Dragon Quest Treasures Review

By | December 14, 2022

An adorable Kitty Shield smiles up at me from my latest treasure haul. The local appraiser, unmoved by its cute design, may say it’s not worth much, but that just means I get to proudly hang it on display in my vault instead – it’s not the most valuable piece of my hoard, but I look on it with satisfaction nonetheless. That Kitty Shield is a suitable metaphor for Dragon Quest Treasures as a whole: It’s far from the richest jewel in the Dragon Quest crown, but a laid-back structure, charming world, and endless stream of rewards make it a relaxing RPG still worth admiring.

Treasures stars Erik, your thieving companion from Dragon Quest XI, and his sister Mia, but it takes place long before the Luminary stepped into their lives, when both pint-sized pickpockets lived with a crew of Viking marauders. After finding a flying pig and a talking cat (like you do), Erik and Mia fall through a magic portal into another dimension, which conveniently means that nothing they do or see has any bearing on Dragon Quest XI’s established story – but that’s just fine for a game full of constant meta references to the series as a whole anyway.

Dragon Quest Treasures Gameplay Screenshots

The portal drops Erik and Mia into Draconia, a world where dragons once turned the hopes and memories of people into treasures and tucked them away for safekeeping, with each one taking the form of items and people from Dragon Quest history. The dragons are long dead, but their various body parts now comprise the half-dozen regions that make up Draconia, though I promise that’s in a cool way rather than a gruesome one. For example, Draconia’s wings are home to windswept moorlands, while frigid mountains and icy caves make up its shoulder, aptly named The Cold Shoulder.

Your overall goal here is to build a base for your budding gang of treasure hunters using the money you earn from finding loot, all while helping your cat and pig guides restore good favor with their gods. Hoarding treasure is central to all your efforts, but when you and the part of monsters you’ll assemble to help dig up the sparkly prizes, you’re finding more than just a piece of Dragon Quest nostalgia. You’re restoring something – dreams, connections, and purpose – the people of Draconia (and even your rival treasure hunters) thought was lost forever, albeit indirectly. Meanwhile, the regional train director doesn’t care whether you find armor from Dragon Quest V or a statue of Dragon Quest X’s priestess, but they are thrilled when your efforts lead to their beloved train stations getting back on track, making exploring Draconia easier in the process.

Treasures never really mines its rich vein of story potential.

This alternate reality setup gives Treasures the freedom to try something different with its story, which it only partially manages to capitalize on. This is more of a Dragon Quest fairy tale than it is a Monsters-style spinoff, one of the wholesome, slightly bittersweet variety. Everyone, monster and human alike, is obsessed with finding treasure for no other reason than because it exists – and while that seems like a shallow foundation for any story, the one told here actually tip-toes around some pretty heavy themes. Treasures is a child’s fantasy escape at its heart, a chance for two orphans to leave their abusive home, have fun, and make a life for themselves away from the troubles of growing up and adults unfit to care for them. It feels like Dragon Quest meets J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in that sense, which is a surprising but not unwelcome place to draw inspiration.

Draconia is the siblings’ Neverland, even down to one of the duo’s primary opponent being a nefarious pirate, albeit of the skeleton variety instead of the hook-handed-old-man kind. Like the Lost Boys of Neverland, time and society forgot the people of Draconia as well, or at least the ones you befriend at the old Trans-Draconic Railway headquarters, where Erik and Mia make their base. It’s heartwarming to watch as you build a surrogate family of misfits and monsters at the railway headquarters, a support group for Erik and Mia and a safe place to return to. For those familiar with Dragon Quest XI’s story, Erik and Mia’s sad, broken future (broken, ironically, by the same obsession with treasure that fuels this adventure) always hangs overhead, adding a tinge of sadness to the otherwise happy setup for dedicated fans.

Unfortunately, Treasures never really mines that rich vein of story potential like it could, doing little to build on any of its themes after first presenting them. Erik and Mia have no character development across the roughly 30-hour campaign, and their relationships with most NPCs outside a small handful are limited to interactions that end along with whatever quest they asked you to complete. How much you get out of Treasures’ story and characters depends on how invested you are in the idea of reinvigorating the hearts and minds of this world, since you never witness much of the results of those efforts. It’s hard not to see Treasures as a missed opportunity in that sense, one that with a bit more depth and detail could’ve been something special and more meaningful.

