I am a really big fan of the Dragon Quest series. While I don’t have a lot of experience with spin-off titles like “Heroes” or “Monsters,” I’ve played all of the main series games at some point in my life with the exception of 10, which was never released in the US. Most of those I have beaten. Dragon Quest 7 is the biggest exception to that. I picked up DQ7 for the PS1 a few years back and immediately discovered why it wasn’t one of the more popular entries into the series. The pacing was just terrible. Three hours of gameplay before the first battle even started, nearly thirty hours to get to the point where you gained access to the game’s job system, and a wicked difficulty curve at the 30-35 hour mark; it was easy to get discouraged and not want to finish that game.
Luckily, I heard something wonderful – DQ7 was getting a 3DS remake. A game that would fix the pacing, cleaning up the story to shave off the unnecessary bits and make the game run smoother and faster. This edition would put the game in fully 3D graphics, whereas the original stuck to 2D sprites on a console that was running games like Final Fantasy 7. This would be the definitive edition of Dragon Quest 7…
…and it also would only come out in Japan.
My heart was broken. My disappointment crippling. Then BAM, Nintendo announced a US release date and my heart was happy again. I’m super excited to be playing this game and now that I’ve gotten quite a ways in, I figured I would pass on what wisdom I have gleaned so that you can have as positive of a Dragon Quest 7 experience as possible.
TIP #1: PARTY ORDER MATTERS
Dragon Quest is a learn-as-you-go sort of experience. There aren’t detailed breakdowns of how the game mechanics work. A lot of it you have to pick up by trial and error. And one thing I have seen consistently through my experience thus far is that the guy in the front of the party gets attacked the most often. Now I don’t have a distinct breakdown where it’s like “the leftmost character has a 35% chance and the next one a 30% and the next one a 20% chance” and yada yada yada. But I have observed through a multitude of battles that the character in the front of the line (the leftmost position in battle) is more likely to get attacked than anyone else. So rather than letting the party defer to its natural order – which often puts the fragile Maribel second in line – you should reorder your party by both health and defense. Put your bulkiest characters in the front of the line so that they are the ones taking the brunt of enemy attacks. This is particularly important later on when you unlock the job system, as making someone a fragile class can really set their HP and resistance low. This is particularly dangerous on fragile characters. You do NOT want them at the front of the line. So whenever the game forces you to assume a particular order, just go to the Miscellaneous submenu and choose “Line Up” to change your party order. You’ll be glad you did.
TIP #2: KNOW HOW YOU WANT TO PLAY
There are two main approaches to pacing when it comes to Dragon Quest (at least in my experience). Generally the formula of the game works something like this:
1.) Arrive at new town in the past
2.) Learn about problem
3.) Go to dungeon
4.) Problem is solved
5.) Go to town in the future
Now the main focus here are points 1, 3, and 5. Points 1 and 5 generally involve loading up on new equipment available in towns, which can sometimes cost some serious gold. Point 3 generally involves a lot of battling and a boss encounter, so you need to be sufficiently leveled and equipped in order to excel in combat. This is where our two approaches come in.
APPROACH ONE is to just keep moving. You get to town, buy what you can afford, and then immediately head to your next objective. This keeps the game moving, and it’s somewhat common to find one or two pieces of the equipment you can buy in town for free in the dungeon. Often, though, when you hit Point 3 you’ll start running into trouble. You may find that without the best equipment and without having gained much experience, you have to escape the dungeon to heal up, buy a couple more things, and then come back in with the experience from your first delve under your belt. This can make Point 3 seem particularly long and grueling.
APPROACH TWO is to grind up against the enemies at Point 1 until you have enough gold to buy all of the best equipment. The experience from the grinding gives you the levels you need to get through the dungeon easily, and having the best equipment only makes it that much easier. However, there are disadvantages. Grinding can be tedious when not broken up, sometimes you’ll find equal or better gear in the dungeon for free, and then often when you hit Point 5 there’s even better equipment for sale and you’ve got to grind again if you want to afford it.
Which approach is better depends on your personality and on the circumstances. Personally, I don’t mind to grind while watching YouTube or something, and I like having the best gear BEFORE I go into a dungeon so I only have to go in and out one time. However, the grinding can truly get tedious, and there is nothing more frustrating than grinding up for the “best gear” only to find another town twenty minutes later with even better (and even more expensive) equipment. Approach one keeps the game moving and gets rid of the tedium of grinding, but when you run through the game that quickly you may find bosses to be difficult. And if you do end up underleveled and your party gets wiped out, you lose half of your money – thereby forcing you to grind anyway if you want to afford better equipment so you don’t die the second time.
