Review: Dragon Quest VI: Realm of Revelation (Nintendo DS)

In this review, we find ourselves in the Nintendo DS game Dragon Quest VI: Realm of Revelation. We find out how well this RPG game plays.

This game was released in 2011 and is the sixth instalment in the main series.

We certainly know a fair bit about this series at this point. We first tried the original Dragon Quest. That game was OK, but nothing huge. After that, we tried Dragon Quest II. That game just didn’t make the grade. From there, we tried Dragon Quest III. That game wound up being barely passable. After that, we gave Dragon Warrior IV a try. That game wound up being reasonable, but nothing huge. Finally, we played Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. While the best one yet, it was merely OK. So, we thought we’d try the next game in the series to see if there is any improvements.

You start off as a hero sleeping next to a campfire. Another person sits idly by. When you wake up, you learn that you are at the final stages of assault against the games antagonist Mortamor. A third person appears and the party decides that it is now or never in the attack. You approach the peak of a mountain and hitch a ride on a dragon. When you arrive, you work your way through the castle. Eventually, you find Mortamor himself. When you get ready to do battle, Mortamor winds up petrifying the entire party, killing everyone instantly.

You then wake up at your house having fallen out of your bed. Your sister tells you that she was worried about you. The village is preparing for a festival and you have finally been chosen to get a crown for one of the people taking a major part. So, you find yourself setting out to travel down the mountain to pick it up.

Much like other Dragon Quest games, you play the hero pretty much the entire time. While you start off alone with only a few pieces of weak equipment, you do ultimately find yourself gathering enough gold to get some minor improvements over what you have. You are also alone which makes battling enemies much more tricky in the beginning. Eventually, you do gain companions to make fighting easier, but there is always a fair amount of risk following you wherever you go.

Nothing much has changed in the inventory and menus after the previous game. You have a small limited amount of inventory space for each character. One item you do have, however, is your bag which has practically unlimited storage spaces. You still max out at 99 items, but that appears to be the only real limitation.

Magic hasn’t really changed much. You do eventually get your hands on some basic spells to keep you healed up for slightly longer treks out in the middle of nowhere. Different characters start out with different roles which impact their stats a fair bit. Warrior-like characters will have little magic, but plenty of fighting power. Magic users, meanwhile, have a limited amount of hit points, but their magic abilities do make up for that by quite a bit.

Battles haven’t really changed much. Enemies are generally presented in groupings. You can select a group of enemies to target when you attack. Some weapons, such as the boomerang, can hit every monster in the same group. A very select few attacks will hit every enemy on the screen, though. Jut pay attention to where the lightened circles are while attacking. At the end of battles, you’ll get some experience points, gold, and, if you’re lucky, an item.

Many of the quests you embark on are triggered by talking to the right Non-Playable Character (NPC). Often, this is the king in a particular village, but not always. In fact, a large portion of your playing can involve searching for that one character that will offer a hint as to what to do next. Some hints are very straight forward. Other times, hints wind up being rather cryptic. Sometimes, you won’t even have a hint at all which forces you to seek out where to go next. This certainly happens a lot later in the game.

As you progress further in the game, you’ll get a very helpful NPC named Madame Luca. She is an oracle who can often (but not always) provide you with hints to where you need to travel to next.

In addition to walking everywhere, you’ll also get your hands on various forms of transportation. These forms of transportation can include a ship, flying carpet, and even a floating island to name a few. Each form of transportation has their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, there really isn’t an ultimate form of transportation that accesses everywhere, but there are certainly some forms of transportation that unlocks access to more locations then others.

These forms of transportation can be really useful. This is because the size of this game is huge. The game introduces you to the first world map fairly quickly. As you progress slightly further, you’ll be introduced to a second world map. While you may be tempted to believe that the world map system is a bit like a hybrid between Final Fantasy VI and Silent Hill, you’ll eventually learn that there is actually four world maps that you’ll encounter throughout the game. In fairness, the fourth isn’t anywhere near as big as the other three, but this does underscore the fact that this game is massive with lots to explore.

Eventually, you’ll also come across a castle that permits you to change vocations. For those who have followed this series from the beginning, this is very similar to the class system found in Dragon Quest III. In this game, however, there are some major differences.

