Dragon Quest III introduced many new mechanisms to the series when it was originally released. These days, things like creating your own characters and changing jobs are not new concepts to RPGs as a whole or to Dragon Quest in particular, but for its time this game was quite ahead of the curve. Now available on the Nintendo Switch, DQIII is a great way to experience a piece of series history while also experiencing a video game that is mechanically complex enough to require some thought and strategy. With that in mind, this guide is meant to introduce new players to some of the concepts which will be helpful to you in making the most out of Dragon Quest III. I’m going to start with the mechanics of the game then dive into character creation before finally touching on exploration and battle strategies.
LET’S START WITH MATH
Not every player feels the need to understand the math driving a roleplaying game, but when you do it can be helpful when making decisions about what equipment to purchase or which stats are most important to a particular character. Dragon Quest III is unique compared to other games in the series in that some of its stats function differently, so even if you’re a series veteran you may be surprised by what things like agility or resilience do for your character. The core stats in Dragon Quest III are strength, agility, resilience, wisdom, and luck. These stats then influence others such as Max HP, Max MP, Attack, and Defense, as well as invisible statistics that are not displayed on your character screen.
Strength is pretty straightforward in that it influences the physical power of your character. Higher strength translates one-for-one to higher attack power. Agility influences how fast a character acts in combat, but be aware that agility is “rolled” each round in combat and so a poor roll can still have a high-agility character following a low-agility one. The other thing agility affects is defense; half of your agility is added to the base defense value of the character. Resilience may be the defensive stat in most Dragon Quest games, but in III it solely influences your character’s Max HP potential. Max HP will always be roughly twice the character’s resilience. Wisdom functions in a similar manner but for Max MP – the maximum MP of a character will generally be twice their wisdom stat, give or take a couple of points. Finally, luck influences an invisible stat which represents the likelihood of being impacted by a status affliction. Characters with higher luck are less likely to be dazzled, fizzled, slept, etc.
We’ve already seen that Max HP, Max MP, Attack, and Defense are built on the core stats of the character. Note that for Max HP and Max MP, there will generally be a one level buffer between a significant increase in their base stat and a significant increase in the derived stat because HP and MP increases are rolled first during a level up. So for example, a character may gain +0 HP on a level up where they also gain +7 resilience – the next level up is the one where you will see the HP start to catch up with the resilience increase. This applies to Max MP and wisdom as well. Conversely, the impact of strength and agility increases are immediately applied to attack and defense.
One thing to note with the attack and defense stats is that when they are calculated in battle, they are reduced in different ways. To put it simply, damage to an opponent is essentially half of the attacker’s attack minus one quarter of the defender’s defense, multiplied by a random value to create a damage range. This means when looking at equipment, an increase of two attack points effectively translates to one additional damage dealt, while an increase of four defense points effectively translates to one additional damage reduced. When you’re looking at equipment, this can influence your decisions quite a bit. It can be tempting, for example, to buy a new piece of equipment when you see any increase at all in attack or defense. But particularly during the later parts of the game when one or two damage doesn’t mean that much of a difference, it may be worthwhile to save your money for a piece of gear that offers an even bigger advantage.
There are essentially two phases of character creation in Dragon Quest III, and each one plays out differently. When you create the player character, you answer a series of questions about “yourself” and then participate in a final test to determine your character’s personality. The personality you receive makes a difference in the type of stats the hero possesses. The lazybones, for example, has high strength and resilience but low agility and wisdom, making them a character who has high HP and hits hard but acts late in combat and has little MP for magical spells. Conversely, the straight arrow is much more balanced, making them more capable magically but also a bit more vulnerable with less hitting power. Part of the fun of this game is letting your personality shine through to create the character, but if you care most about the mechanical results of your test then I recommend prioritizing strength and then either resilience or agility. While the hero can cast spells, they’ll always be behind in their spell list compared to the mage or the priest, and you’ll want them to have high attack power to take advantage of their great weapon selection.
Now the other three characters in your party can be auto-generated by the game or personally created by you. When you create a character you’ll be able to choose from a number of jobs. The game recommends that you bring a warrior, a priest, and a mage – I will second that recommendation. They’re not trying to trick you or make you be boring; the game is balanced mechanically to that combination of abilities, and playing without one of them will complicate things for you. You can feel free to get a little more experimental late game when you unlock the ability to change jobs. When you create a character at the party planning place, you’ll get a set of randomized base stats and also have the opportunity to invest five stat seeds into the character. The game offers to do this for you – I personally recommend making your own choices based on what you want out of each character. If you really want to be serious about mechanically optimizing your character, make new ones until you roll a +3 on every seed you invest – that’s the maximum stat boost possible from any of the five seeds provided.
Which stats do I recommend for each class? For the warrior, strength and resilience are going to be the most important. You want a unit who deals high damage and can take a lot of punishment. Agility is a nice bonus since it increases base defense, but don’t prioritize it over resilience. For the mage, wisdom is obviously a big one – you want your spellcaster to have all the MP that they need in order to use their spells regularly. Your mage will probably be rolled with a decent amount of agility, so it’s probably a good idea to invest in resilience; the lack of good armor for the mage class makes them quite vulnerable to quick KOs. The priest will most certainly need wisdom, and luck is important too. You don’t want the one character in your party who can heal everyone’s status problems to always be inflicted with status problems. Personally, I also invested a big number of seeds into my priest’s agility. I wanted her to be able to pop off a quick heal right at the beginning of a turn after a big hit from the bad guys. There’s value to a slow healer too, though, which I’ll talk about more in the battle strategies segment of this guide.
