Review by Bobo The Clown
"By All Means, Delude Yourself Into Liking This..."
Dragon Warrior 7 is a monstrosity. It is the first English installment of the Dragon Warrior series to be officially released in a long time. However, that does not mean that the series has progressed much. In an alarming development, the entire Dragon Warrior series has not seen a major upgrade in quality since the leap from 1 to 2. All proceeding games have been simple improvements in quality, culminating with Dragon Warrior 6. It was an excellent game, but since most American gamers have never played it, they will heap praise upon Dragon Warrior 7 for being something that barely exceeds the previous standard set.
In Dragon Warrior 7, you play the role of a young hero who dreams of exploring faraway lands. One problem - your land, Estard, is the only one in the vast expanse of seas. However, this all changes one day, when you explore some nearby ruins with your two buddies, Maribel and Keifer. Deep in a temple, you find magic jigsaw pieces which allow you to unearth the lost islands of the world from deep underneath the sea.
While this all sounds well and good, the saddest part of Dragon Warrior 7 is the storyline. Never had I played more than one hundred hours through a game and learned so little about the characters involved. It is chaotically pathetic, and everyone is a stereotype. You have the heroic young boy who is absolutely fearless against the danger, a snotty rich girl, a cultureless wild boy, an amazon, and a grizzly old hero.
The horrid storyline can't out-duel other Super Nintendo games, not to mention Playstation games. It's just one long string of fetch quests. First, find the map pieces, which are strewn painfully and with little reason about the current island, then solve whatever inane problem the inhabitants have. Repeat about twenty times to ensure one hundred hours of gameplay that is boasted on the CD case.
These types of quests were prevalent in Dragon Warrior 6 too, but weren’t so nearly dragging because you didn’t need the stupid jigsaw pieces to advance in areas. A lot of time is spent just finding them, since progress is possible without them. Yet, there is some insatiable need for the programmers to hide them in islands, requiring you to talk to everyone in site and search every jar to find them! If you've played any next generation role playing game, you'll be expecting more, and honestly, you deserve more than being led around on wild scavenger hunts.
Dragon Warrior 7 is reminiscent of “old school” role playing. Battles are strategic epics and turn based in nature. You hit, the enemy hits, until one or the other dies. The gameplay system saves Dragon Warrior 7 from having a truly pathetic grade, due to the obsessive, Star Ocean 3-type depth which is seen in most products that Enix makes.
Each of your characters can change and combine classes. This option doesn't become available until about twenty hours into the game, but it's a blast, and one of the truly fun parts of Dragon Warrior 7. There's over forty different classes, each with unique attacks and abilities to learn. Traditional classes like fighter and mage are available, along with exotic monster classes and dual-classes, which are often confined to the liked of Dungeons and Dragons games. It's easy to see someone logging over three hundred hours mastering all of the classes available in Dragon Warrior 7.
Unfortunately, the class system is not without issues. It’s not entirely clear which classes you should focus upon, since the game provides little documentation about the classes. Therefore, you can waste hours developing one class to find out it’s utterly worthless for ninety percent of the game. Or, you can luck out your first time through, and find the combination which makes it a total walk in the park. Somewhere in the middle is the most likely solution. Unless you’re consulting an outside source, or hit upon a lucky/unlucky combination, expect to find yourself lacking in either physical or magical power at various points in the game.
Outside of the class system, there are other ways to wallow in repetitive gameplay. There's a Monster Park where you can send monsters you tame on the battlefield, and talk to them. You can start your own town, which eventually sells unique and ultra-powerful equipment. There's even a book that keeps track of all the monsters you've seen, and rewards you for fighting a lot of a type of monster. If you have absolutely no life, then Dragon Warrior 7 is the game for you, as it can keep you occupied for months if not years.
However, if you do have a life, then Dragon Warrior 7 can be a royal pain the keister. Forget about trying to play this game ten to forty minutes at a time. Unless you have around an hour or two to play, you won't be able to advance the plot along, just level build. It's hard to keep what little suspense there is in the plot when you have to work over an hour to move it along.
Why is this? Well, the balancing in the game is downright awful. The first quarter of the game is easy, since the classes you choose are largely irrelevant. Then it spikes dramatically. Unless you happened to pick just the right classes, expect to run into serious problems. The random enemy battles feature enemies with radically different powers. Some are harmless, and some can demolish your party in a few rounds. This does not make the game particularly difficult, just frustratingly cheap. Improper monster layout is not equivalent to difficulty.
Bosses are especially mind-numbing; if you have the right classes and techniques, they're very easy, but if you don't, expect to die a lot as they continually use double and triple attacks per round to pound you into oblivion. Once again, this is cheap, and not anything revolving around skill or proper class and level planning. Unfortunately, all slain enemies are worth around the same amount of experience and gold, so making progress outside of new classes is needlessly difficult.
Here lies another problem - until late in the game, there is never enough gold to go around. The only possible way to get enough gold to buy equipment is to “cheat” by going to the game's casino and winning the Lucky Panel game, then selling all the equipment. For most of the game, enemies leave behind less than one hundred gold pieces, but equipment costs over three thousand pieces. You have to resign yourself to buying one piece of equipment, then hoping that your other characters can hold out with sub-par gear.
The final death blow to Dragon Warrior 7 is anything remotely related to looking or sounding like a game made in the nineties. The presentation values are hideous. Yes, I know Enix is trying to make the game look “retro” and old school. They accomplished this by using graphics that look like they were used in the original installment. Except for a barely functional rotating camera, Dragon Warrior 7 is a clear step down from the bright, colorful, and more importantly crisp graphics of the Super Nintendo installments. Murky is a good adjective to use when describing Dragon Warrior 7, as nothing looks as sharp or defined as it could be. The music... Well, let’s just say that if you’ve played any other game of the past five years, you’ve been “spoiled” in the eyes of the RPG obsessed Dragon Warrior 7 fan.
So, with Dragon Warrior 7, you have a game with an awful storyline, graphics, sound, character interaction, character depth, and difficulty balance. On the plus side, there's lots and lots of this gameplay. Enix tries to deliver a huge amount of quantity over quality, but honestly, Dragon Warrior 7 can not hold a candle to a superior old school RPG series like Lunar, which is exponentially better while providing similar gameplay. I may be in the minority when it comes to the RPG community, but I prefer my games to have gameplay and aesthetics before I willingly shell out money for them. Hopefully, you are the same way.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 11/18/01, Updated 08/28/03
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