Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age Review
After being out for over a year in Japan, Dragon Quest XI finally makes its way to the the rest of the world. Is this quest one worth taking, or should you pass on it for something better? Check out our review and find out.
Dragon Quest XI Review
Dragon Quest XI starts off with a mysterious kingdom being assaulted by a group of monsters. A young girl with a baby is running through the woods to get away from them, but ultimately places the baby in a raft to escape. That baby turns out to be the character you will be playing. You enter a name, and are then all grown up in a peaceful village in the woods. Here you are introduced to the basics of combat and meet some of your characters longtime friends and family. Destiny waits for no one though, as a mysterious mark on your hand is explained and you are sent off to the capital to present yourself to the king.
You are the Luminary, the light that pushes back the darkness. Not everyone sees this as a good thing, though. Some think that if there is no Luminary, then there will be no darkness. After presenting yourself to the king, your journey truly begins. It is one that spans a massive world filled with a lot of heart and charm. Every new town or village you visit is unique, and the people are always looking for a helping hand. Even though the story will take more than 60 hours to complete, Dragon Quest XI has enough forward momentum to keep you hooked all the way through. Every time I thought I was close to the end, they dropped another surprise and always kept me guessing.
Dragon Quest XI’s story is strong on its own, but where the game really shines is the characters. After all, no adventure is complete without a ragtag group of allies who stick with you through thick and thin. At first, they seem to join because you are the Luminary, but as you progress their stories turn out to be surprisingly deep. I found myself having a hard time picking a main party because I liked everyone in my group. The attachment I built with these characters was something I hadn’t done in a long time. As long as you can fully immerse yourself in this world, the hours will fly by.
Now, this is a turn-based RPG, and that might be the kicker for some. Movement in combat isn’t required for dodging or performing moves, but you can use it to adjust the camera and move around the combat zone. Even though it is turn-based, there is more than enough variety in movesets, tactics, and enemies to keep players entertained. Each character has their own skill tree that expands as you progress through the story. Best of all, it never felt like I had to grind; I was always fine when I reached a boss. The AI can also hold its own; if you want them to fight random enemies; just make sure you are in control for bosses.
Skill trees are broken up by weapon type and character skills. Swords, spears, staves, claws, knives, whips, and fists are weapons your various characters can use. The best part about all this is how easy it is to respec a character, letting you test out weapons and abilities easily. These moves also unlock things known as Pep Skills. You can consider these as special combo moves done between different characters. When you get into Pep, you are powered up for a few turns. If multiple party members are Pepped up, then they can combine their Pep for ultimate attacks. Honestly, I’m not sure how many there are, but I’ve done at least 30, and most of them are simply fantastic.
No RPG is complete without side activities to do. Mini Medals make their return, allowing collection enthusiasts to be rewarded for searching the far corners of the world. Sidequests are abundant, but not overwhelming. There is a race track where you can race on your horse for prizes. A casino, archery contest, and the Fun-Size Forge might end up costing you a few hours as well. The Forge in particular is easy to use, making it worth the investment to craft new equipment and to look for new recipes. The only thing the game is missing is fishing; you should always add a bonus fishing mini-game.
While Dragon Quest XI is a traditional JRPG, it also brings a lot of quality of life improvements to the genre as well. As I stated above, the AI can handle almost any fight as long as you set their tactics correctly. You get a horse almost immediately, making travel much more accessible. You can fast travel out of dungeons and caves; you don’t just hit your head on the ceiling anymore. It autosaves, which sounds basic, but it isn’t always the case in the more traditional RPGs. There is also a reminder whenever you load the game, dubbed “Previously on Dragon Quest XI,” to help you remember what is going on. None of this is on its own is worth praise, but rather it is all stuff added to make the journey more comfortable for the player.
Some things could use improvement in Dragon Quest XI. Boss fights can be challenging, but that trash mobs don’t put much of a struggle. Not all armor changes your appearance either; some does, but not all. The armor thing is actually something I notice in a lot of JRPGs; for instance, Ni No Kuni II, the Tales series, Star Ocean, and even Final Fantasy XV didn’t have much in the way of armor customization. Maybe this is just me being an entitled gamer, but I like my character to change appearances when I change their armor. I used a PlayStation 4 Pro, and in a couple of towns, I ran into frame drops as well. None of this was ever enough to make me stop playing. I had no crashes or bugs during my playthrough either.
Dragon Quest XI proves that a traditional turn-based RPG in 2018 can not only work, but also thrive. Longtime fans and newcomers alike should not hesitate to take the trip to the Elusive Age.