The key here is not which approach is “better” or “worse,” because they both have pluses and minuses. Ultimately you just have to play the way that works for you, and understand that switching things up from time to time might help you hang on to your sanity.
TIP #3: KNOW HOW STATS WORK
One thing that can help you make decisions when deciding whether or not you should buy new equipment is understanding how the statistics in the game actually function. When you level up, you have seven stats that increase:
Maximum HP – How much damage you take before you die
Maximum MP – How much energy you have for spells/abilities
Strength – Your physical power, added directly to Attack
Resilience – Your physical endurance, added directly to Defense
Agility – Your speed, affecting who moves first and enabling you to dodge physical attacks
Wisdom – Your mental power, protecting you from the effects of enemy spells
Style – How good you look, effectively useless in combat
Now weapons and armor directly add their value to your Attack (weapons) or Defense (armor). Now when calculating damage, it works roughly like this:
(Attacker’s Attack/2) – (Defender’s Defense/4) = Base Damage
Now depending on the individual Dragon Quest game, base damage is lightly modified by a random factor to give you a range of numbers, and your damage is randomly pulled from that range. But knowing this formula gives you a very reliable tool to work with as far as determining the value of equipment.
To increase the damage you deal by 1, you have to increase your Attack by 2.
To decrease the damage you take by 1, you have to increase your Defense by 4.
You can use this principle when comparing weapons or armor to determine whether or not it’s actually worth it to buy a new piece.
If Weapon A has +5 attack and Weapon B has +6 attack, they’re basically going to do the same damage.
If Armor A has +8 defense and Armor B has +10 defense, they’re basically going to protect you the same amount.
Now these numbers are modified by the character’s stats, so yes, on the right character there is a difference. But generally speaking, Weapon B needs to be 2 points better than weapon A to make a notable difference to your attack power. And Armor B needs to be 4 points better than Armor A to make a notable difference to your defense power. If the equipment won’t increase your stat by that many points, it may be worth it to save the money for a piece later on that will.
As you get further into the game and damage numbers get bigger, that becomes even more of a factor. Look at these comparisons for weapons:
Weapon A (+4 Attack) versus Weapon B (+8 Attack) = 2 Damage versus 4 Damage
Weapon C (+44 Attack) versus Weapon D (+48 Attack) = 22 Damage versus 24 Damage
With weapons A and B, an increase of +4 literally doubled your damage. Whereas with C and D, 2 extra points of damage is probably not all that significant. In the first example, towards the beginning of the game, you definitely want to buy Weapon B to replace Weapon A. But later in the game when you’re comparing C and D, it may not be worth the money for such a paltry increase. Know what your upgrade is actually worth before you buy it, and it’ll save you time and money.
TIP #4: BATTLE STRATEGY
Every RPG works differently when it comes to things like physical attacks versus magical attacks, how spells work, what status problems are useful or not useful, etc. Understanding what works and what doesn’t can help you formulate an effective battle strategy against tough opponents.
Remember in the last tip how I described the “wisdom” stat? You might have missed it since we were focusing on something else, so let’s touch on it again. Wisdom affects your resistance against status-causing spells. NOT your magical defense against damaging enemy spells. NOT the power or effectiveness of your own spells. ONLY your ability not to get put to sleep, dazzled, or confused.
What this means for you is that the difference between your 10 Wisdom character and your 100 Wisdom character has nothing to do with how powerful their spells are. If they both cast Frizz, they are both going to do roughly the same damage (there is a range to select from, just as with physical attacks). If 10 Wisdom casts Kafrizzle while 100 Wisdom casts Frizz, 10 Wisdom is gonna do more. The stat doesn’t matter – the spell does.
What this means is this: beginning players tend to see a high Wisdom stat, equate it to magical damage, and use their mage character to start throwing Frizz spells around expecting a lot of hitting power. What they’ll typically find is that the spell becomes more and more useless as you progress, eventually being totally obsolete compared to that magician’s physical attacks. Attack magic spells are only as good as their base effect, and tend to become useless over time. Allow me to emphasize OVER TIME, though. At the point of the game I am at right now, the Frizzle spell is dealing 75-80 damage when most of my party’s physical attacks are dealing 50 after two Sap spells. So using some of that MP on flinging fireballs is definitely worth it. However, there will be a point in the game where Frizzle no longer has any value to me, because that amount of damage will be pretty small.
Another conventional belief that oft carries over from other RPGs is the belief that stat boosting or lowering spells are not very beneficial in boss encounters. In games like Final Fantasy, those spells might not even work against the boss! And if it does, it’s still not nearly as valuable as dropping a powerful Thundara spell and dealing tons of damage.
Things don’t work that way in Dragon Quest. Spells that increase or decrease stats are absolutely tide-turning, and you want to utilize them frequently.
