Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dragon Quest 8, part 12

Just a few minutes ago, I finally cleared the main game of Dragon Quest VIII. The ending of the game was very satisfying. Unfortunately, the final boss battle itself was somewhat inferior to the incredible Dhoulmagus fight halfway through the game. Oh well. The final battle had a very epic backdrop and feel to it, and it was also sufficiently challenging. Furthermore, it had a lead in where the heroes call on the power of of the spirits of the sages of ancient times to help them. I am always a sucker for that kind of sequence.

However, the period just leading up to the final battle of the game was in many ways a lost opportunity. After clearing the final dungeon, the player is asked to run around the world to collect a set of seven magical orbs, which are required to fight the final battle. It turns out to be a simple fetch quest. All of the orbs are in obvious locations (based on the plot) and require no challenges to acquire at all. Collecting all seven orbs can be done in an hour or so, without even having to fight a single monster (not counting the ones in the one dungeon, but they can be warded off with a single cheap spell). What the townspeople are talking about in the places you have to go haven't even changed since before the final dungeon. The whole thing felt like an unnecessary time sink that did nothing for the plot.

The reason I call the quest a lost opportunity is that it could have been much more interesting. For one, it could have been a real treasure hunt (unlike some people, I don't really mind late game treasure hunts). The orbs supposedly contained the souls of the ancient sages. There were actually both a hard-to-find tablet left behind by one of the sages, and an old tapestry left behind by another in the game's last town. These two items could have been used as clues for a real treasure hunt, with the orbs hidden away in places related to the ancient sages themselves. Instead, all seven orbs can be found in the places where the seven descendants of the sages were killed. There was no guess-work involved at all, and all of the orbs are lying in plain sight. I never even really needed the echo flute, which tells you if an orb is nearby.

Alternatively, there could have been plot scenes involved in gathering the orbs. Since the quest involved traveling all over the world again, the quest could have been used as a chance to show off the fact that the whole world was in serious danger, with the Big Bad's horde of monsters about to descend on the world, or to give a chance for the heroes to interact with some of the many secondary characters introduced along the course of the game. Instead, there is nothing going at all in orb locations except for daily life.

I guess in either case, the orb quest would still have been unnecessary filler. When the final boss of the game has been revealed, the player probably just wants to get on with fighting him. It might have been best to have dropped the orb quest entirely, or to have introduced the orbs at some point earlier in the game.

Side Note:
The waves of ice ability used by most major bosses in the game got old quickly. It shut down complex strategies too easily. What is the point of the tension system if I can never get my characters to super high tension? Using alternatives, such as status spells, and conditions like shock, might have been a better design choice.

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