The first major difference is the fact that there isn’t a minimum level you need to be at before you can change a vocation. As long as you can access that vocation, you can change at any time you like. Also, vocations are no longer based on levels at all. Instead, they are based on ranks completely independent from the experience and level system. Some vocations are locked away, requiring you to master other vocations first before reaching them. Generally, however, there is a maximum of three levels and most simply make you go through the first two tiers anyway.

Mastering vocations require a certain number of battles. As the game points out, battling weak monsters will not count towards your rank increases. You need to take on tougher monsters. If you follow walkthroughs (as is inevitable for most players), different areas have different “caps”. Some areas have a cap of level 99 while others have an extremely low level. If your main character’s level exceeds the cap, you will not be able to train up on your vocation. So, find a good area to train if you want, but following the quest is often good enough to get an exceptional amount of vocational training in.

To advance in each rank within a vocation, you need to complete a certain number of levels. In total, there are 8 ranks you must achieve before you “master” that vocation. How many fights depends on which vocation. If you are in a vocation with a “fast” vocation, you won’t be required to take on as many battles. Slower vocations, however, will require more. You can find out many battles you have left in the castle where you get those vocations.

One last thing to note about vocations: they affect your overall stats. If, for instance, you choose a magical vocation, your HP and strength will likely go down. The benefit, however, is that your maximum MP and wisdom will probably go up for simply being in that vocation. Unless you are thinking about end game content or particularly difficult bosses, then chances are, you just want to push through each battle in spite of the different stat strength and weaknesses. Do, however, try and keep some kind of balance you are comfortable with. For me, I liked to have two magic users and two fighters as much as I could.

As a side note, your characters base stats will also impact stats regardless of your vocation. So, pushing characters through magical vocations won’t necessarily yield the most powerful magic user. Conversely, getting your more magical based characters in fighting vocations won’t necessarily give you the ultimate warrior. So, when you start out, definitely think about what your characters are like and plan accordingly. Only go after the other vocations if they are your only means of improving your character overall and you have exhausted all the ideal vocations.

Many other features have remained relatively unchanged. The Medal King and Mini-Medals haven’t changed much. The only real difference is that you simply collect the list of items in order as opposed to simply shopping for them like any other store.

As mentioned, the size of the game is much larger than other previous games. In fact, I personally sunk more than 40 hours into this one. While I didn’t complete the main storyline, I did at least have a chance to take a crack at the final boss of the main game. You’ll probably spend that and perhaps far more time if you want to complete the game in general.

Beyond that, the core of the main game remains unchanged for the most part from the previous game.

For me, the game started off pretty good. I had a reasonable idea what I was doing. When I miss a clue or two, I just utilize process of elimination to get to where I need to go. Since my previous experience with this series is the previous game, I thought that would see me through this game. That, unfortunately, only goes so far.

For a fast majority of the game, this one winds up being like a road trip that gets worse and worse as you go along. At first, you are travelling through four lane highways and breezing through. After a while, that highway turns into a two lane road. Another turn off and you find yourself on a dirt road. Eventually, you see grass growing up the middle of that roads. After that, the bushes on the sides become over grown and there are big potholes along the way. Eventually, the branches are smacking your windshield and you have to get out from time to time to move a tree blocking the road. All the while, regret gradually sets in as if to say, “Why are you still playing this game? Don’t you know you should’ve just put this done long ago?”

The writing of this game gradually gets weaker. Often, you find yourself running to Madam Luca after every quest gets completed because the game simply doesn’t tell you what you need to do next. While this sounds like something an adventure or RPG novice might say, just remember that you not only have a huge overworld map with seemingly countless places to go, but two or even three different world maps that you travel between.

For the most part, there are two ways a game can handle navigation in this kind of genre. The first is to make travel tight where you only have two or three (at most) locations you can go to next. If you have a huge area with countless places to go, offer a method of navigation that won’t see players simply get lost and asking “what now?” every 30 minutes. There are very few exceptions that work for the most part. In this game, you just find yourself in a massive world with barely an inclination of what you need to do next. No NPC saying “this town is in trouble, check it out” or visual clues are present. You are well and truly on your own and it winds up being annoying because this is what you experience for hours on end.

