Review by ZfactorC
"A good game for RPG fans with a few flaws and annoyances that keep it from being perfect"
The graphics in DQ8 are well done. I found myself looking out into the vast landscapes at sunset simply because the graphics were so good. The game even displays full frame on a 16:9 television. Unfortunately, even using component hookups, on large screen TVs there are issues with artifacts and jagged lines. Also, a lot of character and monster models are reused (either as-is or by changing the colors), which is not so bad, but some of the models stand out so much that you really begin to notice the re-use. Cut scenes also use in-game graphics, which I felt was a bit of a let down. I can understand why they did it, since the graphic style of the game is hard to integrate with more realistic cut scenes, but I would have liked to have seen some movements and graphical improvements done in cut scenes that I couldn't have seen in regular game play.
I really enjoyed the musical score. The overworld music is actually quite good, and I never really got tired of hearing it. The sound effects seemed kind of lackluster to me though. Certain spells and attacks which I would have expected some huge epic sound (considering their power and just the graphical look) would up having some wimpy generic sound to them. This takes away from the battle experience as a whole. Also, this category won't get any bonus points from me for nostalgia because I never played a DQ before, so take my score for what it's worth.
One thing really bugged me about the sound though. The troll king and his horse daughter (more on that in the story section) are following you around the whole time outside of towns. You can't see them, but you can hear the horse and cart the whole time. I can tolerate footsteps of your own characters, but having to listen to horse drawn wagon every second I am outside when I can't even see it is inexcusable.
I thought the voice acting was refreshingly good. And I often listened to the characters talk rather than reading and skipping over. Unfortunately, I can't seem to turn off the text when the characters are talking. So when I am watching a cut scene, I can't simply enjoy the scene without having an annoying blue box come up and the text being displayed. I don't see any reason why you can't toggle this text on and off.
The Gameplay is good, but there are just so many little flaws that can't be ignored.
The battle system is solid. The system is turn based (e.g. you choose your attacks and they are carried out for that turn, then you choose your next attacks). There is potential for some pretty damaging combos, and if you use your noggin you can easily dispatch of multiple enemies in as few turns as possible. There are just enough attacks and spells to force you to make strategic choices (for example, if you wanted to put some enemy to sleep, you wouldn't want to use an attack that hits every enemy because you would wind up waking the sleeping one up). However, the scope and depth of this strategy is undermined by the execution of the turn-based system.
Even though the battle is supposed to be turn based, your characters do not attack in the same turn every time. This causes problems when you want to set up strong attacks by having one character use items/spells on another character. Also, I found that more than once, one of my characters died because the person I chose to heal them went last instead of first. Furthermore, the monsters *clearly* have the ability to react to your attacks. Often times I would put a status effect on a monster or hurt them severely, only to have one of their allies heal them in the same round. For the life of me I can't understand why the monsters have the ability to react to my attacks but I have to choose my whole turn before the round starts. If they wanted a good turn based system, they should have taken a page out of FFX's system, or at the very least have your characters go in the same order every time.
Tension adds an extra dimension to the battle as well. By psyching your character up, you can deliver increasingly more powerful attacks in later rounds. Also, if you do it enough, you can reach a state of high tension. However, for some reason the monsters often reach this state more successfully than you, and some of them even reach it in one psych up (it takes you several). You can even fail to reach it, which is very frustrating when it happens 2, 3, and 4 times.
Now, I'll move on to the world map. It has two zoom settings: too far and too close. You can't look around the map when zoomed in too close, so you can't get a closer look at any area that you are not standing in at the time. Also, there is no mini-map. Frustrating? You bet.
The alchemy system is also annoying. For one, you can only do one combination at a time. Also, you have to wait for an annoyingly long time to get your items out of it. I often found myself asking why it is that I can't make items that I already made in the past any faster. I can only assume it's because level 5 and square hates gamers.
Leveling in this game is like pulling teeth. While this may be how all DQs are (or so I hear), it doesn't make it any less annoying. It takes massive amounts of XP to get to higher levels, and for the life of me I can't understand why you have to go into town and ask the priest how much XP to the next level. These two factors combined make for a painstakingly long and boring leveling process.
On that note, why can I only save in town? While there is nothing I like better than having 2 hours of dungeon crawling erased by a careless family member tripping over the power cord or when somebody blows a fuse, I think that they could have included some save points outside of town. Again, I can only assume that it is like this because level 5 and square hates gamers.
As far as mini-games, the casino and the monster arena are both garbage. First of all, there are 3 kinds of games at the casino, every one more boring than the last. And as for the monster arena, while going out and collecting monsters is a fun diversion, having to pit them against 3 consecutive opponents who all start with fully healed teams against your battered team (that's right, you don't get healed between fights) is extremely frustrating. Also, not being able to control the battle in any way gets real old real fast. These two diversions become more of an exercise in tedium than entertaining mini games.
There are other things to collect and do, and they are all respectively fun. But I won't reveal anything more than that because 1, they are not in the book, and 2 they are not available early on in the game like the monster arena.
When all is said and done, you can easily reach 120 hours of Gameplay before the game's end. However, much of that time is spent on the grind, and that really only appeals to a small group of gamers.
The story is generic. One evil guy wants to ruin everybody's fun, and it's somehow your job to track him down. What I can't understand is why a single soldier (you) is taking orders from some weak little troll and his horse daughter (your former king and his daughter cursed by said evil guy). If somebody told me that I should travel around constantly fighting and having to scrounge up my own food and lodging (which the king can't even spring for... what exactly happened to all his money), I pretty much would say no freaking way. That's how I found myself feeling about the whole story. It gets kudos for the delivery of the story and the flow of the story, but don't expect a ground-breaking tale.
There are two types of people who will buy DQ8, fans of the series who had the game on pre-order and will no doubt read my review and think of me as a newb or troll because I don't worship the game, and RPGs like me for which DQ8 may or may not be their first foray into the series. Since the former already own the game, I'll address the latter. If you have played the DQ series or not, and are wondering whether or not the game is worth it, it is. Even if you hate the level grind, it doesn't become a real issue until you pass the level really needed to finish the game (hmm, maybe level 5 and square really do love gamers!). Also, even though I seemed to harp on the negatives in the Gameplay section, they are kind flaws where you wish the developers had thought about it, but they don't necessarily ruin the game entirely. All in all this is a great super-long RPG for fans of that kind of thing. But don't kid yourself, if you can't see yourself spending 60-100 hours on a game, then this is not the game for you.
Overall (not an average): 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/06
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