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Posted on Feb 26th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Dragon Quest, PS4, PC, Switch, Square Enix, RPG


While the JRPG has been my favorite genre of videogames ever since I was old enough to read, my experience with the Dragon Quest series is admittedly limited. After having played the DS remake of Dragon Quest V a couple of years ago and playing the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VIII shortly after, I felt like I had already experienced the best this series has to offer (at least according to most people) and decided that I should move on to other things if it was all downhill from there. Once Dragon Quest XI was released and garnered rave reviews, many claiming it to be the best in the series, I was immediately intrigued and didn't wait long to start playing it.



Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age was developed and published by Square Enix and originally released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS on July 29, 2017. It was later localized and released in the west on September 4, 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and PC with plans to be released for the Nintendo Switch at a later date. A critical and commercial success, it has received mostly positive review scores and has shipped over four million copies worldwide.


The art style of the 3DS version.

The game begins with our hero participating in his home village's coming of age ceremony, through which he unleashes a mysterious power. It is then revealed that he is the Luminary, the reincarnation of a legendary hero from generations before, so he sets out on a journey to learn more about his newfound power. In the process, he learns that he alone holds the power to defeat an ancient evil that once again threatens the world.

The story seems trite and familiar at first, but it does take some interesting twists and turns along the way. There is also a great cast of distinct characters with colorful personalities that will help endear you to the game's plot. I also feel the need to point out that the story isn't over when the credits roll, so be sure to load your save file and keep going in order to get the full experience. The game also gives you a brief synopsis of recent events in the story every time you load the game, which serves as a great refresher whenever you've gone a few days or more without playing.

Similar to virtually all other JRPGs, you will spend the majority of the game exploring towns, dungeons, and wilderness areas, and these are all fairly straightforward. Towns hold NPCs to converse with, stores to shop at, and side quests to undertake. Dungeons and wilderness areas have plenty of monsters to slay and plenty of treasures to find. On occasion, you will be able to pilot a defeated enemy and use them to access new areas. There are also no random encounters in the game (except when piloting the ship) with enemies instead appearing on the overworld, so tedium while exploring is kept to a minimum.


One of the several rideable enemies in the game.

Combat is fairly straightforward and will feel familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG before. Party characters and a group of enemies face off turn by turn with the player inputting various commands such as Attack, Spells, Abilities, Items, etc. for each character. Party members can also be swapped mid-battle, which allows you to alter your strategy and restructure your party on the fly. Allies can either be controlled manually or by the AI with a variety of different tactics settings. There are also 'Classic Battle' and 'Free Form' camera options that allow you to change the perspective of the battles. Classic Battle maintains a more traditional party arrangement and camera placement, while Free Form allows you to freely rotate the camera and move your characters around the battlefield, although this has no actual impact on the battle itself.

There is also a Pep mechanic that induces an enhanced state on characters that grants various benefits such as increased attack power or critical hit chance. Becoming Pepped is pseudo-random but is influenced by factors such as taking damage. Once a character is Pepped, they can continue attacking as normal for a few turns with their increased stat bonuses until the Pep status wears off, but there are also dozens of Pep Powers that can be performed as well, some of which require multiple party members to execute. Pep Powers can be triggered as a command on a character's turn, and using one of these abilities will cause that character to lose their Pep status. Available Pep Powers are influenced by which characters are in the active party and which of those characters are currently Pepped.


Learning new abilities sometimes unlocks new Pep Powers.

Character progression is fairly straightforward with earned experience points granting new levels to characters which in turn increases their stats and sometimes offers them a new spell or ability. There is also a skill chart for each character that allows you to spend skill points earned from leveling up into the skills and attributes of your choice, and this gives the player some flexibility in how they want to build their character. Each character has at least two different weapon types they can equip, and certain skill paths allow you to specialize each character in your preferred weapon type by learning new attacks and by increasing attributes such as attack power and critical hit chance while those weapons are equipped.

