Many JRPGs open slowly, taking their time to set up the story and introduce the player to the mechanics before venturing into the world. After playing Dragon Quest Treasures for an hour I thought it was, so I told myself, “It’ll get better soon!” I said it again after two hours, three hours, and five hours until, eventually, I was forced to admit that this game is about as good as it gets. Dragon Quest Treasures has never been lacking in charm or style, but the simplistic, subpar combat and loot-hunting mechanics had me scouring the bottom of the treasure chest in the hope that I missed something. Was.
Players of Dragon Quest XI will recognize the protagonists Mia and Erik, although they are much smaller in the game. Dragon Quest Treasures is technically a prequel to XI, but there’s hardly any overlap, and the vast majority takes place after jumping through a portal to the mystical world of Draconia. After getting their bearings and making some friends, they start a treasure-hunting gang and decide to find all seven Dragonstones, magical relics from the core of Draconia. While the beginning of the game is story-heavy, most of my 25 hours of playtime was self-paced, which I appreciated. The plot isn’t particularly interesting or engaging, but I didn’t need it; It is primarily a vehicle for the player to explore the islands around them.
The bulk of Dragon Quest Treasures involves exploring the islands of the open world in search of valuables, which can be found buried in glowing spots on the ground. Mia and Erik track it down using magic dragon daggers to see “treasure visions”, glimpses of the landscape near the burial site seen through the eyes of the monsters in your party. You can use these images to triangulate the position of the buried chest and claim it as your own. It’s not a terrible mechanic, but it’s not complex or engaging enough to base an entire game on. I encountered several examples of items being generated in similar areas when revisiting an island, which suggests that there is a finite amount of treasure to be found.
Once you’ve collected as many valuables as possible, your goal is to return to base safe and sound. Treasure’s storage capacity is limited, and you leave your current spoils behind whenever you die. There is no fast travel either. You can use a button in the menu to return home, but this causes all of your money to drop, effectively nullifying your campaign. If you use the Chimera Wing, you can travel fast without dropping anything, but they’re a rare, expendable resource that I put away for emergencies. These mechanics are all objectively inconvenient, but they bothered me more in theory than in practice. I rarely died in the field, and by the time I finished the game I was only forced to use a Chimera Wing two or three times.
Once you return to your base and evaluate your whereabouts, it reveals a beautiful rendition of a character or item from previous Dragon Quest titles. Even though I didn’t recognize many of the items I found, I greatly appreciated the detail, and I’m sure the nostalgia for the series will greatly enhance the experience. And as much as I didn’t really care for the Treasure Vision mechanic, I can’t deny the satisfaction I felt when I returned to base with a complete inventory and uncovered a coveted, expensive relic that I could add to my hoard. Found to add.
When you’re not hunting for treasure, you’re fighting off enemy monsters. Most Dragon Quest games are turn-based, but Dragon Quest Treasures uses spontaneous, in-world action combat. Unfortunately, the combat is limited and clunky; Using the attacks at your disposal felt uncomfortable, and often caused me to take damage or miss shots. For example, Mia and Erik can attack with their daggers and move out of the way of an enemy’s attack, but the pace in combat is slow and cumbersome. Dodge rolls are helpful when you’re watching an enemy strike from afar, but since rolls don’t interrupt dagger attacks, I didn’t have time to escape when I was close to take melee damage. As a result, I learned to avoid daggers in the most dangerous situations.
The other weapon you can use is a slingshot loaded with various elemental pellets, but I wasn’t a big fan of that either. Up close, everyone spins too quickly to get a shot off, and while the reticle is capable of locking onto enemies, it’s finicky, and I often had to fight against the controls to line up shots. Still, the slingshot is the only way to deal elemental damage as a player, so it’s not wise to ignore it. Once I had money to buy pellets consistently, most battles had me hanging back and using my slingshot while the rest of my team fought in close range.
The team in question consists of three monsters that fight enemies automatically. You have no control over what they do or where they go, outside of orders to attack or retreat. That’s okay, though: it gives each monster a sense of personality, and I could predict their behavior fairly reliably when I wasn’t in control. For example, my silver sabercat Blanco had a powerful move that caused him to rocket toward the enemy, but my red dragonling Bernie preferred to stay back and use magic. You can build a team around their combat roles, but I generally chose mine based on their forte abilities: traversal techniques specific to each monster species. Blanco was a mainstay because he could sprint, something I couldn’t do otherwise. I also liked having a monster that could slide into a jump position from a high point without taking any damage.
Whenever you defeat a monster, there’s a chance you’ll locate it, making it available for recruitment. To add them to your team, all you have to do is pay a fee for items and food that you can find in the world. If you don’t have the right items, you can view the list to narrow down your search, but don’t be more specific than one of the Big Five islands. This limited my party selection a surprising amount, and I went the entire game without finding enough resources to recruit even a few monsters. I’m sure I could have gotten more resources if I’d taken the time to complete a few trips with that express objective in mind, but I wasn’t struggling in combat so it didn’t feel worth it.
The whole reason for recruiting monsters and hunting for treasures is to fulfill the main objective of Dragon Quest Treasures: finding the seven Dragonstones. I wrongly assumed they would be hiding behind boss fights or within dungeons, so it took me a long time to catch the first one. I thought I needed a high-level team to combat the powerful monsters that spawn near the objective marker, but I was completely wrong. In fact, for many early Dragonstones, all you have to do is leave enemies behind and then complete a simple objective or simply grab the relic and leave. The stones themselves don’t even take up a treasure slot in your inventory, so you can use the menu to return to base and not worry about dropping it; You don’t need to come up with an escape route. Sadly the game isn’t clear about this, and I spent a lot of time grinding unnecessarily.
It’s the build up of minor annoyances that make Dragon Quest Treasures hard to recommend. The experience is driven by charm and nostalgia, but if you don’t have an existing appreciation for the series, there’s not much here that I can recommend over other open-world role-playing games. It’s an experience that will vary greatly depending on the player; In other words, one player’s Dragon Quest trash is another player’s Dragon Quest treasure.