Square Enix’s definitive version of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition has finally made its way to PS4, Xbox One and PC. A port of the Nintendo Switch version, XI S brings a raft of new features and improvements to what was already an excellent RPG. And if you’re choosing to buy this for the first time digitally, it will be the only version of the game available going forward.
Considering the quality of life improvements and additional content, that certainly isn’t a bad thing.
As the reincarnation of a great hero, The Luminary, it’s your job to save the world from a terrible forthcoming evil. The road to destiny is never an easy one though, and before you know it, you’re falsely accused and on the run and that’s just the beginning of your saga.
The game’s story is a sprawling epic that manages to be quite personal at the same time. From your protagonist’s humble beginnings in a small town to the quirky party members that join you on your quest, the game throws its best asset at you from the get-go: its fantastic writing and storytelling. As trope-filled as it can be, it’s still a testament to the development team that those tropes don’t matter because it’s just so much fun. Dragon Quest XI S also manages to be a love letter and celebration of the Dragon Quest games while tying them together in nostalgic ways and managing to be a prequel to an earlier title.
The gameplay is very traditional. You roam across a fully 3D world, speaking to people, opening chests, exploring exotic locales while fighting turn-based battles. Thankfully you can see all the enemies in the zones which makes avoiding them easily if you don’t want to fight. But as a traditional RPG, level grinding is a must to raise your stats so it’s advisable to start power levelling early. Don’t let the whimsical nature that Dragon Quest XI S’s visuals provide fool you, it’s easy to get knocked out by enemies if you aren’t of a high enough level.
New gear along with increased stats will make you hardier along with the addition of skills that you can learn to add buffs to using certain weapon types along with new moves. The “Pep” ability is Dragon Quest XI S’s limit break skill. It increases your speed and damage output but its best feature is that, with multiple party members, it can be called on to provide heavy hitting combos. Which moves you can do depends on who’s in your party. Every party member needs to be in Pep mode to activate the moves, which is activated by taking damage. There’s a lovely little Dragon Ball Z style power-up animation when Pep is activated. Don’t wait too long though as your Pep state can wear down after a couple of battles.
There’s a little crafting mini-game courtesy of the Fun-Size Forge which will help you craft better gear. Exploring the environment yields replenishable harvest spots for crafting materials while exploring bookshelves either expands on the world-building or teaches you new crafting recipes. As well there’s the odd chest in the usual out of the way places.
So far, so good. But what’s been added to this edition to make it definitive?
Your party members now have new story quests, letting you get to know them that much better while the endgame has more story content as well. There’s a fantastic 16-bit story questline added that sees you visiting the world of Tickington to solve some timey wimey shenanigans impacting core moments from past Dragon Quest games. It comes with all the trapping of 16 bit RPG’s, for good and ill. The good: the strong writing and 16-bit visuals. The bad: random battles every 2 steps and static battle screens. But like the main game, it’s about love for the series and its history and it shines through beautifully.
The biggest addition to Dragon Quest XI S is the addition of the 3DS’s 2D version of the game as part of the package. Originally the 3DS version never left Japanese shores until it was packaged with the Switch version of the game. It’s both a fantastic, nostalgic addition, but also slightly problematic. The 2D version takes its cue, yet again, from 16 bit RPG’s so you’ve got randomised battles that seem to happen every two to three steps which is a pain if you’re trying to get somewhere quickly and the battle screens are mostly static affairs where you can only see the enemy, and it’s altogether devoid mostly of animation.
The biggest issue I had with the 2D mode is that, while you can start right away in 2D or can choose to swap between modes at save points, is that it’s not a seamless transition, more than likely due to the different game engines. Jumping into 2D mode doesn’t start you exactly at the point you have stopped at in 3D, but rather at the start of the games current chapter. While the mode is nostalgically fun, I wouldn’t recommend it if it’s your first time playing Dragon Quest XI S. Dragon Quest XI S is full of clearly lovable, crafted design, from the environments down to the enemies and their unique animations which give them a personality all their own, something I feel the 2D version is lacking.
On the sound front, you now have English and Japanese voices along with a choice between the fully orchestrated soundtrack or its MIDI version.
The Fun Size Forge can be used anywhere so no longer do you need to leave a dungeon if you feel that you’re under-equipped. Party members now appear onscreen when traipsing across the world and you can dress them, and yourself, up in new costumes. Cutscenes are now skippable too.
The best quality of life improvement for me has to be the ability to increase Battle Speed. I honestly don’t think I could play the game without it as battles can now be won lickety-split and reduces much of the slog of grinding.
Dragon Quest XI S may not be breaking new ground in the RPG genre, in fact, it’s dogmatic approach to traditional JRPG design may put some off. But it’s also that traditional design, accompanied by the clear love for the franchise the development team have, which is one of its strongest elements. It’s not hard to see why it’s been declared by many as a series best. The one thing that Dragon Quest XI S has done for me with its strong writing, charming story and gorgeous animation, in connection with a genre that I’ve mostly fallen out of love with in the last couple of years, reminds me why I loved it in the first place. And that’s pretty priceless.
This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
If you are interested in purchasing the game click the links below,
- PSN: Click >> Here << for £34.99
- Xbox: Click >> Here << for £34..99 or free with Game Pass
- PC via Steam Click >> Here << for £29.99
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