Who would have thought that a random ball of slime with googly eyes could be so compelling?
Vibrant, refreshing, and wonderfully weird, Dragon Quest Tact is Square Enix’s unique answer to the gacha overload on mobile right now. The free-to-play mobile tactical RPG lets you collect creatures from the Dragon Quest world and make them fight against other monsters in the wild, and no, it’s not Pokemon (even though so many monsters look like cross hybrids of our favorite Pokeball-loving friends).
If it sounds like such a horrific thing to do - pitting monsters against their will to fight others who are basically just minding their own business - it actually doesn’t look that bad when you’re in the game. You play as a silent human with a magical baton that somehow lets you control and train monsters to do your bidding. It’s not as sadistic as it sounds, as the monsters in the wild, when beaten, actually, look like they’re happy to join you and fight by your side.
What’s the story of Dragon Quest Tact?Guided by a fluffy pink ball of joy named Mindini, you set off on a quest to find out what exactly is going on and why you’ve been transported to a land without humans (except for this on-going Dragon Quest event where your monster pals are transported into the world of humans instead). You meet a colourful cast of characters along the way on your journey to find answers, but there are, of course, a handful of surprises and shady encounters that definitely thicken the plot.
Storywise, it’s nothing too exciting or mind-blowing, really, but the appeal of the game - as you can see from the title - is the tactical aspect of the battle system.
What’s the gameplay?True to expectations, Dragon Quest Tact challenges your tactical prowess with every match. You need to plan carefully about where you want to position your units, as you can only move in a grid pattern with limited moves or cells for every unit. The turn-based tactical system lets you bring a party of five into battle, and each unit will have specific strengths and weaknesses you can take advantage of.
Unlike in other gacha games, the matches can’t all be won by sheer strength alone. You need to map out how to maximize your party’s abilities. For instance, some units can leap across multiple cells at a time, while some can attack from behind obstacles and barriers. Some have long-ranged or melee attacks, while some can cast useful support skills that can greatly tip the scales in your favour if you play your cards right.
You can further boost the strength of your party by Ranking Up and Awakening them to break through level caps and deal with duplicate pulls.
What’s the appeal?Personally, I found the whole concept of playing as cutesy monsters a refreshing change of pace compared to all the waifus and anime-inspired looks from gacha games today. Since Square Enix is behind the wheel, the production value is just astounding - everything from the music to the cheesy-but-fun dialogue is just top-notch. Guardian Tales review - "A whirlwind of nostalgia in a quirky RPG package"
Ironically, the biggest selling point of the game for me is also its downfall, because while I found most of the monsters hilarious or adorable, some of them are actually the stuff of nightmares. I mean, there’s this dragon balloon thingy that just raises so many questions in my mind - how did he get there, and did he do that to himself? How does he survive floating forever through the air with no food or water to sustain him? It’s a pretty cruel existence, and I’m just honestly concerned for the guy.Dragon Quest Tact is available now for iOS and Android worldwide following success in Japan
The game is very generous when it comes to beginner rewards, so it’s not hard to jump into the game, even if you’re not a fan of the Dragon Quest franchise. There also plenty of events to keep you busy, or if you’re just here for the monsters, there’s no shortage of variety there (they’ve got everything from Angeling rip-offs from Ragnarok Online to creatures that will make you question the designers’ state of mind).
Overall, Dragon Quest Tact is essentially another hero collecting game on mobile, but the fact that you’re collecting quirky monsters makes it stand out from the crowd (or makes it creepy, depending on your preferences). I did find the little extras very welcome, like how the monsters you pull from the gacha wander around all happy-go-lucky on your home screen, each one doing its own thing. It’s cuteness galore, really, and I’m enjoying myself so far - I can’t wait for the inevitable Final Fantasy crossovers and event banners soon.
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