with that was create a Zelda game that was a Warriors game, so it should feel like a Warriors game. That’s where we started that one. The approach we took with Dragon Quest Heroes was quite different. Rather than try to create a Warriors game that featured characters from another franchise, we wanted to create a Dragon Quest game that had become an action RPG. In that sense it’s an evolution of Dragon Quest rather than just a Warriors game. They may look similar in some ways in the way that they play out but the core of the game is very different.
Ryota Aomi, Producer at Square Enix: Just by having a Koei Tecmo do a game like this, of course people are going to say ‘Oh, it’s just another Warriors game,’ that’s something that’s unavoidable, but I don’t think that’s the case with Dragon Quest Heroes. It wasn’t designed to be just another Warriors game. [Omega Force] tried to stay true to the core of the Dragon Quest series and I hope that people see that when they play it.
How do you balance boss encounters with fighting hordes of enemies?
TS: Well, at first, we only had the idea that the player would be fighting hordes of iconic Dragon Quest enemies first, but, quite early on in development – it was a little ways in, but still early on – we realized that yeah, if we’re going to have an action game like this, then players are going to want to experience massive boss battles. What we really tried to do there was get the game system and the controls in such a way that you could fight these two very different opponents using a similar system, but we also wanted to make both of those encounters different in some way, which is why some bosses have additional mechanics and take a bit more effort to defeat than the smaller enemies.
The different idea is that when you’re fighting hordes of enemies, we want the player to feel really powerful. It’s quick action and easy satisfaction. Because we didn’t want the game to solely focus on Warriors game play, we broke up that experience by making bosses much more tactical encounters. We really want the player to be able to pick out their weak points and decide how to approach them.
There are a few characters in Dragon Quest Heroes that actually don’t appear in main-series titles in the United States. What are you going to do to introduce these new characters in the game?
RA: Well, we wanted to introduce people to these characters, so that’s actually why we put them in the game – so that people [in the West] can see them for the first time and experience the story with them. Obviously there is a lot of focus on the characters that have appeared overseas and we had a lot of fun putting their stories together in the game. We put a lot of effort into emphasizing the Dragon Quest IV characters in Dragon Quest Heroes, and think players will have a lot of fun with them.
In Hyrule Warriors, characters were designed around a single mechanic – for example, Sheik had her elemental songs that would change her combo and let her use different abilities – what approach did you take to make characters unique in this game? They feel quite different.
TS: The difference there in how we thought about each character was simply based on the volume of characters that Dragon Quest Heroes has in comparison to Hyrule Warriors. Hyrule Warriors had a relatively small cast so it was easy to design each character around their own mechanic. In Heroes, you can switch between characters, and that made giving each one a unique mechanic sort of redundant. So, instead, each character does have a unique move set, but, the focus is on the combination of those characters in battle and not necessarily each individual one. We based the balancing of the game, as well as what characters would have what kinds of abilities, on how they can be paired together, not how they can be used alone.
That brings me to my next question! Usually the Warriors combat style is very fluid, but, there are some obvious bumps in the game play in Dragon Quest Heroes. There’s a casting system, for example, and building tension takes a lot of time. Was this deliberate?
TS: You bring up an interesting point! We haven’t really talked much about the pace and the tempo of the game play, but if you felt a difference than it was definitely intentional. We very deliberately tried to slow down the game play a bit in comparison to other action games out there. Today’s action games just get faster and faster and faster. What we really wanted to do with this game was create something that anyone can enjoy, so we built it to be an action game you can actually think about while you’re controlling it. It’s got a flow to it, but you won’t be carried or swept away by the action.
There are a lot of Dragon Quest fans on the team. One of the things we wanted to do was kind of transform the feeling of selecting a spell or attack from a menu, and then executing it – this is why casting takes a bit of time. Building Tension is sort of like skipping a turn to do something, right? It gives you a great benefit of dealing more damage, but, it also leaves you defenseless until it activates.
Dragon Quest has taken some interesting turns over the years – Dragon Quest Swords was a fun side project – how did you go about building these two different action games?
RA: With Swords, the main drive behind that project was the hardware. We built it specifically around the Wii Remote and looked for a different way to experience combat in the game. That’s very different from what we’re doing with Heroes for the PlayStation 4. We didn’t focus on differentiating the experience through hardware so much as differentiating the experience via gameplay, so that’s why the game has traditional action controls. They are two very different approaches. I guess you can say that Swords was a hardware based idea while Heroes is a primarily gameplay based ideas.
Dragon Quest Heroes 2 was announced very, very soon after the first game was released. Why announce the sequel so soon?
RA: Well, we can’t really get into details about what we’re going to put in the sequel yet, but, it really was quite soon after the first, wasn’t it? Truthfully, we collected a massive amount of feedback from players that had had played the first game saying ‘we love this’ and ‘we want to see more of this,’ and after seeing what people had to say, we got several ideas on how to improve and build on the experience. After that, we thought we had enough to do something more and bring that to another game, so the decision was easy, and we had enough content to move forward with a second title.
Regarding Dragon Quest Heroes 2, how is it different than the downloadable content offered for Hyrule Warriors? That is to say, all of the DLC for Hyrule Warriors could’ve probably been made into its own game. If Dragon Quest Heroes 2 is just an elaborated, improved Dragon Quest Heroes, why not make it DLC?
TS: First let’s talk about Hyrule Warriors. We want to clarify here that we haven’t confirmed or announced any sequels to that title yet. The idea behind Hyrule Warriors DLC, though, was to say thank you to the people who had already purchased the game and to allow them to experience the game in a different way with new characters and gimmicks.
We chose to do what we did for Dragon Quest because I think the story is what people really, really look for in a Dragon Quest game – in fact, that was our biggest focus in the title – so we thought that a proper way to approach telling a complete story would be in separate titles.
This is a question for Miyake, who’s been sitting patiently through this whole interview! The last time we spoke about bringing the Rocket Slime games over to the west. Has that idea been floating around the office?
Yuu Miyake, Executive Producer of the Dragon Quest series: (laughs) Well, you know, when we talk about Rocket Slime titles, they really were the first Dragon Quest action game! And hey, if Dragon Quest Heroes does well, I guess we’ll have to talk more about Rocket Slime!