My brother and I continue our RPGTrek with Dragon Warrior II.
Originally released on Jan 1987 on NES (in Japan), Dragon Quest II, (Known as Dragon Warrior II in the US -the name was changed due to copy right issues), continues to epic (yet short) story from the first game as adventures take off on another adventure to save the world from the evil forces of Hargon.
As a sequel to the original game, everything in Dragon Warrior II (DWII) is bigger as you get more party members, larger lands, vehicle transportation and much more! While this makes the game feel more epic, bigger is not always bigger.
A cut scene at the beginning shows you that monsters are on the loose, causing chaos and killing people. Clearly, the people need saving! You start off with the main hero, The Prince of Midenhall. The king, his father, sends him out to address this evil. As a descendant of our hero from the first game, saving people from evil warlords comes naturally! Eventually, two other descendants join the quest, The Prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbrook, fulfilling the roles of cleric and wizard, respectfully.
At this point, close to half way, the game really opens up. The size of the world eclipses the first game by a factor of three. At first, I felt exhilarated that the game had such an open world feel to it. As I sailed around, I found awesome places to grind, new towns to explore and hidden goodies. But, eventually, I ran out of things to do. And I only had two out of five of the needed relics to move forward. I found some vague clues from townspeople, but, alas, I could not find the relics or other items I needed to move forward. Eventually I broke down and looked up the FAQ. It took two separate FAQs to find all of the required items needed to move forward.
Relatively early, the party gains a boat that allows them to travel nearly anywhere in the world. The first place they visit after obtaining their ship, Alefgard, the entire continent from the first game, albeit a bit shrunk. You visit that first town that kicked this all off, and can sail across a river to get to the final castle of that first game easily enough. I found all these references to the first game super exciting. Playing the two games in a row pays off both in story, and understanding the setting a bit better.
Having three characters, instead of one, combat flows better. Similar to the first game, the turn based combat moves at a deliberate pace throughout. You enter your party’s command, and the round of
The main character acts as the fighter, with heavy armor and a sword arm that hits hard. The other two support him via healing, buffs, debuffs, and spells that can hit many enemies at once. As expected with a game this age, our heroes will fight many similar looking enemies. While most fights will not tax your ability to strategize in a fight, the sheer number of fights, specifically in the last couple of dungeons, will test the players’ patience and reliance on healing items. Death sends you back to town with half of your gold in tact (unless you stored it safely in the towns’ banks). This nearly takes the sting of death away, since you lose no XP in the process. combat plays out using your agility and some random factor to determine which actions resolve first.
For the most part, the combat felt balanced. In contrast with most other RPGs, such as Final Fantasy, the numbers do not get terribly large. You start off with around 10-20 hps and do 5-10 points of damage per round. These numbers increase by a factor of 10 over the course of the game. This sounds like a high number, but considering other games go into thousands, it felt low. This helps make the game easier to balance, with classes doing what I expected them to do throughout.
Speaking of the last dungeon or two, this trek would take us through arguably the darkest dungeon in all of RPGaming, The Cave to Rhone. Known for breaking RPGamers’ will to live, this cave drives has more twists. turns, and misdirections than a used cars salesmen. The first game had a few hidden stair cases, dead ends, etc., but DW2 (and this cave) dials up the ‘difficulty’ in this area up to 11. Even with the aid of a FAQ, these areas can confuse and confound experienced dungeon delvers. I cannot emphasize this enough… without the assist of a guide or FAQ, most RPGamers will pull out their hair and give up long before they reach the final boss.
With the assistance of a guide, I enjoyed the experience mostly for understanding its place in RPGamer history. However, outside of the rose colored glasses of time, I cannot recommend this game to friends. Without a guide, even great note taking and prolonged patience will probably not allow most RPGamers to overcome the arbitrary and horribly designed hidden items and dungeons required for completion. Even with a guide, the game simply doesn’t offer enough to offset its weaknesses. If you’re playing to complete the entire series, or learn more about history, and do not mind relying on strategy guides heavily, give it a shot. Otherwise, you may want to pass.