In between meeting new people and staring at your treasure hoard, you’ll take Erik or Mia on expeditions to one of Draconia’s islands to see what you can find and convince other monsters to join in the hunt. Once you arrive in these wide open areas, you’re pretty much free to decide what you want to do and when. You could rush to a rival treasure hunter’s base and swipe their hoard, seek out ancient monuments, or persuade a Queen Slime to help restore the Cold Shoulder train station, – or just ignore everything and find more treasure.

Its charm helps keep the routine fun for dozens of hours.

The main questline is centered on recovering ancient artifacts, but it often takes a backseat to the many extra requests that come your way from friendly monsters and fellow treasure hunters. While it’s easy to get bogged down in the number of objectives – and the horizon does get cluttered with quest markers at times – the benefit of having so many quests is that you’re always accomplishing something, even if those quests are just variations of finding certain resources A local princess’ emissary could need help finding an ancient monument on the other side of the dragon’s belly. It’s a long trudge to get there, but on the way you can grab some soil to craft more pellet ammo to use in your next battle and pick up a few rare stones to help power the next broken-down train station that needs restoring.

Whatever you choose to do, you’re always encouraged to be on the lookout for treasure to help your base grow and unlock new main quests. You have an innate treasure compass that points you in the general direction of rare goods (because of course you do), but it goes haywire when you get too close. That means you have to rely on the treasure vision of your monster companions to track the goods down, with visual clues based on their own line of sight. Slimes only see from ground level, for example, while the vision of a Sham Hatwitch is appropriately obscured by its own hat. It’s a charming, typically Dragon Quest spin on what would otherwise be a repetitive mini-game, and combined with the little ascending jingle that plays when you dig up treasure, it helps keep the routine feeling fun even after dozens of hours.

None of the tasks you’re given are ever very complex, but it helps that Treasures and its treasure hunting appeal to the lizard part of my brain that lights up after finding something shiny, solving an easy puzzle, or checking a task off the list. Does it matter if my base’s value increases to substantially, or if I unravel the mysteries of Draconia? No! But I put a cool piece of Dragon Quest history on a plinth back home and made a fictitious, train-loving robot happy once for a few minutes, and that was enough for me. The low-pressure, low-stakes nature of what you’re doing and the constant drip of accomplishment lends Treasures a sense of coziness that makes it easy and enjoyable to pick up, even if you don’t always see world-changing effects from your labors.

Treasures passively encourages you to take its quests and treasure hunts in small doses by limiting how much treasure you can carry, which means you have to revisit your base at intervals and take a break from questing. While there’s plenty to do back at headquarters, that intentional speedbump can start to feel a little arbitrarily annoying, like perhaps Square Enix had plans for something bigger that never materialized. You have daily quests similar to what you’d expect from a live-service game, but they play little role in your routine and offer paltry rewards. You can also theoretically build and improve your base, though the improvements extend to just a handful of shops you can only access via the company’s reception desk.

Battles are fairly simple, with the focus firmly on finding treasure.

Despite drawing inspiration from Dragon Quest Monsters, Treasures is less concerned with you building an unstoppable team of critters and mostly just wants you to explore with them, which is a fitting complement to the emphasis on item gathering. Battles are comparatively simple, too, with the focus firmly on what treasure-finding aptitudes and other skills your companions have. Each monster you take with you has a set of preferred treasures they’re more likely to uncover during expeditions and a species-specific skill called a Forte – abilities such as gliding or sprinting that make travel easier or help you reach difficult places. Each region is fairly simple in structure, with few exciting layouts or well-hidden secrets, and they’re built around using specific abilities to find treasure spots and rare items. Bland as the layouts may seem, the simplicity can be welcome at times as it makes backtracking and avoiding unfriendly monster mobs much more bearable.

When you do pick a fight, you play a passive role, helping deal damage with pellets from your slingshot or heal your monster friends. You have no control over their actions and can only issue basic attack and gather commands, but the monster AI is, mercifully, quite adept at figuring out the best way to tackle enemies. Slimes and Drackys work together to set up elemental combos, tankier monsters such as Restless Armor cast their defensive spells at exactly the right moment, and they all actually balance their attack choices to conserve MP.

Here, too, there’s the potential for something more involved that makes fuller use of these features – deeper battles with emphasis on building combos and finding the right mix of monsters. And here, too, Treasures prioritizes being light and breezy instead, without much need or reward for giving your team composition that sort of thought and care. There’s actively off-putting about that, especially since these fights are still fun enough as is. It’s just jarring to see what looks like so many discarded plans, and that lack of clear direction is noticeably unusual for a Dragon Quest game.