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A Dragon Quest For Fans And First-Timers

This topic contains 0 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  comicfire 3 years ago.

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    comicfire
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    Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A Dragon Quest For Fans And First-Timers

    I’ve been a fan of Dragon Quest since I first played Dragon Warrior Monsters on the GBC back in 2004. Since then, I’ve played every mainline title besides the unlocalized X and several spin-offs. It’s one of my favorite series of all time and when I heard Dragon Quest XI was being localized, I was over the moon. I’ve recently completed the game 100%, Platinum Trophy and everything. What did I think about the game? I think there’s a lot to unpack and that this is an entirely different game depending on your experience with the franchise.

    Let’s begin with the story. You’re a young lad in the town of Cobblestone, going through a coming of age ceremony where new adults must reach the top of the Cobblestone Tor. You and your long-time childhood friend Gemma both undertake this trial, reaching the top. Upon doing so, you’re attacked by a monster, nearly killing you. The mark on your hand shines and lightning smites the monster. This is proof; you’re the reincarnation of the legendary Luminary, the great hero who saved the land of Erdrea from the darkness many ages ago. You’re sent off to the kingdom of Heliodor to discuss this with the king, who should be a great ally in your quest against the rising darkness. However, you’re condemned as a bringer of darkness instead. Your quest from now on is not only to find a way to save Erdrea once more, but also to clear your name.

    Dragon Quest isn’t a series known for its stories outside of a couple shining examples like V and VIII. XI joins their ranks with a story that isn’t going to rival any masterpieces of storytelling, but enough to keep even a casual fan entertained. A couple story beats follow and reference earlier Dragon Quest titles, and the lore and world is RIDDLED with these. They won’t be enough to keep a newbie from enjoying the game and they’ll be a nice treat for anyone with more experience with the franchise. Fans of Dragon Quest III in particular are going to be delighted with how many references to that title this one brings to the table, but there’s a little something from nearly every game for everyone.

    Next, the gameplay. Dragon Quest is a VERY traditional series, not evolving too much since its very first entry. It’s turn-based gameplay with monsters to beat, spells to learn, bosses to battle and all of it playing pretty similarly to any mainline title up to this point. However, XI really surprised me by not making this as grindy and plain as I expected. Enemies are on the field now, no more random encounters. You can avoid or actively hunt enemies as much as you’d like without being forced to stop and battle now! You can even attack an enemy before a battle ala Paper Mario to get a little damage in on it beforehand! The series is known for its love of grinding, but outside of one or two difficulty spikes very late in the game, grinding in this game is honestly not necessary.

    The more party members you get, the more experience you get from battles. EXP is even shared fully with party members that aren’t in battle. This alone makes XI an absolute blast to play, because you’re very rarely required to halt progress and grind just to keep up, you can just keep going at your standard pace so long as you aren’t avoiding too many battles. It’s like Chrono Trigger in this regard, and turn-based RPGs adopting this mindset in this generation is something I’m very much down for.

    You aren’t just learning skills through leveling up either. When you level up, you gain Skill Points that you can spend on a character’s Character Builder. It’s full of hexagons each containing a skill, stat-buff or spell. Filling one hexagon unlocks all adjacent hexagons to be filled, similar to Final Fantasy XII’s License Board. Certain hexagons with a question mark are locked until you unlock at least four adjacent hexagons, and these tend to contain very powerful skills or passive buffs. Each character has a pretty big grid, each containing a variety of weapon trees for that character and a character specific path. Erik the Thief, for example, gets the Guile tree, which is chock full of Agility and thievery buffs. Your main characters specialty is the Luminary tree, full of skills that heroes from past games tend to specialize in like the Zap spells. It’s very fun to play around with, and you can always reallocate your Skill Points whenever you’re at a save point, so you don’t have to worry about how to build your character from the get-go. QOL all over the place, baby!

    New to DQXI is the Pep System. Randomly, your characters will get a blue aura around them after a battle cry, putting you in the Pep status for a few turns. While Pepped, you enjoy boosts to that characters favored skills. Going back to Erik, his deftness is one of the stats that increases, increasing the chances of his Steal skill working. When multiple characters are Pepped, they can expend the rest of their Pep turns to unleash a powerful skill. It’s a cool system, but a lot of quests require Pep Skills and purposefully trying to trigger Pep means just wasting turns defending for a couple minutes and that can be boring. Each character’s Builder gets a skill that raises Pep chance by a decent bit, so going for those when possible really allows you to enjoy the system much more.

    There’s a crafting system in the game as well! At campsites after a certain point, you can use the Fun-Size Forge to craft new armor, weapons and accessories, this being the only way to obtain some. Recipe Books are found all over Erdrea, both in bookcases with obvious red books to pick out and rewards for quests and similar events. Materials can be bought, stolen from monsters, dropped from monsters and just found in sparkly gathering points around the world. I dislike crafting systems in games usually. I don’t like farming materials to build stuff that I just want to buy. This crafting system is an actual blast since you smith the stuff yourself! It’s a mini-game that involves using skills you gain as you level up to bash the stuff into place yourself. The stronger you get, the better at smithing you get and it’s a fun extra reward for playing the game. The stuff you buy AND smith can be reworked as well to be even stronger. It’s well worth the time to experiment with!

    Finally, the music, which is a large point of debate among players. XI’s western release had the orchestral soundtrack removed and replaced with midi tracks because series composer Koichi Sugiyama is really weird about his works. Some people say that immediately makes it crap, I disagree, the quality is fine. It’s clearly not orchestral, but ehh, who really cares, it sounds fine. What isn’t fine is the selection. MANY towns reuse the same town theme, the battle theme never changes and the overworld theme doesn’t until the VERY end of the game. There are precious few original tracks with a lot of the OST being remastered tracks from earlier games. I heard examples from DQ1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, and those are just the ones I recognized. It was pretty cool at first, but towards the end, it feels a lot less like a celebration of the series and more of a "I was too lazy to compose something new" feeling, with me outright laughing when a certain battle theme returned for an important boss. Music is truly subjective, so your mileage may vary.

    Dragon Quest XI is a long game. Not the longest Dragon Quest, but a long game. I finished the main plot at around 60 hours, with me getting the Platinum Trophy in about 83 hours. Some people I know are like 50% of the way through with 80 hours on the clock. The game is JAM-PACKED with stuff to do and see, so you could spend a lot of time here. Or you couldn’t, you can blaze through reliably. Either way, not a short game, so if that’s something you care about, there you go.

    Dragon Quest XI, alongside Persona 5, has shown me HD turn-based console jRPGs still have a place in this world. It’s brought Dragon Quest into the 21st century. While there are some hiccups here and there, I largely consider this to be one of the most polished RPGs I’ve played ever. I paid $60 for this and I feel like each and every penny was justified. Dragon Quest XI is worth it for fans and first-timers alike and has a place in anybody’s library. Well done Enix, I eagerly await Dragon Quest XII.

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