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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 11 - 2018

Japan’s most popular and longest running RPG series returns.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is the latest title in a JRPG series from Square Enix that simply is not so well known over here in the west. In Japan, the series is huge, gathering fans from all walks of life. However, despite being less known than certain other big name JRPGs here, there have in recent years been a slow and steady onslaught of Dragon Quest games of one type or another, slowly growing the brand into something that many gamers will now recognise even if they don’t fully understand. It’s not surprising, as the Dragon Quest name has been given to everything from Minecraft-style titles to Musou-like games. Still, with the launch of Dragon Quest XI, things go back to the more classic turn-based JRPG styling, and going back is what the game is all about.

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While the trend in JRPGs has, in recent years, moved away from turn-based to a more real-time action, or has found ways to introduce more and more obtuse mechanics, or both, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is wonderfully retro in its mechanics, taking the player back to a simpler time when playing a JRPG was more about fun than learning. That’s not to say that there is no modern flair in this latest title, just that it feels like those older JRPGs that filled the long hot summers. It’s a pretty impressive thing.

The Dragon Quest games have always had a slightly silly side, preferring humour over dour seriousness at every turn. Dragon Quest XI is no different in that respect, refusing to take itself seriously. This is apparent in all aspects of the game, from the personalities of the different characters that will join the player on their journey, through to the constant puns that are bombarded onto the player through the destinations they visit, to the enemies they face. Even the main story is cliched and predictable to the point that it feels like the developers did it on purpose.

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Players take on the role of a blank slate character who just happens to be the chosen one, and will eventually have to face the dark one. It’s not quite that simple as the players character early on is mistaken for the dark one and is then chased for the majority of the game. But, yeah, there is not that much more to it. There are a few twists and turns through the extensive gameplay, but don’t be expecting massive revelations.

Perhaps more than most games though, the main story in Dragon Quest XI acts as a vehicle to get the player moving. As is often said, it is all about the journey rather than the destination. As the player moves from one area to the next in this expansive world, they will come across different communities that have their own personalities, and their own problems. It is these smaller, almost self-contained stories that the player will get the most from, and that will stay with the player once they finish the game.

Not that finishing the game will be any mean feat. Players will be looking at close to, if not more than, one hundred hours if they try to work through all of the side quests along the way. The early part of the game can feel somewhat limited, but after the player breaks into double figure hours of play, they will soon see the world open up and become far more explorable. It’s an impressively huge world, and it is beautifully created, being bright and colourful at every turn. Each area that the player visits has its own flavour, a different character that makes it unique in the world, making for a journey of discovery throughout.

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Mechanically, the game is wonderfully retro. Turn-based combat plays out exactly as you would expect, and the AI controlled characters work incredibly well in supporting the main player. Grinding is a large part of the game, allowing the player to level up enough to take on whatever threat comes next. But it never feels like a drag, but rather a solid part of the game. The player earns experience and has access to skill trees that allow the player to unlock new abilities and become more powerful. The player will also improve their team through the various equipment that they find through the game, or purchase from the different vendors they meet along the way. The balance is very well done, with each new vendor offering something better for the player, and coming across the cash for new equipment is never too difficult.

Then there is the excellent crafting system. At any of the plentiful camp sites found throughout the world, the player can whip out their handy portable forge and use some materials to make of improve some equipment. Rather than being a simple mixing pot, Dragon Quest XI turns this process into a mini game of sorts, with the player having to time the strikes of their hammer to succeed or fail in making an item, and if it is timed well, they can make far better equipment. This is a great way of making the crafting of new equipment more involving. In most games that include a crafting mechanic, I tend not to bother as it is usually easier to find or buy the gear need. In Dragon Quest XI though, the crafted gear can be a substantial improvement, making the whole process worthwhile.

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I can understand that younger players may find the systems somewhat archaic or simplistic. But that is a large part of Dragon Quest XI’s charm. It is a content-packed, easy-going game that can quickly pull the player in and keep them engaged for a long time to come. With a cast of likeable characters, bundles of charm and a nostalgic hint towards the JRPGs of old, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is probably the best in the series, and a game that should be played by all JRPG fans.




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