DRAGON QUEST XI: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE
A golden age, at that
This latest entry in one of Japan’s most popular series won’t do for JRPGs what Persona 5 did last year, but that isn’t to say it isn’t just as good. Instead of playing with real-world influences, it revels in its fantastical universe and diverse, colourful characters in a way that many other JRPGs have failed to, and it’s wonderful. It begins as many JRPGs do: with you being informed of your duty to fulfil your heroic legacy, which will require you to drop everything. Byebye home-made stews with mum; hello the many things that want to kill you. It may sound generic, and in some ways it is, but Square Enix executes its vision with such blindingly good visuals and gameplay that it’s hard to not be sucked into the world of Lotozetasia.
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As the Luminary, it’s down to you and your ragtag group of friends to clear your name – you’re accused of being the Darkspawn – and bring peace to the world by defeating the Dark One. The narrative and mechanics never become bloated, and the overall goal is always in mind. You’ll never wonder what you need to do next as Dragon Quest provides a brief recap each time you boot the game up – how handy! In a game so vast, Square Enix has excelled in delivering an accessible experience and, as this may be many
players’ first Dragon Quest game, the developer couldn’t have made it more welcoming.
If you are tired of JRPGs being set in schools where students are the heroes, you can rest here, as you’re unlikely to find as much diversity in a main cast as there is in Dragon Quest XI’s. A silent hero, a thief, an old man, and a flamboyant showman are some of the characters who join you on your journey, and they’re treated with equal importance. Sylvando’s flamboyance isn’t used as the butt of jokes, as it would in many other games, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see it be a natural part of his character rather than his defining trait, or something which is belittled.
It feels like core Dragon Quest, but better. Battles aren’t in first-person, and you’re able to position your characters before your turn ends, throwing a wrench in the works of enemies who want to lay siege with a wide-area attack. Each character has unique skills and if you’ve already eyeballed who you want in your team based on the art and trailers, you might find yourself picking an entirely different team as you learn more about them. Experience is shared among the whole party, which is helpful because if your main squad falls, your reserve team will pick up the slack. Good luck grinding money to kit out your entire party in their best equipment, though, as it takes hours to earn a good amount of coin, and only seconds to spend it all. At least you’ll be racking up skill points.
As with any turn-based JRPG worth its salt, combat options include both standard attacks and using abilities and skills, some of which are exclusive to certain characters. Skills are primarily magic, buffs, and debuffs, while abilities tends to compile the physical attacks. A unique mechanic, Pep, triggers randomly in battle and imbues a character in a blue light. Depending on who’s all pepped up, you’ll be able to perform team-based attacks together. They’re a welcome boon during gruelling battles.
Dragon Quest XI isn’t particularly difficult outside of boss battles, so if you’re worried about grinding levels, don’t be. There’re no random encounters, so you can skip fighting when low on health, or fast travel to an inn. Nothing beats being on the ropes, turning the tables, and tearing victory from the jaws of a boss, though, and it’s a rampant feeling that Dragon Quest captures, leaving you on a high until something inevitably knocks you down a peg.
Traversing the world has never been easier thanks to a mix of horseback and sailing the seas in a magnificent ship. You can sprint too, so if you insert yourself into the protagonist too far and start imagining him to have motion sickness, you can travel by foot rather than on the rocky seas. Awe-inspiring sights, bright, popping colours, and beautiful
“BRIGHT, POPPING COLOURS AND BEAUTIFUL CEL-SHADED VISUALS CAPTURE YOUR EYE.”
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Fight side by side with your allies to turn the tables on your foes.
Right Battlefields never become too hard to follow, allowing you to position your team as you see fit.
LeftBreathtaking sights can be seen from any corner of the rich world.