Up until this review, I had never played a Dragon Quest game at all in my life. In Japan this franchise is essentially a cultural phenomenon, it’s massive. I read articles where Enix and later Square Enix would only release a new Dragon Quest game on a Saturday. This was due to prevent kids skipping school and adults skipping work, just so they could play the latest release. I’d had the game for a while in my backlog, I picked it up on a whim and thought it may be worth a go. My inspiration for buying it and playing it was from YouTuber Happy Console Gamer.
Johnny speaks so highly of the franchise and how much joy it had given to him from his early years in gaming when the game was known as Dragon Warrior (due to a trademark issue) on the NES. So we are now up to the eleventh game in the series. All of them have followed the traditional JRPG formula over time, except for Dragon Quest X which ventured into the MMO universe. Various spinoffs have been released such as Dragon Quest Builders. But as I said this is my first foray into this IP and before I go into depth about the game, I say this. Why did I wait so long???
Before we go in depth into the review, I need to say I am reviewing the original version of the game. I am NOT reviewing the definitive edition which was released a year or so after this one. I also want to add that I will try to review this without spoilers. No one wants their experiences ruining. The old saying in life goes as follows. “If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it.” That’s exactly how I feel about this game. Dragon Quest XI is probably the most cookie cutter JRPG game I’ve ever played, it feels like a pair of old slippers, that fit perfectly even after a long time. That is not a bad thing. You can play this game, leave it for a week and seamlessly go back into it where you left off. I didn’t ever at any point struggle with getting back in to it because the gameplay is simple and effective.
It has your generic RPG staples. Move from point A to point B, do quest, level up, buy and sell new weapons, armour and items. In addition with the usual cut scenes which is the norm for most RPG’s these days. DQ XI also has its own character builder section where each character in your party uses their skill points, which are obtained when you level up. The said skill points can be distributed onto different unique skills depending on which characters you are improving. The skill points can also be removed and redistributed to different skills if you want to take your character. One point that I did like with the levelling up, is all your party members gain XP whether they are in the battle party or not. I feel that really helps the player going forward within the game.
Our story follows the Hero (who does not speak by the way in akin to Link in the Zelda games). He starts off in his village of Cobblestone and is about to come of age to train to be a knight of Heliodor. Upon the first few minutes or so, we find out that the Hero is also known as the Luminary. One chosen by the world tree of Yggdrasil to bring light and order to the world. The Hero then sets out across the world of Erdrea collecting party members as he goes along to aid him on his quest to obtain the Sword of Light. However this is only the first Act of the game, the story takes a turn and follows a different arc around the midway point of the game.
I feel the story is awesome, yes there are your usual over-long cut scenes where the dialogue is way too long, but this does not take away from a well written plot. There are dark tones, lighter tones, comedy, sadness and a few little plot twists which make for a fun and entertaining plot. The voice acting is great too by the way, this is emphasised by different areas of the world having different accents. My personal favourite character is Sylvando, so flamboyant and fun. He truly is a delight to have in your team just for his little quips in battle.
Combat is easy to get into. Its turn based and you have the option of either controlling all the decisions for all your team, or letting the AI decide for the other party members. I personally used the AI option for the majority of the battles just to speed things up. I opted for full control during boss battles as you want to make sure that you are using the correct spells. The weapons, spells and attacks all look impressive and also the combat isn’t boring. It’s not random either, you can choose to fight as often or as little as you want to.
Graphically the game is impressive, Erdrea is a beautiful landscape for the overworld. The cities and locations throughout the game are equally as beautiful. Puerto Valor, Octagonia and Gallopolis are very pleasing on the eye. All the character models and enemies are the creation of Akira Tomiyama (of Dragon Ball Z fame). They are fantastic, they really are. There are bloody loads of different enemies too. He truly is a genius and his work cannot be understated in this game and the Dragon Quest franchise as a whole.
My only quip with the game is the music. It is entirely synthesized. I also found some of the tracks to be VERY repetitive. Also in some occasions it seems as though the music does not fit with the ambience or tone of the cut scenes. I cannot understand why Square Enix chose to do this. It would have been the very delicious icing on what is a near perfect cake. As I say, it’s not a game breaker, but it’s something that they should choose not to do in the upcoming Dragon Quest 12 when it’s released.
This game is huge and will take up a lot of your time. I have followed the main plot and did a bit of grinding towards the end. I have clocked in at fifty-six hours of gaming. There are dozens of side quests, collectables and other activities to keep you going as well. If you chose to do everything in the game, I suspect you could easily rack up one hundred hours without a shadow of a doubt. If you want that little bit extra such as Japanese voice acting, and the option to play it in a 16 bit style, then go for the definitive edition. But you can pick the original up on PS4 for a cheap price and it runs really smoothly with minimal loading times on the PS5.
In conclusion I have loved playing this game. I can easily say it’s one of, if not the best JRPG I’ve ever played and I would easily put this in one of my best games of all time. If you are a hardened gamer, or a casual player it can definitely be a game for you. This has certainly ignited something in me now. I’m anticipating Dragon Quest 12, which apparently will have a darker theme and revisions to the combat system. Also I am intrigued now to play all the previous instalments in the franchise. I’m led to believe that Dragon Quest 3, 5 and 8 are key titles to play, and I’m sure to make some time to hunt them down and play them at some point.
People sometimes can be put off by JRPGS either by the length, plot, combat systems or a myriad of aspects of the game. You need to play this game, it’s as simple as that. It draws you in and engulfs you into a world of fantasy. The simplicity of the game, combined with a great story makes for a truly wonderful gaming experience.
So I’m off now for a well-deserved rest and the complex decision of what to play next in my backlog. I will be putting a poll up on my twitter page and of course I will be reviewing it. In the meantime, thanks to Gemma for allowing me to provide content for her website. Congratulations too for reaching over 50,000 subs. What an awesome achievement. Keep on gaming!!!
Guest Blog post by Adam Foster @AngelicWiganer / @snoopfozziefozz
Video Game Reviews for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Latest YouTube Videos:
Video Game Shops: