The wider gaming world got its first look at the Wii U version of Square Enix MMORPG Dragon Quest X, during a stage demo for the game.
We had high expectations for this release – back in February Dragon Quest X producer Yosuke Saito went on record to say the following:
“The Wii version is totally fun! The Wii U version is totally fun! And it’s also extremely beautiful.”
Cue us expecting Wii U Dragon Quest X to look more like the CGI unveil trailer from last year. What we saw, however, didn’t match this in the slightest, in a Wii to Wii U rendition which simply smacks of laziness.
In fact, the game he showed off pretty much featured those Wii Dragon Quest X visuals we’re so used to seeing – its polygons and textures primarily designed for standard definition – but rendered in 1080p HD.
Visual additions are minor and don’t amount to anything that would strain Wii U’s innards much – character shadows have morphed from simple circles into something more true to form and character LOD has been improved, meaning more than Wii’s limit of 20 characters will appear onscreen at a time.
And that’s pretty much it.
A lot of Dragon Quest X’s environments seem to lack the atmosphere, tension and panache that made Xenoblade’s so memorable and inspired to explore, making us think they’d certainly seem more exciting from a visual upgrade.
Heck, an added sea of fluffy, swaying grass to pepper some lands would be enough for us to see an increased sense of depth and scale about these lands. Or at least the static grass should move this time.
Yes, graphics aren’t everything. But after looking at things in principle we expect more. Consider how Dragon Quest X’s monthly subscription payment model will likely make it the largest grossing game in the series for Square (similar to Final Fantasy XI). Then there’s the jump to a far more powerful console. You’d expect more money would toward making this Wii U rendition shine as more than a Wii release in HD.
It isn’t all about what Wii U’s improved visual heft could bring to the table, though. The GamePad is an excellent fit for MMOs – allowing players to interact with cluttered menus, commands and shortcuts on its second, private touchscreen.
From what we’ve seen, however, menus are still accessible through the usual clunky text-based menus from the Wii version carries – reminding us a bit of how Final Fantasy XI was handled on PC. No touchscreen commands or item sorting through drag-and-drop here.
We’d like to think there’s still hope to be had – but seeing how the menus (above) and map system (below) work we’re less confident.
Dragon Quest X remains like for like content-wise with the Wii edition, which is definitely a good thing, and online accounts will be compatible with both versions, so existing players can easily migrate to the Wii U version with minimal fuss. We do fear that the dependence of a Square Enix built Dragon Quest online environment could rule out any comprehensive Miiverse integration.
Alas, you can probably understand why we’re so disappointed with this unveil. You only need to look at what Sega have accomplished across all supported platforms with Phantasy Star Online 2 to understand this – each platform’s unique features have been leveraged in a way which suits the game best.
For now we’ll remain hopeful that Square Enix will leverage the GamePad to support something beyond the option to play Dragon Quest X on the loo (as good that will be).