Dragon Quest VIII

Four Reasons Why Dragon Quest 8 Is The Best In The Series

For some fans, choosing the best Dragon Quest game is akin to picking your favourite offspring, such is the importance of the series to them. Alright, so that might be a little hyperbolic, but it’s a widely adored series that has endured by delighting fans with its brutally simple formula; basic turn-based combat, hilarious cultural references and a boat load of charm. It’s safe to say that we’ve fallen victim to its pull too, but in a series filled with highlights and high spots, which do we consider to be the best? Well, the title might have spoiled it a bit, but there’s only one answer for us, so let’s get into exactly why…

The Characters

King Trode, Dragon Quest 8

It’s not entirely unusual for a Dragon Quest title to have great characters, after all even some of the earliest entries in the series have played host to some interesting party members and NPCs, however DQ8 absolutely excels in this regard. The key to this seems to be their depth, especially when you compare it to others in the series, even titles more modern. Every character has a story arc, each of which grows as the game progresses and, unlike others in the series, none of them seem to truly end. We’re still learning about our party members right up to the conclusion of the story.

This is mainly because they’ve been designed to be multi-faceted. Sure, Yangus might immediately seem like a rogue that’s gone good thanks to the Hero, but his constant riffing with Trode, history with Pickham, Dodgy Dave and even Red continue to build him throughout. Later on he even begins to pity our forlorn king, even shedding a tear in some of the sombre moments, much like a true growing character would. The same is true of every party member, and even the NPCs can be revisited to witness their changing opinions as events transpire. All of this is flanked by an absolutely tremendous voice acting accompaniment, which brings the characters to life better than any title before or since. Comparing the breadth of emotions on display here with some of the flat, toneless delivery in DQ11 reveals quite a remarkable difference, with the clear winner being the older of the two. 

The Locations

Dhoulmagus, Dragon Quest 8

One of the biggest strengths of DQ8, and indeed DQ9 now that we think about it, is the locations that you visit. They’re filled with an almost palpable character of their own, to the point where you’ll often simply enjoy visiting a location for its atmosphere alone. We noted Pickham above, which is a truly downtrodden location replete with unusual and dangerous inhabitants, but we absolutely must draw notice to something that is often missed in other games: The story that surrounds the location.

Oh sure, places like Hotto in DQ11 have surface level details, quite literally in its case, but those in DQ8 have a depth all to their own. Arriving at Baccarat for example, will find its Casino closed. You could argue that this is simply a stalling tactic, required to slow the player down or such, but the quest to re-open it literally brings the place to life. Having to complete mini quests in each location isn’t unusual for a DQ of course, but they’re replete with such characters in DQ8 that it’s hard not to enjoy every single one. This exercise became the entire point of DQ9, with its benevolessence gathering and such, but it was pioneered to such a great degree of detail here in DQ8, with each characterful location existing alongside the foreboding backdrop of chasing the foul Dhoulmagus around the world.


The Combat

Jessica, Dragon Quest 8

Technically speaking, Dragon Quest combat is tremendously simple. You do not get into one of these games expecting to be blown away by its technicalities in combat; it’s a very simple turn based system, in which you attack and then the enemies do the same. So whilst it’s very satisfying to play, mainly due to the contrast between this and the myriad of systems present in say, an Atlus game, this isn’t the reason why we’re highlighting it. It’s here because of one thing: Meaningful choice, in the form of skill trees.

By making the weapon choices for each character significantly different, the player is given a very meaningful choice. Jessica for example, specialises in Whips to prioritise physical damage, but this means there will be a detriment to her spell casting capability, by dote of having a great deal less MP and regen. Alone these choices seem quite small, certainly compared to the differing builds available in other games, and technically speaking you can complete the game with any number of choices, but they make a massive difference. The simplicity of the game means that small choices can make combat feel completely different, to the point where basic battles can take on a whole different feel. This isn’t necessarily unusual when it comes to the Dragon Quest series, but the choices are so polarising in some cases that it makes the game feel completely different, more so than any other game in the series.

The Size

Hero, Dragon Quest 8

Our last point is one that will be rather obvious to anybody that has touched DQ8, but the game has been designed with a massive scale in mind. The aim of the developers was to create a huge world that makes the player want to explore it, and in this regard they have absolutely succeeded. Between every town, village and port is a huge amount of land, covered with nooks, crannies, hidden treasure and elite enemies to discover. All of these are accompanied by beautiful, scrolling vistas that urge the player forward, pulling them toward the horizon. 

Like a true Dragon Quest too, when the player reaches one horizon and becomes convinced that it’s all fields, another route reveals itself, or a new location becomes known. More so than any other game in the series, the world pushes the player onto the next location, hungry to find the next location, the next piece of epic loot, unusual enemy or new characters to meet. Akin to a Xenoblade Chronicles game, the world itself is an enjoyable aspect of the title, playing it’s own part in the wonderful, glorious whole that is the experience of playing Dragon Quest 8.

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