My typical strategy for a boss is this: cast Sap (the defense-decreasing spell) twice on them at the beginning of the match. Then have your physical attackers smash the boss again and again while the magician focuses on using spells like Buff to increase party defense, or Heal to keep the attackers healthy. Later on when you’ve learned some more powerful magic, use Kabuff to increase everyone’s defense at the same time, Acceleratle to increase party agility (valuable for both moving first and for dodging), and Oomph to increase Attack power. The combination of Oomph and Sap makes your opponent take incredible damage from physical attacks. But with so many spells to cast, this means that your magician will not be flinging fireballs or producing glaciers very often – more likely they’ll be serving a utility role, healing and buffing the party while softening the enemy so the heavy hitters can deal maximum damage. It’s a different strategy from your typical RPG experience, but it’s the one that works for this game.
TIP #5: MAKE USE OF MULTI-TARGET WEAPONS
This is one of the biggest tips I can give when it comes to this game.
Weapons (any offensive spell or ability too) come in three range types: single enemy, group of enemies, or all enemies. You’ll see groups all the time in encounters. Groups are always monsters of the same type but not all monsters of the same type will be in a group, or in the same group. When you get a message like “some slimes draw near,” you know you’re looking at a group. Whereas when you have two separate lines saying “an automaton draws near,” yeah there are two automatons, but they are not a group. You can even have two or more groups of the same enemy type on the field at the same time. So when a weapon, ability, or spell says it targets a “group,” that’s what it is talking about. It’ll hit all the slimes, but it will only hit one automaton. Conversely, if something affects “all” enemies, then you’re hitting everything on the field regardless of how they are grouped together.
While most weapons like swords, axes, hammers, spears, and staves are single-target, there are weapons that target “group” and “all.” Whips are the most common group-target weapon, while boomerangs are the most common all-target weapon. These weapons (particularly boomerangs) are highly useful because they allow you to damage everything on the field in one swing.
The amount of value this has for encounters against large parties of enemies is immeasurable. But I’ll try to measure it anyway. Say you’re in an area with enemies that have about 30 HP and you’ve got a guy with an axe that deals 50 damage. That’s enough to easily kill these enemies in one strike. Meanwhile, boomerang guy over here has a weapon that only deals 25 damage. It takes him two strikes to kill enemies. But let’s break these battles down.
Axe guy finds himself facing four of these 30 HP enemies with his 50 damage axe. Each swing will be one kill, guaranteed. Axe guy swings, takes out 1 enemy. There are three left, and they all attack him. Ouch. Axe guy swings, takes out another enemy, now there are two. Two more hits. Axe guy swings a third time, takes out another enemy, leaving only one. But now he has to take a hit again, and by the time he’s taken out enemy number four, he’s taken six hits over the course of four rounds of combat.
Conversely, Boomerang guy faces four 30 HP enemies with his 25 damage boomerang. He throws his weapon and deals damage in this order: 25, 22, 18, and 15. He didn’t even kill one bad guy. All four enemies survive and all four attack him – yikes! On turn two, he throws his boomerang again, once again dealing 25, 22, 18, and 15 damage. At this point, even the enemy at the end of the line, the one that has taken the least damage, has taken 30 damage. All four bad guys go down, and Boomerang guy has ended his battle in two turns while taking four hits.
There’s a clear difference here, right? Even though Boomerang guy’s weapon doesn’t seem impressive, against a wide group of enemies it is far more efficient, defeating them faster and by extension causing him to take less damage. So when facing random encounter enemies (which almost always come in large numbers), or when facing boss enemies that have flunkies helping them fight, a boomerang can be an incredible asset.
Naturally, though, the lower damage of a boomerang or whip makes it less valuable in fights against a single powerful boss character. Typically what I do is have each character carry two weapons – their multi-target weapon and their more damaging single-target weapon. I then switch weapons to suit my needs. You don’t even have to predict when a boss fight is coming, because as long as the second weapon is in the character’s personal inventory, you can switch them during combat without even losing your turn!
Enemies often have a number advantage against you, so utilizing a weapon that cancels out some of the benefits of that advantage will help you out a lot in combat. When you get the opportunity to buy a whip or especially a boomerang, seize it. It will make your battles go by faster and help your party take less damage in the long run.
I hope you find these hints helpful as you dive into the wonderful world of Dragon Quest 7! This game is a ton of fun and it has a lot to offer when it comes to game mechanics. My guess is that the job system alone could comprise an entire post, and I intend to do at least a basic job guide at some point as I get farther into the game. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments if you have any hints or tips for new players that I did not mention here. Or, if you have a specific question, feel free to ask me! I’ll do my best to help you out based on what I know about the game so far.