Game Reviews

Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation

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Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation

Thousands of years ago, in a strange fantasy world called "1998", the inhabitants had a strange taste in games.

They favoured number-crunching exercises with complex statistics but very primitive story and presentation. These games were known as "are-pee-gees".

The greatest of them all was the fabled Dragon Warrior 3. So great, in fact, that it would not die. After it's initial release, it was resurrected three more times on three different consoles.

It even had an outing on mobile phones. Now it's back to save the gaming world from itself once again.

But it's showing its considerable age. Gamers who cut their teeth on modern RPGs with their hybrid tactical or action styles are in for a rude awakening.

Awkward quest

You're unceremoniously dumped into a clumsy opening sequence where, as the child of a great hero, you're sent to see the king and given a quest to save the world.

Then it's off to the tavern to recruit a party of characterless bags of numbers. They might have names and a class like "wizard" or "priest" but don't be fooled.

These are just collections of statistics for you to build and manipulate, to help you on your adventure.

You push your party around with an unresponsive touchscreen joystick. They move on-screen in a crocodile, obscuring the scenery which, combined with the clumsy controls, makes it awkward to get them where you want them to go.

Once you've escaped the confines of the town, things begin to improve. A few steps into the wilderness give a sense of the scale of this game - it's huge.

The geography makes a rough attempt at replicating real-world culture, helping you feel at home. There are acres of meadow and mountain to explore, dungeons to delve and towers to climb.

Epic quest

As you explore, you'll soon find there are bits of useful equipment and information hidden everywhere. It pays to be nosy, and a bit of a thief, in this game.

Your expanding inventory hints at the rich palette of items and effects you'll need to employ if you want to reach the end of the game and defeat the Archfiend Baramos.

If equipment juggling isn't enough for you, Dragon Quest III lets you juggle character classes too. Reach a high enough level and you can "reset" a companion with a new class.

They have to start over at level 1, but get to keep some of their old skills and stats. It makes for a mouth-watering set of potential recombinations for those fond of optimising statistics.

These are the foundations on which modern role-playing is built. This was a transformative game when it was originally released, and its impact is still seen in modern games.

But however pivotal it once was, big chunks of the design have been superseded, usually for good reasons.

Repetitive quest

The most obvious example is combat. Fighting consists of little except repeatedly stabbing the "attack" button and picking a target for your hero.

The game determines the actions of your companions and the monsters, then you sit and watch things unfold.

Messages and numbers flash on the screen until everyone on one side is dead. There's no strategy, no twitch, and little skill. The only change of pace is the occasional chance to cast a spell instead of attacking.

There are monsters round every corner, and this pantomime gets old after a couple of hours. Later in the game you get the ability to teleport around, saving wilderness travel and allowing you to heal up easily.

But early on, you've not choice but to trek back and forth from dungeon to town, hoping nothing kills you before you get home and rest. We don't do things like that in game design any more for a simple reason - it's boring.

If you're an RPG fan, you can't help but feel the call to loot treasure and level up.

That itch is one of the most addictive things known to humanity, and it's enough to pull you through the game's vast play time.

Real old-school role-players, or those with fond memories of one of Dragon Quest's previous iterations will enjoy this. But for most, there are many better games in this genre on the app store.

Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation

Epic in scope, and with plenty of numbers to juggle, but it ultimately feels clumsy and monotonous by modern standards
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.