- Game: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
- Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, PC
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
A Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age review code was provided by the publisher.
It’s been a while since Square Enix’s Dragon Quest IP has graced American shores with a mainline console entry. If you’ve followed the JRPG franchise since its inception, then chances are high that you’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Dragon Quest XI. Thanks to a host of quality of life improvements and extra content added to the US release, the series’ latest foray into a bright and bubbly world feels as complete and feature-rich as ever. Dragon Quest XI sticks to its roots and honors its loyal fan following by improving upon the mechanics that brought them to the franchise in the first place. All in all, this standout theme of the game is both a blessing and a curse.
Your grand adventure sticks to a well-worn JRPG trope – as “The Luminary,” your fate is intertwined with that of a supreme evil that looks to harm your world. Your silent savior bears a mysterious mark on his hand that gives him untold powers, a plot thread that blossoms into intriguing instances during your journey. Some see The Luminary as the reincarnation of a legendary hero, while others look at you as nothing more than a harbinger of doom and gloom. Dragon Quest XI’s storytelling starts off on a pretty generic note and takes a while to really rev up.
But once you start aligning yourself with fellow heroes/heroines and making your way across the game’s sweeping expanses, the plot takes some interesting twists and turns. The lighthearted feel of Dragon Quest is on full display here thanks to an abundance of jokes and outlandish missions. But the game’s more serious moments suck you in and propel you to see The Luminary’s epic journey reach a satisfying conclusion. Thankfully, your full party of varied personalities lend themselves well to making the game’s sweeping tale even more absorbing.
Moving through Dragon Quest XI requires a bit more of your active participation, which helps keep your overworld travels from being too much of a bore. Plus modern JRPG mechanics (no random encounters and the ability to land sneak attacks on unsuspecting foes) also do a good job of keeping your lengthy world-saving journey from being filled with needless annoyances. There’s a few side activities and optional quests to busy yourself with when you’re looking to take a break from your main quest. However, these tasks don’t deviate too much from your usual trope of JRPG “greatest hits.” You can engage in horse races, get into crossbow competitions, engage in gambling, go hunting for treasure, and complete special requests.
While these missions are fine for what they are, they don’t stray too far away from the types of tasks you’ve completed in an untold number of classic JRPG’s. Even during the later stages of your adventure, you’ll still come across basic fetch quests and tiresome battle requests. A feeling of “been there, done that” quickly sets in and you’ll be left wanting for the types of clever quest-lines/side jobs featured in games such as Persona 5 and Ni no Kuni II. Discovering new parts of the world, entering dangerous locales, and interacting with the denizens of a new town never gets old. But the other activities you engage in makes Dragon Quest XI’s questing mechanics feel a bit long in the tooth.
When it’s time to unsheathe your weapons, cut down some Slimes, and defend yourself from numerous other baddies, the best parts within Dragon Quest XI take center stage. Your four-member party lineup relies on direct attacks, a bevy of magical spells, and flashy special abilities. On top of all those basic battle actions, each of your characters are capable of unleashing even more powerful skills once they get “pepped up.”
As one of your party members accrue damage during a particularly long skirmish, he or she eventually starts glowing blue and becomes more of an unstoppable force. This powered up transformation adds extra wrinkles to the the battle system, such as multi-party member abilities and increased stats. There’s an extra layer of strategy in place when this mechanic pops up during regular encounters and boss battles. Switching out a pepped up party member and saving their super state for a future boss meeting or dangerous side foe is a viable option that makes Dragon Quest XI’s battles even more engaging.
Outside of battle, you’ll unlock new spells and abilities via a grid-based upgrade system. Your points go towards creating different classes for your characters as you purchase skills that stick to a certain weapon type. Each of your world saviors can embrace different roles, such as warrior, thief, mage etc. Each of these distinctive character roles embraces a weapon that impacts their battle effectiveness, such as two-handed swords, knives, boomerangs, magic staffs etc.
These mechanics do a great job of making the job of customizing your characters a fun affair. It’s possible to change your magic-focused party members into a viable hybrid warrior that can also dish out big physical damage. Or switch your low-defense, two-handed sword warrior into a fighter that loses less HP thanks to a sword and shield combination. You’ll get a kick out of farming for XP, gaining new levels, and putting your new points towards freshening up your favorite party members. While Dragon Quest XI doesn’t innovate its turn-based battle systems, there’s enough elements put in place to make it a bit more lively than past series implementations.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age Takeways
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is an old-school JRPG at its heart. It utilizes the types of mechanics that have been a hallmark of the sub-genre and does them well. But for those of you who are veterans of those types of games, most of this entry’s content feels a bit stale and dated in comparison to its modern contemporaries. The story is a slow-burner that gets more intriguing as you see it through, which feels rewarding.
The lighthearted nature of the series and your quirky cast of characters constantly brighten the mood. Plus the fun combat mechanics and addictive character customization system knocks this entry’s entertainment value up a notch. What’s being offered here is a JRPG that sticks to what it knows best and doesn’t stray too far away from what Dragon Quest is known for. There’s not a whole lot of franchise innovation to speak of, but Dragon Quest XI still provides a sweeping journey worth completing.
Our Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age Review Score: 8.75 out of 10