If you’re picking up Dragon Quest III as a newcomer to the game and you are generally inexperienced with older JRPGs, these tips are crucial to navigating a game that comes from a different design philosophy than the titles you may be used to in the modern day. Sticking your nose in every nook and cranny of a sprawling open world is impractical and may be lacking in rewards; that same behavior is a necessity in a game like Dragon Quest III because so many of the game’s rewards are shoved into the nooks and crannies of the world.
Whenever you enter a new town, talk to all the townspeople and investigate everything in their houses. The vases and barrels on the floor, the bookshelves and drawers, even the sacks hanging on the walls could have useful items for you to pick up. There are two particular items you’re looking for in these situations: stat seeds and mini medals. Stat seeds of course allow you to boost your party’s vital statistics to make them stronger without leveling up. Stat seeds give a bonus of 1-3 to stats like strength, resilience, wisdom, agility, or luck, and anywhere between 2-6 for HP and MP. If you want to maximize the bonuses from your seeds, save before you spend them and reset if you get less than the maximum bonus. I recommend using them pretty quickly, though – don’t stockpile them for the endgame. Not only are the small bonuses from the seeds more useful during the early game when 3 is a much bigger boost to something, but in my case I’ve forgotten to ever use the seeds at all in every game where I tried to save them up. My final seed recommendation is to be thoughtful about where you invest them. For example, anytime I got a strength seed I gave it to my warrior. Without spells to cast, the warrior is good for one thing only: hitting bad guys as hard as he can. May as well maximize his ability to perform that role well instead of giving it to my mage who will almost never use physical attacks in a boss fight. I gave all my agility seeds to my priest in order to effectively maintain her role in my party as a fast healer. But you can alternatively use seeds to mitigate weaknesses – I often gave my resilience seeds to my mage to boost her always-underwhelming HP stat.
Now mini medals are a useful commodity that allow you to get items as you collect more and more of them. The guy who accepts your mini medals live in the well in Aliahan, the first town, and when you bring him a certain number of medals he’ll reward you with a prize. One of the most important reasons you will want mini medals is to gain access to boomerangs of increasing power levels. Boomerangs are one of the best weapons in Dragon Quest, and throughout most of DQIII you cannot buy them – exchanging mini medals is the only way to get access to the power to hit all enemies at once without spending MP. Because these weapons (and some of the others you can scoop up) are so useful during the course of the game, you’ll want to search for mini medals everywhere. The most important tip for mini medal hunting? Make sure to walk on each tile in the game. While mini medals are certainly hidden in more obvious places like barrels and even treasure chests, there are so many which are lying on an essentially unmarked place on the ground. When you step over them, you’ll get an exclamation mark, but most of the time there will be no other visual cues in the environment which might let you know that something useful is located in the area.
To wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about combat strategies in Dragon Quest III. One of the most important tools that I most certainly slept on when I first started playing the game is the tactics menu. Tactics allow you to assign different strategies to specific characters in your party or to the whole group (except the player character). These strategies include commands like “don’t use MP,” “focus on healing,” and “show no mercy,” among others. These commands make battles go faster because you have less button inputs to deal with and don’t have to stop and think about what moves you want to make, but they are valuable in one other key way also: a character taking their turn from the tactics menu actually decides their action when they take the action instead of before they take the action.
This can be a little confusing, so let’s use an example here. During a turn where all four of my characters are set to “follow orders,” I instruct my healer to cast Fullheal on the party warrior. His health is very low and if he doesn’t recover soon, he’ll be dead. Unfortunately my healer doesn’t go first and my warrior gets killed before the healing spell goes off. That’s a bummer, but even more of a bummer is that because I already told the priest to heal him, she’s going to still waste her Fullheal on a now-dead character instead of using the spell on someone else or performing a different action. Conversely, if I were using the tactics menu and set my priest to “focus on healing,” she wouldn’t choose her action until it is actually her turn, which means that she can either use her healing spell on a living character who needs it or perhaps even attempt to revive the warrior with Zing.
Now there is definitely a trade off happening here. When you don’t give the characters individual orders they may sometimes use their turn for something you would consider to be wasteful or unhelpful. This could include using a spell that’s too powerful for the current situation or inflicting a status ailment on an opponent that’s most certainly going to be killed five seconds later by the warrior. It could also include healing a character who you consider to have less strategic value during the current encounter. However, there’s a lot of viability to the strategy of having a slow healer who you then set to “focus on healing,” as that character will be able to make in-the-moment decisions based on what has happened during the turn rather than you trying to guess ahead of time who you want to be healed or how much healing they’ll need to receive. Personally, my strategy was to use Tactics for every battle except for boss fights, where I then set everyone to “follow orders” so I could have a bit more control over the decisions that were being made.
That will bring an end to our casual stroll through Dragon Quest III. If you have a question about the game that wasn’t answered in this guide, feel free to leave it in the comments below and I’ll be happy to share what I know – if indeed I know anything about it. I hope the advice contained here improves your DQIII experience!