There is also a crafting system in the game that allows you to craft new weapons and armor. Recipes for crafting are typically found on bookshelves throughout the game and are commonly given as quest rewards. Crafting can be done at the Fun-Size Forge at campfires once all the necessary ingredients have been acquired. A crafting minigame must be completed to craft an item, with better performance in the minigame yielding higher stats for the crafted item, and I found it to be an enjoyable addition to the game. Successful crafts also yield Perfectionist Pearls which can be spent at the Fun-Size Forge to reforge an item in an attempt to get better stats.


Crafting a weapon at the forge.

Powered by Unreal Engine 4, the visuals of Dragon Quest XI bring Akira Toriyama's designs to life like never before. The fully 3D character models and environments look great, as well as all of the special effects in the game. There is a large assortment of unique and creative enemy designs, although many later enemies are simple palette swaps of previous enemies. There is a great level of polish on the visuals, and I am confident that this is an art style that will age well over time.

The music in the game is a mixed bag overall. The compositions themselves are generally good, but the quality of the soundtrack is extremely lacking. Instead of including the fully orchestrated soundtrack which was already recorded prior to the game's release, it instead uses midi versions of those tracks, and this clashes heavily when compared to the high production values of the rest of the game. The voice acting is generally well done with many characters speaking with wildly different dialects depending on where they're from, such as an eastern-inspired civilization speaking entirely in haiku and a mermaid civilization speaking in rhyme.

Other than the lackluster soundtrack, Dragon Quest XI excels in nearly every aspect and is a must play for both fans of the series and newcomers alike. It is quite a lengthy adventure also, spanning several dozen hours and topping 100 hours if you choose to complete all of the game's worthwhile side content, so you will definitely get your money's worth. A Definitive Edition has also been recently announced for the Nintendo Switch that includes the 2D mode option from the Japanese 3DS release, as well as an orchestral soundtrack, a Japanese voice option, and new stories featuring the various party characters. If you consider yourself to be a fan of JRPGs, you owe it to yourself to play Dragon Quest XI.


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Comments
 
I was soo happy when the Switch version was announced, especially for the inclusion of the retro-style 2D graphics which you could switch to at any time.  The 3DS version showed you both for the beginning, but it made you pick one at some point.  Anyways, love the look of the game and I look forward to playing it.
 
Yeah, the new Switch version looks great! I almost wish I had waited for the Definitive Edition release, but at the same time I'm glad I went ahead and played it when I did. Besides, it's good enough that I can see myself doing another playthrough sooner or later.
 
Great detailed review! I'm looking forward to this on the Switch. I haven't really played much Dragon Quest over the years, but this game looks awesome. I'm not a Dragon Ball fan, but I do like Toriyama's style, and the 3D models look amazing in DQXI. I could see this becoming my go-to lunchtime game at work, cranking out a few hours a week.
 
Yeah a Dragon Quest XI review! Great Job. I looooove this game so Much! The Best compliments I can give a game is that after I beat it am I sad that its over do I still want to play it. After puting over 300 Hrs in Dragon Quest XI, I can 100% say that about it. I was sad that it was over and I wanted to keep playing. I wanted more, so much so that I fought every monster to fill out the bestiary, collected every Item in the game and reforged every single piece of armor and weapon to +3. I am so excited to buy it again on Switch and play it this time in classic retro 16 bit mode. I love everything about this game  soooo much. It is now my favorite JRPG of all time. I think that with the Switch release later this year Dragon quest will finally take off in North America (Lets Hope)
 
@MetalFRO: Nice, I look forward to hearing your thoughts when you finally get to play it! Perhaps we'll see this on a future stream? Smiley

@BJoin1979: Yeah, I think the series will pick up some more steam in the west after the success of DQXI. As I said at the beginning of the article, I felt like I was probably done with the series after playing through 5 and 8, but 11 has really reinvigorated my interest in the series and has made me want to check out some of the other titles.

Thanks for reading, guys!
 
I've been holding out for a Switch port and now that it's announced I'm super pumped. Cannot wait to jump in.

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