Dragon Quest is a series that is only achieving more and more popularity these days, bolstered by the Hero's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, along with the critical acclaim of Dragon Quest XI, so it seems like the perfect time to launch a mobile game - that has already been popular in Japan for a while - overseas. Dragon Quest of the Stars is the latest Dragon Quest game to hit mobile, and I can assure you, it runs much better than Dragon Quest VIII on mobile - half a decade after I bought it and several phone upgrades later and still, nothing can make that one run smoothly…
Dragon Quest of the Stars is a fairly typical approach to the gacha RPG formula but done so with an incredible amount of polish, and the expected amount of Dragon Quest/Akira Toriyama charm. Everything in the Dragon Quest universe is cute and endearing in the weirdest way, partially thanks to Akira Toriyama's artwork, and it's hard not to get caught up in everything: The story, the characters you meet, the places you go, and despite DQS clearly being a cut-down Dragon Quest experience, it manages to capture much of the same experience.
Just like with Dragon Quest Builders 2, you wash up on a beach with few memories and a mysterious book, and before you know it, you get caught up in a whirlwind of adventure featuring some weird creature you meet, your two friends, and an old man whose spirit is trapped in that book. From this point on you travel the world, engage in all kinds of fights, explore dungeons, and defeat bosses, as you would expect from any Dragon Quest adventure. And I must admit, it does a great job of emulating what you should expect from a Dragon Quest game.
You start on a single planet, and you can observe the whole thing through the Atlas - essentially Google Earth. When you move to a new location, you will see your character walk around the world, and encounter and fight enemies along the way.
When you go into dungeons you'll see your characters walk across the screen, you can tap away at items you go by, and of course, you'll fight more enemies. It's a nice, bite-sized emulation of the kind of actions you would expect to perform in a fully-fledged Dragon Quest game.
The combat is directly inspired by classic Dragon Quest titles, but with a new twist. As you battle, special skills and attacks you can equip will charge up, and using these in tandem with your other characters can unleash massive combo damage, and even grant you extra rewards once the battle is over. Battles mostly play themselves, aside from the special attacks, but this is absolutely the best way to play. Your characters will deal with their basic attacks themselves after you target an enemy, and then you can take care of the heavy lifting.
- Dragon Quest Tact is an upcoming tactical RPG for iOS and Android that'll be released in Japan later this year
Now, this is a gacha game of course, so it doesn't end there. You will be earning gems in order to pull rare weapons and items at a rate of 300 gems per item, and of course, the most powerful pieces of gear will help you defeat powerful monsters, so you're encouraged to earn gems - or buy them - and draw more equipment.
This is not the greediest gacha game I have encountered, especially in the early game where you will likely have good enough gear and more than enough stamina to carry you for a long while, but I can already see that by the time the game approaches the end, it is going to be costly.
And that isn't just because of the subscription service, either. There are two subscription services, one which will cost you 600 gems every two weeks, and another that will cost around £8.99 per month - free for the first month, of course. I have jumped into the free trial period for the subscription service, and honestly? It doesn't seem worthwhile at all.
You get some draw tickets, a monthly premium chest draw, and the opportunity (just the opportunity) to purchase gems at a discounted price. That last point is particularly insulting. From my perspective right now it certainly doesn't seem worthwhile, even if you get better rewards for being subscribed for multiple months. I complained about Mario Kart Tour's Gold Pass subscription, but this is absolutely worse in terms of value.
It's a bit of an unfortunate blight on what is otherwise a pretty wonderful experience. I adore Dragon Quest, and I would absolutely be singing its praises if I hadn't felt pushed into a subscription service in my first few hours of play.
Dragon Quest of the Stars has a lot to offer, but it depends on your tolerance to pushy microtransactions. There's a big main quest, events, multiplayer, and much more to keep you occupied. Whether or not the game is for you is another question, but it's worth giving a shot. Just keep your wallet in your pocket at first.