Another thing that isn’t that big of a deal early on, but gets more and more annoying as time goes on are the menu systems. Items aren’t as big of a deal, but the spell list is extremely annoying. Yes, you start out with little more than a half dozen spells. Unfortunately, by the end of the game, you’ll have pages and pages of spells. They seem to follow a convocation based order, but I’m not entirely sure. Often, it winds up being a jumbled mess. I’ve lost track how many times I’ve sat in battle sifting through a spell list thinking “I swear, that spell is somewhere in that book!”

While the number of spells in the game may make it seem like not the end of the world, the fact is, special abilities are also crammed into the spell menu. If your character has some experience in both a fighting convocation and a spell casting convocation, you could have a half a dozen pages to sift through. This winds up being incredibly annoying after a while.

While some may argue that a convoluted and flawed menu system is par for the course for an “old school RPG”, the fact is, this game was released in 2011. I’ve played a number of RPG games with a better item and spell menu system that are far older. You’d think this game would consider the idea of offering sub menu’s given that so many other games out there have done this. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Grinding in this game isn’t so bad. I only found a need to do so relatively infrequently throughout the game. It hasn’t been eliminated completely, but it is nice not having to walk back and forth endlessly and repeat battles just to survive the next stage. This, of course, is unlike earlier games in this series.

The convocation system isn’t bad. The concept is quite sound especially in that it is simply a system that goes over top of the experience point and level system. Also, the fact that it branches into multiple tiers works quite well. The problem I have with it is that so much information is obscured by the menu system. You can’t get a definition of some of the capabilities unless you are already in a battle. The system doesn’t tell you how much experience you have left to get to the next level let alone tell you how many battles you have left to reach the next rank. So, while the overall concept is sound, there are plenty of flaws in this system as well.

Overall, this is a game that is long and has flaws that I don’t expect to see in a game released since 2010. For me, this game is a sound argument against the idea of “bigger is better”. While the game is huge, there simply isn’t enough in the way of hints telling you what to do next. It’s not so bad in the beginning, but the further along you are, the more unnecessarily cryptic this game becomes. The menu system is certainly flawed and has deficiencies even in the convocation. While the convocation system itself is reasonable, it is hampered by an archaic menu system.

Had I not been playing this for a review, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near as far as I would have. Just the same, I found the game to be lacking in later parts. Reasonable in the beginning, but it just got to be a bit much for me later on.

The graphics, to me, are certainly disappointing. The backgrounds in battle sequences are improved as they seem to be mostly 3D at this stage. Unfortunately, very little else is improved. The strongest argument one can make in support of the graphics is that the cut scenes can be quite something later on in the game. I would respond to that by saying that this occupies such a tiny fragment of the game, that it’s barely worth mentioning.

This game relies so much on 2D graphics even though there are plenty of Nintendo DS games that are much more heavily involved in 3D graphics. Also, the Nintendo 3DS is already out at this point in time, so this game needs to go above and beyond what other games are doing on this system. Instead, they take a back seat and make it seem that this system simply went out with a whimper. I can’t find myself impressed by what I saw here given the release year.

Meanwhile, the audio is OK. Unfortunately, the games music library is a bit more on the limited side. This is especially bad given how long this game actually is. So, repetition is a huge problem here and compounds the issue that much more. The sound effects are decent enough, but there are is no voice acting of any kind which is disappointing. So, a letdown on that front as well.

Overall, this game is a good argument for why bigger isn’t always better. This game is huge, but the quality leaves a bit to be desired. At first, it isn’t so bad, but the further along the game you go, the more it seems to be a half-hearted effort with a collection of ideas simply thrown together quickly. There are so many plot breaks that it forces players to either wander around aimlessly for hours or rely heavily on guides for a good portion of the game. The menu system is archaic at this point in time. Meanwhile, the graphics are disappointing and the audio leaves a bit to be desired. A very mediocre game in my view.

Furthest point in game: Put more than 40 hours into this game. Died on the third phase of Mortamor final battle.

General gameplay: 13/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 50%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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