Review: Dragon Quest XI Echoes Of An Elusive Age
It's been a while since we've seen a new release of Dragon Quest. DQX came out in 2012 and DQXI in 2017 but unfortunately it was only available in Japan. Now Dragon Quest XI Echoes Of An Elusive Age is finally playable in the west for PS4 and PC. Dragon Quest is known for classic RPG gameplay, good story and developed characters. Does Dragon Quest XI stand the test of time and does a true J-RPG still stand a good chance in the west? With more than sixty hours of gameplay in my pocket, I'm going to take a closer look at the game.
Dragon Quest 11 really lets the graphics shine. The choice to run the game on the Unreal Engine 4 makes the world extremely colorful and detailed, the world is so well woven together that everything comes into its own visually. It is a world in which Akira Toriyama's vision (the writer of DragonBall) and unique drawing style is clearly portrayed.
When you look at the designs of the characters and monsters, you immediately see that there is a lot going on with the previous releases of Dragon Quest. It looks quite simple at first, but each character has its own unique charm and just fits well into the world.
The world is also full of small details, these may not be visible at first glance, but as soon as you put the camera on it you see carefully designed textures. Each area is vibrant and a joy to fully explore. From the leather on the hero's outfit to the stitching on a vest or spun tunic, Dragon Quest 11 is simply the most beautiful in a series of beautiful games.
Story classic but unconventional
Another area where Dragon Quest XI excels is the story, it's much more extensive than its predecessors with a standard RPG start. It starts simple: You are the reincarnation of a legendary hero called the 'Luminary' and must save the world from the 'Dark one'.
So the game starts with your typical plot and development for the first two hours, after that the game immediately turns everything upside down and you can enjoy an original story. Each character has a unique contribution to how the story develops, even NPCs that seem insignificant at first can offer a twist to the story.
For example, there is a guard in the slums guarding the entrance to the normal part of the city. To get past this, the game will immediately give you the clue you need to progress, scare the guard with a dog to get past it. If you look further and observe a bit more, you will find other ways to get past the guard, at night the guard just falls asleep or you can hire a beautiful dancer to distract him. The dog is therefore completely unnecessary, so the game offers you more ways to tackle different obstacles.
Each city has its own added value, which partly deepens the world and also benefits the story. In addition, the most important scenes are recorded by voice actors, who perform their roles with full dedication and who know exactly what emotional charge a scene needs. The story is compelling, not unnecessarily complex and keeps you captivated throughout the game.
Music too much
The music is definitely the worst thing about Dragon Quest XI. Although the game opens with the theme of Dragon Quest beautifully orchestrated by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, once you get out of the main menu the quality plummets considerably.
The song that should really be the calling card of an RPG game has always been the Overworld Theme and in Dragon Quest XI the theme feels like an uninspired mishmash of bad ideas. It's actually so bad that I played without music for the first few hours of the game until I had more access to the world.
It is clear that the choice for a MIDI soundtrack is made in the context of tradition, but the different choices made in terms of music sometimes takes life from an otherwise beautiful area.
Gameplay simple but effective
The battles are tight, simple and fast. It plays like your traditional J-RPG without any complicated gimmicks. You have your standard attacks, magic and abilities that each have a unique effect. There are no more random encounters, enemies can now be seen on the overworld, you will never be unpleasantly surprised. The biggest addition to the traditional system are the Pep Attacks. During combat, one of your characters may be boosted, giving them temporary strength and the ability to perform special moves. Those flashy attacks break up the action nicely and are always useful to deploy.
Characters also earn skill points with each level-up, which you can invest in a skill tree of your choice, in the beginning the skill trees are still quite limited and they seem small, but in the 2nd half of the game every character gets a much wider arsenal and feel really unique.
Dragon Quest 11 is a special and memorable JRPG. The game does not bore you with overly complicated matters, but provides you with all the comforts that make you feel right at home. The story is immediately compelling and the gameplay is easy to master, so that nothing stands in the way of simply enjoying. The music is the biggest flaw, but otherwise this adventure is so entertaining that it is highly recommended. Dragon Quest 11 has the potential to create a new generation of JRPG fans who will look back on this game with fondness years later.
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