Loot. Few game words have this much power. The promise of cool stuff is a siren song that has led many players to take on dangerous challenges and change their goals. It has also led them to make very bad decisions and even open their real-life wallets. Few people will admit that the main point of many games, no matter when they were made or what platform they were on, is to get stuff. Dragon Quest Treasures is one of the few games that says collecting legendary items is the whole point. If you can put up with some of the game’s gameplay and technical flaws, you too can feel like Scrooge McDuck with a vault full of gold (but not the experience of swimming in it).
The story of Erik and Mia when they were young is told in Dragon Quest Treasures. Erik and Mia were first seen in Dragon Quest XI. Not happy with being raised by pillaging, hard-partying Vikings, the two decide to run away from the ship and become great treasure hunters on their own. Along the way, they free two strange creatures with wings and find the Dragon Daggers, which are magical weapons that take them to the realm of Draconia, where treasure hunting is a way of life. The legendary Dragonstone artifacts are somewhere on these floating islands, and Erik and Mia are going to get them all, along with a ridiculous number of other mythical relics that are just waiting to be dug up.
Dragon Quest Treasures is an action-RPG, as opposed to the standard Dragon Quest series, which is turn-based and menu-driven. You explore one of several enormous open-world islands as either Erik or Mia, who are almost interchangeable, taking on opponents, finishing tasks, gathering resources, and—most importantly—finding those lovely, glittering silver and gold treasure chests. As they unearth more riches, their fame grows, and their base—originally a run-down magical railroad station—becomes transformed into an extravagantly ostentatious headquarters. This reveals new gameplay aspects and provides indications as to where the elusive Dragonstones may be. Despite the fact that you can play the game at your own pace and without restriction, some areas are progress-locked depending on how much loot you’ve collected.
Draconia is also not a small region. There are surprisingly many places you can go to, and they are all full of interesting geographical elements. However, there are very few railroad stations that can be used as unlocked fast-travel locations. Because the gems that appear randomly when you visit a location encourage you to explore both familiar ground and uncharted terrain. It typically takes numerous attempts before you are able to thoroughly investigate an entire location due to your limited loot carrying capacity and high-level adversaries restricting your ability to explore. The game generally maintains a good 30 frames per second despite the astounding scale of these landscapes, but at a price: The surroundings typically have geometry that appears to be quite simple, and the textures are obviously pixelated and muddy.
Erik and Mia are at a disadvantage because they lack the native Draconians’ sixth sense for finding hidden wealth. Thankfully, they can ask the locals for assistance. The creatures they encounter apply for membership and can be recruited as NPC party members as their fledgling treasure-hunting gang picks up pace. The people you enlist as monsters are crucial: They fight alongside you in battle, aid in environment exploration using unique “forte” abilities (such gliding, bouncing high, and burrowing underground), and—most importantly—can warn you when there is wealth nearby. When you’re particularly close to the treasure, the monsters can offer you “Treasure Visions” of the exact position. Erik/Mia have restricted usage of a compass to locate high-level treasure at an approximate area. (Though things may still appear pretty strange; for instance, a muddy hand monster’s vision appears to have goopy film smeared over it, while live armor can only see via the vents of its helmet.) They can also pinpoint the precise locations of mid-tier treasure as you explore; however, given the limited capacity for carrying wealth, you may decide to forego silver boxes in favor of generally more valuable gold. As the game progresses, you’ll also have to defend yourself from competing gangs that strike while you’re exploring in order to steal your valuable loot.
A very enjoyable gaming loop is created by the gradual exploration of vast, diverse areas and your continuously expanding vault of goods. It’s rewarding to see your base of operations grow and develop as your monster ranks fill with high-level recruits and your display case filled with some of the most renowned treasures from the whole Dragon Quest series. The warm, welcoming atmosphere that permeates the whole Dragon Quest franchise, including a localization that’s crammed with snappy language and charmingly groan-worthy puns, serves to further enhance the appeal. Simply put, playing Dragon Quest Treasures is enjoyable.
One game aspect ruins the vibe. Dragon Quest Treasures’ combat is the weakest element of exploration and progression. Real-time fights on the globe map involve you and CPU-controlled enemies. Erik and Mia’s Dragon Daggers have a simple combo string. Their MP is only utilized for self-healing. Special assaults are a long-range slingshot that fires pellets. Pellets are the sole means to access different types of elemental damage, and navigating the menu to identify a foe’s weakness is a headache. Worse, you heal and buff monsters with pellets. Trying to aim boulders at moving creatures to heal or boost their defense will make you miss a classic action/RPG skill system.
You can only offer simple “attack” and “fall back” commands, which aren’t always followed. When their AI fails, it’s annoying; one flaw is the lack of a lock-on method to target a specific enemy. Watching your creatures roll, smash, wobble, and cast spells highlights how limited and drab your combat powers are. It feels like your CPU friends are having more fun than you during fights, and that feeling never goes away. Even the “Wild Side” talent that boosts your speed, damage, and critical rate isn’t as cool and effective as your monsters’ “Unleash the Dragon” attacks.
Despite fighting being unsatisfying, Dragon Quest Treasures keeps you going back for more exploration and treasure-hunting. Bright, exciting atmosphere and engaging gameplay loop take the game to its finish. Dragon Quest Treasures isn’t the wealthiest game, but it makes you feel like a bandit king for its length.