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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age Review

Ah, Dragon Quest. You and I have… Well, not that much of a history really. It’s never too late to change that, so let’s dive on in to Dragon Quest XI!

Dragon Quest XI is my first serious foray into the main series, after having played a bit of Dragon Quest VII on 3DS and not getting all too far. Unfortunately, while I did actually get through XI… I can’t say I enjoyed the ride all too much.

Dragon Quest XI has you taking on the role of the Luminary, the one chosen to save the world. As you venture out to fulfill your destiny, you will meet a wide cast of characters along the way to aid you on your quest. From twin sisters to a circus performer, there’s never a dull moment in this party! Except for that part where I fell asleep during the story because I found it so slow, predictable, and a bit dull at times. The story in general comprises of a large set of mini-stories that all fit into a larger one. Just don’t mind those that don’t get finished during the main story, because why wrap up plot points before the credits roll?

For combat, Dragon Quest XI features the good ol’ turn-based combat system. However, instead of having all your party members enter their commands at once, you actually have turns. Of course, unless you turn on the Draconian Mode challenges, you’ll likely not find much challenge here. In combat, the game also allows you to set all of your party members to different levels of AI, meaning you don’t actually have to do anything in battle. You can just let the computer do it. And since the enemies are mostly all easy without much to write home about them… You can just go through the entire game, except for bosses, in this manner. In fact, you could probably even do some bosses like this, I just never tried.

And that’s the biggest thing that got me in Dragon Quest XI – it was far too easy, and the only way to add difficulty was to restart the entire game to turn on the Draconian challenges. This is made even worse by the lack of cutscene skips (note: you can skip them if you die to a boss and don’t close the game), and there’s a lot of cutscenes. By the time I realized that the game was just going to be far too easy for me without those challenges? I was multiple hours in with no will, time, or patience to sit through all those cutscenes again. Only did a few bosses actually make me have to take the time to plan out my turns, and once I figured out some of the stronger buffs… Those got a bit easier too.

The game features the ability to let you run around the combat area, however it does absolutely nothing. It provides a grand total of zero benefits, and you can simply just turn it off and keep the standard “everyone in a line” formation. It would have been nice if you could have used this feature to have your area spells affect different monsters, or to get benefits from attacking from behind.

Another part of the game I found a bit weird was the pre-emptive strike system. The only benefit, as far as I could tell, was that you got a little bit of extra damage in on the enemies. There was no bonus to you attacking first – in fact, I frequently would get surprised by the enemies when I pre-emptively struck them. Yeah, that makes pretty much no sense.

New to the English version of the game was voice acting. Basically all of the major characters are voiced, however there are points that stand out that they seem to have skimped on the voicing – singing sections. During the game there are multiple sections that feature character(s) singing in some capacity. Unfortunately, these were left totally unvoiced, sticking out like a sore thumb. Another thing that sticks out a bit is inconsistent accents. Characters who may have grown up together often had a different voiced accent from each other. Now, unvoiced lines from characters from a similar region did stick to the theme of that region, but there were definitely voiced parts that had their accents stick out from each other.

Littered throughout the world are side quests. These will ask you to do any number of things from coming back with a certain outfit, performing a certain Pep Power in battle, slaying a certain enemy, and much more. These can be a nice diversion, although the Pep Power ones can get to be a bit frustrating at times. Maybe if I could activate when the Pep Up happened it’d be better, though thankfully you can just bring that character out of the battle until your fulfill the rest of the requirements to get it done. In a way, the system reminds me of the Trance system from Final Fantasy IX, but if you could actually carry trances through different fights, and if you got super powers by characters teaming up together to instantly end the Pep Up period.

The music in the game is very classic Dragon Quest, and I don’t really mean that in a good way. The game sounds like it should be on an older system instead of being a part of the current generation. While some might find this charming, I found it very off-putting hearing old-school music on a modern style game.

As a whole, I can see where some people might find charm and likeability in Dragon Quest XI. Or just nostalgia. However, I don’t have that nostalgia, and I didn’t find that charm. The game was a pretty dull slog to get through, and one shouldn’t have to play a game for over 40 hours to find the fun in it. I never touched the post-game, the part where it supposedly gets “way better and harder”. There’s things I wish the game had as well, such as auto-scrolling text boxes, and the ability to set on difficult enemies outside of the very start. The game should have hooked me before I beat it. It didn’t. As such, I just can’t give this my recommendation.

And I was so looking forward to it too…

I was provided with a review code by Square Enix for the purposes of this review. All thoughts are my own, and thanks to a move this review got massively delayed! This review is based on the PS4 version.