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Monday, March 20, 2023

Dragon Quest Treasures Got a Demo!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - How did I like it?

Some time ago, DRAGON QUEST TREASURES released, and I opined that it should have received a demo so gamers could see if they'd like its gameplay loop, which is constructed in a way where it's more fun to play than to watch others play or read about. SQUARE ENIX got my message and released a demo of the game that is the first part of it. Demo progress will transfer to the paid game if you buy it, similar to the spectacular demo for Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition.

And that's nice, because DRAGON QUEST TREASURES initially takes place in the same world as Dragon Quest XI: Erdrea, featuring a younger Erik and his sister Mia living with the Vikings as assistants/servants for them, wishing to go on real treasure escapades like the Vikings do. That's consistent with their backstory in Dragon Quest XI.

Dragon Quest Treasures map of Erdrea Erik
Erik, you'll explore Erdrea years into the future.
For this game, you'll be in Draconia, which is a land of countless treasure made up of two formerly golden dragons that have turned to stone.

The demo starts in control of Erik as he goes around the Vikings to the deck of their boat, and frees Purrsula and Porcus with Mia. They escape and to a mysterious small island and encounter my biggest disappointment of the demo, and it's not that videos can't be captured. (Probably because Koichi Sugiyama worked on this game before he died.)

There is a puzzle that is basically the introductory puzzle of something like Pikmin 2, where one of the siblings stands on a block to press it down, deactivating a gate so the other sibling can go on ahead and activate a further switch so both siblings can be together. That kind of implied there would be puzzles with two characters on the field at once... but that puzzle was literally just for the introduction and not a game mechanic ever seen again.

To be fair, the demo only lasted under an hour and a half, and it'd probably be only an hour if you weren't fooling around like me. It's significantly shorter than I thought, and the demo didn't actually reach the point where you can choose who between Erik and Mia to play as, because after Erik and Mia go through the portal to Draconia from the island, you're in control of Mia who must look for Erik, who was ahead of her and went missing. This involves digging up a few treasures with Treasure Vision (as mandated by the story), using your party monsters’ special abilities called Fortes (all of which were a super jump in this demo) to access other areas (one mandatory and a couple of optional uses), and doing a few fights which involve using your Catapault (slingshot) to shoot pellets at monsters while your monsters do most of the work. I'm conceptually fine with the combat system where Erik or Mia play a supportive role to your NPC monster allies.

Dragon Quest Treasures Purrsola meows meowing cat
Purrsula's meowing conversation with Porcus is more engrossing than the game's overall plot.
I mean, just look at her expression. She's clearly into it.

The demo misrepresents how important the overall plot and storyline of DRAGON QUEST TREASURES actually is. From what I've read, story beats take a backseat to the randomised treasure-hunting gameplay and growing your vault in the real game, but the demo had the story determine your actions the whole time. The demo also ends before your vault / home base are enter introduced, so we're still deprived of getting to freely (in a cost sense) experience the game's core gameplay loop of exploring big areas of the world and collecting and sending back treasure. There was also no monster recruitment, not counting cutscenes where monsters go into your party without your choice. I hear managing your party is supposed to be a big part of the gameplay, too.

While SQUARE ENIX listened to KoopaTV to have a demo exist to begin with, I don't think they'll listen to us again and make the demo longer. And that's a shame, because the demo doesn't actually represent the gameplay of full game. It's woefully inadequate at best, and outright misleading at worst.

Ludwig liked what he played, through he struggled with the camera controls during combat. He expected the demo to be a lot longer than it was, and came out of it very disappointed. He'd still probably like the game if he got it, but now he is more than likely not going to buy it. It's on sale at 40% off right now (or $36) until the end of March 2023.

Sonic Frontiers was another game in a similar time period that had way too short of a demo.

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