Burden of Potential
When it comes to Square Enix games, it’s hard to know what to expect. While the studio is responsible for huge console hits including the Final Fantasy and Life is Strange series, their mobile games don’t always show the same promise. Barring a few remarkable pieces such as Chaos Rings III and the revamped Adventures of Mana, the majority of Square Enix’s mobile repertoire relies on console ports and uninspired free-to-play games. With that in mind, we turn to the newly released Dragon Quest Tact with a simple question: is it enough?
On the Shoulders of Dragons
Dragon Quest Tact is not the first of its kind. The Dragon Quest series is renowned for its addictive gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and strong storytelling. Clearly DQ Tact has a lot to live up to, but also a strong base from which to start. Many of the characters you’ll find in DQ Tact are familiar faces from its predecessors. From the smallest of slimes to lumbering arrghoyles, each monster brings unique skills to the table. Character sprites, environment design and combat animations are well above the standard of most mobile games. In this sense, DQ Tact is on par with the rest of its series, but it falls short from a storytelling perspective.
From the start of your quest, you meet a few bright and quirky characters who follow you on your journey. Each mission you embark on shows a few panels of dialogue between these characters before you engage in combat. As you start off these snippets of dialogue are light and quick. As the game progresses, though, you’ll find yourself tapping through twenty or more panels just to get to your mission. The story itself lacks any sort of real tension, and without introducing any characters outside of the comedically dumb friend trope, the game’s overarching conflict loses a lot of its intensity. At best, you run around babysitting a bunch of helpless, rowdy sprites. At worst? Well…
Beyond DQ Tact’s underwhelming story, there are quite a few more elements that make for a subpar experience. The combat is repetitive. The grind for materials is exhausting, and the upgrade path for characters is extremely hard to follow. You can upgrade a character’s level, rank, gear, armor, ability levels, ability types—you get the picture. It’s a lot. Each of these upgrades requires different materials, the grind for which becomes overwhelming for experienced players, let alone newcomers.
Free to Pay
What’s worse is the premium currency system. It’s common practice in mobile games to have a premium currency that allows players to advance more quickly at the price of ‘real money.’ DQ Tact is no exception. Gems can be used to refresh stamina, summon new characters, and buy special items that mostly allow for the player to skip the grind for upgrade materials. Like a lot of freemium titles, DQ Tact also offers a small income of premium currency to players through events, mission rewards, and the occasional login bonus. However, there is one facet to this system that makes DQ Tact stand out from the rest—and not in a good way.
Some items and summons require paid gems. These can only be acquired by paying real money, which not only creates a content barrier for players who are strictly free to play, but also makes the entire game’s economy feel like a scam. Players who have come to DQ Tact from an earlier Dragon Quest title may have their favorite characters blocked behind a paywall. As far as gameplay goes, this feature makes non-paid gems seem less valuable, and makes the story grind even less rewarding than it already is.
A Colorful Shell
At its best, DQ Tact provides a way for Dragon Quest fans to engage with the series once more. The game’s visuals are leagues ahead of most other mobile games of its caliber, and its depth of combat makes for a rewarding team-building experience. However, with stale encounters, a flat story, and shameless pay-to-win elements, you won’t miss much by passing on this one.
Is It Hardcore?
DQ Tact has potential to live up to its predecessors. In its current state, though, it leaves too much to be desired.