Released worldwide in September 2018, “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” serves as the latest edition of the massively popular JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) franchise. By that, I mean it’s massively popular in Japan. It’s fallen short in Western countries, with the last edition of the series to be released outside of Japan being “Dragon Quest VIII” back in 2006.
On the surface, it’s a standard JRPG. You wander through a fantasy world, recruiting colleagues and battling various monsters on a quest to save the world. The combat is turn-based and very colorful, with dozens of special moves based on what you choose to unlock as you level up. The player character is devoid of personality, allowing the player to impose their will on the character to better immerse themselves in the world.
“Dragon Quest XI” isn’t a fantastic game because it adds anything to the traditional JRPG formula. Rather, it’s a fantastic game because of the love and passion invested into it. “Dragon Quest XI” gives you everything you would want from a JRPG, but it still feels like so much more.
The world seemingly takes full advantage of the technology available. The world is huge, but like most JRPGs it’s not truly an open world game. Some areas are closed off as the game guides you in the correct directions. Still, it doesn’t feel forced at any point but rather convinces you that it’s the direction you want to go in, meaning it never feels like you’re potentially missing something. When the world is fully revealed at some point during the game, the choices are almost overwhelming but at that point you’re comforted knowing that you’ll probably visit everywhere. Even if not a part of the main story, various side quests help expose you to different places.
Also, in the world there are monsters, and boy, does this game set itself apart in the monster design. It’s so playful in its approach, puns gratuitously implemented through their names and designs. Of course, there are classics like the Slimes, which even I recall fighting in a game from my distant past when I still used one of the original Nintendo’s. Also among the monster catalogue are Eggsoskeletons, which are mechanical eggs with legs. There are Khalamari kids, baby octopi that don’t actually do any damage and the coralossus, a behemoth found on the coast made entirely of coral. Some games really lay on the serious, apocalyptic vibe. “Dragon Quest XI” goes in the opposite direction, the fun monsters almost nullifying the underlying danger within the story. It’s a truly unique part of the game and one of the most memorable.
Of course, a game is only as good as its star characters. The companions you meet within the game are each more exciting than the last. The party limit of four at a time legitimately hurts because it meant I was leaving someone out. Erik the master assassin, twin mage sisters Veronica and Serena, the showboating Sylvando, renowned fighter Jade, and old monk Rab are all so unique and fill different roles in combat. It’s like there are no wrong choices.
“Dragon Quest XI” deserves all the praise it gets, and it deserves more popularity in Western culture than it gets. It’s free on Xbox Game Pass and available for purchase on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. I encourage everyone to try it out.