✔️A lengthy campaign that adapts the series’ long-running history through fundamental plot points. ✔️Captivating narrative. A lore that is sure to allure even the most casual RPG player into its engaging storyline. ✔️A cast of lovable characters that connect on a personal level, and find semblance through their respective goals.
✔️Usually I save this column for negatives, but I have none so I’ll just give it another positive. One of the best JRPG’s ever, Period.
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It’s funny how life works. Dragon Quest had always been a franchise that I adored as a child. Growing up with the Famicom (Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System), I had become acquainted with the series from its early stages but was never able to play it properly given the language barrier, however I was encouraged to give it a red hot go. It’s only been within the last year that I was fortunate to have an experienced player guide me through its primary adventure, and damn if it wasn’t an epic thrill-ride. Following the trend of traditional JRPG titles, the generational saga has seen a plethora of original chapters told within its broad narrative. Canonically speaking, each entry of the long-standing action-adventure links with each prequel, but only by heritage, nothing that requires a newcomer having to revisit its entire anthology. Heading into Dragon Quest XI S, I had no idea what to expect.
This had been my first Dragon Quest title since its second entry, and I was elated to be revisiting the esteemed Role-Playing franchise. The series was my first foray into the genre, which led me to similar quests within its polarising category. Shin Megami Tensei, The Legend of Zelda (Yes, I do consider the original a JPRG), Fire Emblem, The Chrono Series and yes, the cream of the crop – although technically part of the Megami Tensei universe – Revelations: Persona. Much like the aforementioned properties, Dragon Quest has been a pillar, inspiring many that have come along decades after its initial release. Mystifying its devout fanbase and establishing itself as an exemplary demonstration of strong narrative that pushes through the arduous turn-based battle system, Dragon Quest’s continuing dominance within the Japanese Role-Playing market speaks volumes for its lasting legacy within the gaming space.
Warriors of Yggdrasil...
War wages within the bustling Kingdom of Dundrasil. Monsters and demons are readying their attack on the royal’s castle while a dangerous storm begins to brew over the town’s busy streets. After the King of Heliodor identifies our infant protagonist as a prodigy of the Yggdragon, he is taken away from Dundrasil’s council by his mother, Princess Eleanor. With Dundrasil under threat, she flees the castle with a mysterious young child draped in green, whom she leaves her baby with. Doing her best to distract an army headless knights, Eleanor decoys the convoy while the young girl takes a firm grip of the basket holding our hero. With a small window of safety, the young lady sprints through the stormy conditions. Spotted by a lone knight, the child is then attacked and left stranded. Following these events, our hero is found by a river near the small village of Cobblestone.
The baby had survived the attack and is saved by Chalky, an elderly gentlemen who bears a striking resemblance to our hero’s grandfather, King Robert. Returning home with the orphaned child, the Hero is adopted by Chalky’s daughter Amber, where he is raised within the harmonious walls of Cobblestone. 15 Years later, the Hero is sent to meet King Carnelian, as part of the protagonist’s coming-of-age ceremony. His adoptive mother tells the tale of his unlikely finding and how he must seek out the truth of his ancestry. Upon meeting the King, the titan accuses the teen of being an evil deity sent to destroy Erdrea. King Carnelian of Heliodor – the same emperor who identified the prodigy as the infant Luminary – sentences him to life imprisonment. Jailed for simply existing, the teen had been labelled a threat to Yggdrasil, and must be detained.
Ready to serve time, our protagonist meets a cocky young thief. Erik, the electric blue maned vigilante confesses to our hero that he was sent to save him. The thief explains his knowledge of The Luminary mark our protagonist bestows on his left wrist. He goes on to Inform the hero that he is a legend specifically chosen by the World Tree, to save Erdrea from impending doom. Defamed by the Heliodor’s ruler, our hero and the arrogant chaperon escape the besieged dungeon evading guards and fighting monsters to meet with a pair of sibling mages that accompany them on their quest back to Yggdrasil. Veronica, a cursed teenager that is trapped within the body of a young child and her twin sister, Serena. Their adventure see’s them build relationships that in turn help form additional crew members to their establishment.
An action-adventure with charisma, and most importantly heart. A resolve that will inspire many to play the title to completion, while leisurely assimilating its extensive lore, and its litany of character diatribes.
Sylvando, the flamboyant adventurer aspiring to entertain the masses on his own personal crusade. Rab, a gruff and tough warrior who shows a sensitive side to younger members of the clan, and finally there’s Jade, the seductive temptress who uses her sex appeal to impose her violent attributes when taking on enemies head-to-head. Specific regions of Erdrea play home to menacing figures protecting the location of the Six Orbs which unlock the gateway to Yggdrasil. Not every region will entail a boss fight, nor will it contain an orb but will set a path towards the location of each spherical piece available. While the campaign contains quite the straightforward narrative, your adventure will intertwine its path forcing your party to revisit towns in hopes of searching for more clues and completing additional sequences. Believe it or not, this is just the first portion of the game; there’s so much more.
It's Slime Time...
Having played through the original iteration of Dragon Quest XI, and XI S on the Nintendo Switch, I was pleased to see the magnificence in graphical upgrades made from both renditions. While the initial plot remains, many gameplay aspects have been tweaked for accessibility. Casual players are given a warm welcome, with mechanics that are flexible within its real-time battle option. For traditionalists, turn-based remains the ideal form of gameplay, but the option to switch this between battle is convenient none-the-less. While facets of Dragon Quest XI’s core foundation stay intact, bloat and bottleknecking have been addressed; specifically crafting. Without stifling your escapade, the tedious task of forging your favourite weapon in certain areas have been done away, as you may now upgrade your artillery at any time.
