Where do I even start with this one? Dragon Quest is probably the most underrated JRPG that has ever come to the West. It’s often forgotten about, overshadowed by titles like Final Fantasy and Persona. Dragon Quest XI is a turn-based JRPG developed by Square Enix and is probably the most traditional JRPG out there. Everything about it is just pure JRPG. From the story to the gameplay, everything feels so familiar yet different and better.
Dragon Quest has never been all that popular outside of Japan, up until now Dragon Quest VIII was the most popular entry to come out in the west and part of its success is definitely due to the fact that it was bundled with a demo of Final Fantasy XII. Dragon Quest XI, however, has been extremely well received by critics, with no Final Fantasy demo in sight.
The game is about a boy from a sleepy little village who embarks on an adventure to find out the truth about his past and a strange mark on his hand. And that’s all I’m gonna say about the story itself. Yes, sounds cliché, but the story gets so in-depth and original as you get deeper into it. The story introduces your party members as you progress, and all of them are colorful and upbeat. The story is about 70 hours long, and each hour is purely amazing and gripping. It couldn’t be better and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried more than once while I was playing it. It feels impossible to stop playing it. I had a death lock on my controller: it wasn’t leaving my hands if it didn’t have to.
I cried as I watched the credits roll down my screen, but the day was saved by the amazing endgame content, which adds about 40 hours of equally as entertaining story. All in all, it took about 180 hours for me to get that platinum trophy and I wish I could do it all again. The story is perfect. There’s nothing even slightly wrong about it. It’s by far the best in the series.
The basic combat is similar to most other turn-based JRPGs. You select which moves and abilities you want to use, which spells you want to cast and the items you want to consume. However, there are a few new things that Square Enix have added to the combat this time around. Pep powers are abilities that are extremely powerful and can only be used after a certain amount of damage has been dealt to a character, and can be used with multiple team members to make for even more powerful abilities.
Another new feature is the Fun-sized forge, which you use to craft new gear, weapons, and accessories. On top of that, you can also rework your current items, giving them extra damage or defense. The best part about it is that it’s a surprisingly fun mini-game, so if you’re not good at it you had better get good, fast.
You can also preemptively strike in Dragon Quest XI, dealing a handy bit of damage before you enter into a battle. Horse riding is also a first in the Dragon Quest series, which is nice and simple. There’s walking and sprinting, just like your character, and if you dash on your horse you can knock smaller monsters out of the way. Handy for when you’re riding to the nearest town on one HP, just trying to reach the local Inn.
The graphics in Dragon Quest XI are absolutely beautiful.. Everything is smooth and soft, so much so that it’s nice to occasionally stop doing the story or whatever quest you're doing and just take in the view. All of the models are so detailed and all the monsters look perfect, they have stayed exactly the same over the years and you wouldn’t even know that the original art director, Akira Toriyama (who has been the art director since the beginning in 1986), was replaced with Takeshi Uchikawa.
It’s the little things though that can really leave long lasting impressions, like watching the snow fly out from under your feet or seeing your character’s hair move in the wind as you ride your horse to the next town. Watching a waterfall flow or the snow fall as you eat your ham and cheese sandwich can be a truly relaxing experience. It’s a cell-shaded delight to the eyes and is guaranteed to make you take at least 2GBs of screenshots.
There’s tonnes to do in Dragon Quest XI, and it’s worth doing everything that you can. Whether you’d prefer to just play the story, or go for the completion, Dragon Quest XI has a lot to offer. If you want to finish the story and then leave it at that, you’ll be looking at at least 60 hours. However, if you want to do everything the game has to offer then I’d say that you’d be playing for well over 200 hours. It took me just over 180 hours to acquire the platinum trophy but that doesn't mean that I did everything available. If you wanted to, you could fill up your bestiary, item and accolades list and that would take too long for me to even imagine. You could also complete every sidequest if you wanted to, there’s only 40 but they can all take a fair amount of time to complete as most of them are fetch quests.
The main problem with Dragon Quest XI is the lack of replayability. once you’ve got the platinum you’ve done pretty much everything the game has to offer, but then again that is the whole point of getting the platinum trophy. As I said earlier, you could fill up all of the lists in the game, but that’s just for bragging rights. This problem is an easy one for Square Enix to solve. For example, new game plus is something found in most RPGs today, as it can basically double the game’s playtime, and always adds replayability, but sadly it’s not in Dragon Quest XI.
DLC is another solution. If Square Enix were to release a DLC that had a 10 hour story with new items, monsters, and islands to discover, it would probably add another 20 hours to the game if you were to do everything it had to offer. But sadly the game has been out for over a year in Japan, and there is no DLC or new game plus in sight.
Dragon Quest XI is a perfect game, with an original, gripping and emotional plot. Loads of time can be poured into it, and it will still leave you wanting more when you’re finished. With fun gameplay that is both simple and in-depth, the game is easy to pick up whether you’re new to the series or you’ve been around since it was known as Dragon Warrior. With its playtime standing at around 170 hours, it makes for a great JRPG. Dragon Quest XI is a perfect game and a must play for any JRPG fan.
DRAGON QUEST XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age is a perfect game, it sticks to with traditional JRPG roots while still bringing in a few new mechanics to freshen it up a bit.