Dragon Quest XI: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE DEALS
Dragon Quest has always had an awkward relationship with the West. In the series’ home country of Japan, it’s a hit – in fact, the latest instalment has sold more copies there than Final Fantasy XV. Over in the US and Europe however, it’s always struggled to find an audience. This is a shame for a series that’s been so consistently brilliant, and it’s become standard for Dragon Quest reviews to overshadow the whole article with reminders of the series’ unpopularity in the West. With Dragon Quest 11 the trend needs to be bucked. This is one of the best JRPGs ever made.
Dragon Quest 11 hits you right away with the presentation. The game boasts a gorgeous anime-inspired graphical style, with character and monster designs being handled by Dragonball artist Akira Toriyama, giving a sense of nostalgia even to those who’ve never picked up a Dragon Quest game before. The art design oozes with personality, every enemy making the jump to HD with flair. In the early days of the series, enemies were designed with the Famicom’s hardware limitations in mind, pushing a lot of charm and personality into tiny designs. Now, with a far larger palette, classic enemies such as Slimes and Hammerhoods are more adorable and fun to encounter than ever.
The games presentation grabs your hand and pulls you into the story, which is admittedly a rather standard JRPG affair. You play as the Luminary, a legendary hero reborn, on a quest to rid the world of an ultimate evil. The plot is full of twists and turns, betrayals and alliances, as well as the occasional goof and gaff. Your party quickly fills out with an assortment of delightful characters to help you on your journey, such as the unambiguously camp Sylvando, the grouchy old Scottish Rab and two puritan nuns who are on a sacred quest to help the Luminary (Who are twins, despite one being far younger. It makes sense, trust me). The cast all work well together, though I wish there was more time devoted to them interacting with each other as opposed to the situations of the plot.
The Luminary himself is a silent protagonist, communicating off-screen or through nods and grunts. While I understand this approach for a more choice-based game, allowing you to enter the role of the main character, the Luminary comes across as more bland than anything else, and at times you find yourself wondering what your own motivations are. While silent protagonists are a staple of Dragon Quest, part of me does think to Square Enix’s other flagship JRPG series and the excellent character dynamics between the cast of Final Fantasy VI or X – it makes me wish Dragon Quest XI explored this a bit more.
However, those concerns are slight, and almost washed away during the game itself. The battle system is a traditional turn-based affair, with a few twists. One of the more interesting systems in place is the Pep Powers. Every character has a random chance of entering a “Pepped” state on their turn, giving them increased stats for a while. While Pepped, characters can also use special moves, and if multiple characters are Pepped, some combo moves are available. For example, Sylvando (being a circus performer) has a move where he can spit fire. Get him and the Luminary pepped up, and he can spit fire onto your sword allowing you to make devastating flaming slash. This adds an incredible amount of depth and strategy, which is impressive considering the random nature of Pep.
On top of that, these combo-Pep powers are some of your best opportunities to see the characters interact with each other outside of story-relevant cutscenes. Possibly the most disappointing thing with Dragon Quest XI is the soundtrack. The game has a very throwback feel, and at times it feels like you’re playing a SNES game with the graphics turned super
high. However, what wasn’t turned super high was the soundtrack, which boasts a midi score. The last home-console release, Dragon Quest VIII, used a full orchestral suite, so the lack of one here feels like a dramatic step back, especially during some of the climactic scenes where you just wish the soundtrack went a bit more “big”. All the tunes are well composed and do enough to keep you hooked, but a real band would have elevated it.
Dragon Quest XI is a game that any fan of JRPG’s should be playing.
The games incredible length gives you a lot to dig through, and the pacing of how the world unfolds before you is masterfully done – there’s always something else to find or explore. It’s an adventure that whips you off your feet with its charm and keeps you in its world until you’re done. For fans of the old school, this is the game you need to be playing in 2018. For fans of the new school, its presentation and huge explorable world will be more than enough to satiate. Put simply, it’s time to end our awkward relationship and embrace Dragon Quest over here as the classic it always has been.
Dragon Quest XI: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE
The next in the installment to the series, bringing the magical world to life once more in this gorgeous turn-based battle system RPG.
- Huge presentation
- Beautiful graphics
- Interesting plot
- Not enough impact on music
- Lack of background on characters
- Too similar to other titles