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Solid experience that falls short

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    Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Solid experience that falls short

    In pursuit of a bygone age…thats the title of this Dragon Quest entry, and I think that’s what the developers were looking for in this latest entry. Whether or not they found it, I think will be left up to the players this September. For me, I felt as though this was a solid game. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of the game, with all of its cool set pieces, and steadily developing story. I was just so let down at the middle, and latter stages, when those cool little set pieces became few and far between. The combat and gameplay is all standard DQ affair, with some new twists, but I feel some of them were only skin deep. Anyway I’m going to break down into sections for you (and try my best to keep it spoiler free)

    Story: This is a big, if not the most important, component of any RPG. The beginning starts out well. You’re given the standard silent hero, and gradually introduced to your other party members. Most of them are pretty memorable….actually all of them are pretty well fleshed out. They even include, a very effiminate male character, which makes for some humorous moments and witty dialogue. The dialogue is a strong point. Reading "otenamihaikenja/show me what you’ve got¡± takes me back to watching some of those old zatoichi/other jidaigeki films….I just wish I could have heard it spoken.. more on that below. What hurts the story in my opinion, is that they weren’t consistent in keeping and utilizing those integrated action sequences which made the beginning of the game so fun. In this day and age, I think if you’re going to include those elements, then they should be seen throughout the entire story arc. Additionally, I didn’t like a portion of the game that involved backtracking/reclamation in order to proceed. Once you get towards the middle of the game, you’ll usually have your strategies worked out with characters, items, spells, abilities, weapons, and so on. I didn’t like having some of these taken from me….only to regain them later. I also felt that the game dragged on, and was overly simple by the end. I took down the final boss, but by the end I wasn’t invested enough in the plot to really care. The final boss just wasn’t malevolent enough for me. I felt like the buildup to this encounter was very lacking.

    Gameplay: All the stuff you know and love from classic DQ. I didn’t really feel it to be a grind fest like in other titles. There are quests you can complete to gain new items/equipment. Doing these requires beating a fair share of monsters, so that should give you a boost in exp. the experiencing and leveling system also saw an overhaul. You now have a skill panel for each character. Depending on their attributes…you can focus on leveling up different skills attached to different weapons, similar to FF10 and 12, to create a really balanced party system. Want a warrior that excels with a sword and shield, and can support/play off of a poison/trapsetting/status inducing thief?? Set it up in the skill panel. In some ways it actually plays like a sports game…nba 2k, and others. There’s also a crafting system in the game. You can collect different recipes, find a forge, usually near a save site, and craft unique weapons, armor, and accessories. While crafting, you have to hit certain points in order to optimize said equipment. Do it right, and you’ll have something with bonus attributes, as well as leftover crafting materials. Do it wrong and you’ll have that piece of equipment at base stats. It’s pretty interesting, and gives you an incentive to go out and try to find all the necessary crafting elements. It also gives you a choice vs buying from expensive shops. The battle system is pretty standard. I just was disappointed with the characters being able to move, but no tactical significance attached to it. It just aesthetic. Outside of battle, the casino and horse-racing make up the mini-game department. I tried them for a little bit, but I didn’t feel that there was enough to keep me coming back to them. If you’re just going through the game looking to complete it, then accomplishing the quests, and crafting the items, then there’s really no reason to waste time in the casino.

    Graphics/Presentation: This is where the game shines, and soars. Graphically speaking, this is dragon quest realized. Verdant fields, rich forests, deserts, valleys, Castles, snow peaks…you name it, it’s all tied together very nicely. If you’re playing on a ps4 pro with a 4K tv and so on…well you’re going to be wowed. Even if you don’t have that, you’re going to be in for a treat.

    The sound was a big letdown for me. I know this is Dragon Quest, but hearing the same music over and over again, with little to no variation was almost mind numbing sometimes. Nearly all Dungeons had the same music, all regions had the same music, and nearly all towns had the same music. There were some days I just had to put the game down, because I just couldn’t take it. What was even worse for me was the absence of voices. And I know what some people will say…¡±The Japanese prefer DQ titles with no voices….¡±. That may have been in the past, but this was released in 2017. And if that’s the case, why was the Japanese dq7 port equipped with voices? There were several occasions where I feel voicework could have accentuated the game. Very disappointing.

    All in all, those who really like traditional rpgs should be satisfied when it comes to western shores. If you speak Japanese as a second language, then there should be no major hindrance to you getting through this. If you’re at least N2, then I think you should be alright. However, those of you that like a little variety in your games may be get frustrated a bit….at least I did. In the end, I felt the game was good, but it could have been much more.

    Pros: graphics, interesting development system, fun item crafting, witty dialogue
    Cons: Story inconsistency, sound, very little in terms of mini games


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