Initiating a battle sequence is as simple as running into a horde of Slimes, slashing through an annoying Needler, or being completely smoked out by Smog – oh and don’t get me started on the Dracky’s. Utilising your Party’s respective skills and attributes, a chain of command will come into play for each swarm of erratic enemies that entail their own opposing attributes. Forcing a physical attack, a ranged attack, or casting a spell to weaken your opponent will help gain leverage upon your next attack cycle, leading towards that magical crit. Delegating each member with a respective class will alleviate some stresses placed in each sequence. For example, I used Rab as my healer, Veronica as my Magic user, Hero as my physical and Sylvando as ranged. You can mix and match each party to your choosing, but this was my preferred party replaying a good portion of the the Definitive Edition.
Traversing through boundless plains of Heliodor, setting sail across The Strand, scaling the red rock cliffsides of Hotto Steppe, and enjoying the relaxing nature of Puerto Valor, the world of Erdrea is as enormous as it fascinating. The Yggdrasil, commonly known as the World Tree, plays a key part in our party’s journey. Floating high above the world, each leaf is represents the life of a sentient being that protects the land. Different districts of Erdrea are said to praise the heavenly hardwood forest, with the civilians of Dundrasil, Arboria and the Temple of Angri-La devoting their life in protecting it. Upon generations, the Tree itself shines bright above Erdrea, signalling the arrival of Yggsdrasil’s new champion, the Luminary. Each prodigy is tied within the World Tree’s spirit, and has the ability to interpret events that may have occurred decade to centuries prior.
The Luminary is identified with a birthmark placed on his left hand, which glows in tandem with Yggdrasil or signifying if a threat may be looming. Despite cataclysmic events, and numerous threats that have tried to best the mystical tree of the Yggdragon, civilisation has thrived through each ominous occasion under the guidance and protection of Yggdrasil. It’s quite the enchanting lore that pits our merry band of heroes into the unknown. The palpable nature of its uncertainty makes for an engrossing environment, with expressive pacing that demonstrates great freedom while keeping its path quite linear. Each town harbours its own theme, along with characteristics that welcome a prolonged stay, enticing you do dive deeper and explore mini-games, puzzles, objective which contain unlockables, and for prosperity, just regular conversation with townsfolk.
Way of the Dragon...
Believe it or not, character development is massive within Dragon Quest XI’s overall campaign, and plays a fundamental role in its overall progression. Exploring The Luminary’s personality, understanding his supposed upbringing, and engaging with other party members will bridge gaps left apart from our hero’s childhood. Even minute details of Sylvando’s ancestry are discovered and are all tied within the lore of the long-running series, in such a way that will leave gamers absolutely floored by the level of creativity carved in by the title’s screenwriters. Each personality within our party carries a burden that is seeking resolve through our protagonist, and his quest for peace. Their selfish act of riding The Luminary’s coattails turn noble as the entire crew strive for the same ambition. Their joint objective becomes their mission to help not only themselves, but one another.
It’s an excellent ‘coming of age’ tale that tugs at many heartstrings with its charming overlay, and gorgeous presentation. Speaking of which, Dragon Quest XI S is aesthetically astounding. Simply gazing upon the green peaks of Heliodor, riding horseback through the wide landscapes of Erdrea or taking in the sights of Port Valour had me mesmerised. JRPG’s are known for its simple design, and basic aesthetic to piece an experience together. But it has only been in recent years with titles like Dragon Quest XI, that have gone above and beyond the verbose and have demonstrated a true labour of love within each asset at the developer’s disposal. Whether it be UI, Character Design, basic terrain and suburban architecture, Square Enix have truly outclassed themselves with Dragon Quest XI’s wondrous world.
Another neat upgrade has been the title’s entire soundtrack, re-orchestrated for Dragon Quest XI S. Adding another layer of impact to its overture, and battle theme has heightened the suspense, and sense of adventure throughout our party’s escapade. While notable tracks remain unscathed, the orchestrated delivery of each melody presents an aspect undiscovered within XI’s established universe. It’s hard to convey the overwhelming sensation that fills your heart with joy or dread upon the first kick of those alarming drums, and the overhanging trumpets blare that intimidating battle anthem, but damn if it doesn’t motivate you to blast a bunch of baddies away. Such an epic piece of music in its own right, and XI S’ rendition of each song is such a startling refresh, that it will most definitely leave the devout gob-smacked.
I could go on another few paragraphs, but I believe you have got the point. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is an essential. We may have just entered an entirely new generation of gaming but it would be an absolute disservice to not absorb yourself within its splendour. A lengthy campaign, rich with a lovable cast of quirky characters, an enchanting world full of surprises at every turn, excellent pacing throughout the onset that is accompanied by its concrete battle mechanics. An action-adventure with charisma, and most important of all, heart. A resolve that will inspire many to play the title to completion, while leisurely assimilating its extensive lore, and its litany of character diatribes. I will always remember Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age as one of the best. A must play for gamers that love an incredible fantasy tale, and a must have for the JRPG devout.
Dragon Quest XI S - Square Enix
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix. An entry in the long-running Dragon Quest video game series, it was released in Japan for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4 in July 2017.