‘Dragon Quest Treasures’ review: the sky’s the limit

Not all treasure is silver and gold...but most of it is

In Dragon Quest Treasures, life comes at you fast. Square Enix‘s latest action role-playing game (ARPG) kicks off when blue-haired orphan siblings Erik and Mia sneak away from a rowdy Viking longship in search of treasure, and stumble upon an ancient ruin hiding a pair of glowing daggers.

The pair clearly haven’t watched Indiana Jones, and create the rookie error of nabbing the loot from their pedestals without a second thought. Minutes later, a portal sucks them into a unusual land of flying islands, sky pirates, and a whole bunch of treasure to be unearthed.

From there, one of 2022’s finest roleplaying games kicks off. For anybody that hasn’t played a Dragon Quest game, Treasures is reminiscent of our favourite childhood gaming adventures – think The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon and Final Fantasy – where you’re sent into a sprawling world on an epic quest that, inexplicably, always ends up entrusted to children. In Dragon Quest Treasures, your task is twofold: unearth the seven powerful Dragon Stones scattered across the world of Draconia, and scale your gang of meager marauders into the world’s flashiest treasure hunters.

Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.
Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.

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To do so, Erik and Mia need to traverse Draconia’s floating islands in search of valuable treasure, making their base out of a giant train station that’s seen better days. However, the pair can’t do it alone. Draconia’s islands may hold buried riches, but they’re also littered with monsters. These are fought in fairly easy ARPG combat, dodge-rolling around as you reduce them to ribbons, but fights can feel mundane when you’re hacking some of Draconia’s lesser enemies to bits, as some foes have very few attacks and use them sparingly.

The creature design in Treasures is brilliant, and keeps matters light – one moment you might be scrapping with a towering cyclops, the next a tiny pig with a talking witch hat. Besides battering them, these monsters can also be scouted as budding talent for your treasure-hunting enterprise – if a defeated beast likes the reduce of your jib (or you’ve fired plenty of friendship-altering pellets into their hide) they will turn up at your base and apply for a job.

Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.
Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.

Since you travel around Dragon Quest Treasures with a party of three monsters and either Erik and Mia (you can switch between them whenever), choosing which applicants to hire is important. Not only because stronger ones will prove invaluable in combat, but because each type of monster comes with a skill that can be used while roaming Draconia. While some are just plain useful – like a fast mount, or the ability to sneak – others can prove necessary for exploring, and will let you reach areas you couldn’t otherwise obtain to. With your companions’ abilities, exploring Treasures’ islands is a pleasure – and when you’re not tackling the leading quest or helping a beleaguered conductor restore the world’s defunct train stations, you’ll likely take on a host of side-quests as an excuse to spelunk with your party.

That being said, their usefulness comes with one big drawback: these monsters are some of the most irritating creatures you will ever encounter. It starts early – your very first companion is a bright pink slime that makes slime-related puns every few seconds, and while the bar starts low, it never really gets much higher. Imagine if Pikachu spoke English in an intolerably high-pitched falsetto, and kept saying “I’ll Pika-Pika spark you out” every three seconds – if that sounds insufferable, you’ve got the gist of what Dragon Quest Treasures‘ monsters are like to explore with.

Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.
Dragon Quest Treasures. Credit: Square Enix.

Personalities aside, these monsters are invaluable for sniffing out treasure. The general routine involves taking a train to one of Draconia’s numerous floating islands, leaving the station, and using your magical compass to locate buried treasure. When you obtain close enough, your accompanying monsters will provide you with visions of where a treasure is buried and you’ve got to match the image they provide with its real-world location.

Not all monsters’ visions will be the same, though – a bat’s picture will be in grainy black-and-white, while a mud-slick sentient hand’s sight will be obscured by globs of mud. The core treasure-hunting aspect of the game is never difficult enough to become tedious though, and instead serves as a good reason to find the islands’ beautiful vistas and dig through their hidden nooks and crannies.

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On your quest to find the Dragon Stones you will visit biomes that range from muggy swamps, to frozen lakes and sun-baked deserts. Although some textures can look a little worse for wear when you’re up close, Dragon Quest Treasures‘ cartoonish graphics look beautiful on the OLED, when you’re up high and looking down at your next expanse of land to explore. Bright and colourful, it helps feed into the game’s overwhelming sense of adventure – you’re never really just chasing your next score or newest party member, you’re searching for that next hit of wonder.

Combined with a sweeping score and lively cast of eccentric characters, Treasures feels sweetly nostalgic for an almost-bygone age of wholesome adventure. Regardless of if you have played a Dragon Quest game before, Treasures‘ easy-to-follow story and compelling open world create it remarkably easy to recommend.

Dragon Quest Treasures launches on December 9 for Nintendo Switch.

Verdict

An ode to traditional role-playing games, Dragon Quest Treasures is a joyous adventure. A well-paced story means you’re free to take in Square Enix’s expansive open world at your own leisure, and the game offers no shortage of reasons to create exploring each beautiful island feel compelling.

Pros

  • An exhilarating score
  • An inviting open world in which exploring feels worthwhile
  • Gorgeous scenery

Cons

  • Incredibly irritating party chatter
  • Combat against weaker enemies can become boring
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