This review is almost a month late, but I wanted to finish off the game before writing my opinion. Dragon Quest XI is the newest mainline entry in the classic JRPG series. Though it came out in Japan last year, it finally came westward on the PS4 and Steam back in September.
For those unfamiliar with the Dragon Quest series, it’s very much heralded as the grandfather of JRPGs, pioneering the way for the genre.
A huge part of the appeal, and charm of the franchise is that the core gameplay in the mainline titles remain unchanged throughout the generations. It’s the equivalent of comfort food in the gaming world, and Dragon Quest XI is no exception to this.
The first thing I noticed when playing Dragon Quest XI is just how modernised the game felt. Square Enix managed to make the game feel extremely clean, breathing new life into the series through quality of life and UI changes without sacrificing the core elements of the franchise.
For example, this game introduces a free camera setting during battle. Although it’s a purely cosmetic change, it allows the player to move around in combat, making a decades old battle system feel new. Though this camera mode is set to default, there are also more traditional options for people who like a bit of nostalgia.
For those who aren’t aware, the Dragon Quest series character and monster designs are all done by the Dragon Ball author/artist Akira Toriyama. Personally, this is a huge draw to the series for me as I’m a huge fan of his work, having grown up with Dragon Ball. I felt right at home in the world of DQXI.
Not only are the character and monster designs awesome though, but the environment and maps look beautiful. I often found mysel stopping to just admire the scenery, taking plenty of in-game screenshots because some areas were just breathtaking.
The Western release of the game uses MIDI music instead of the orchestral tracks from the Japanese version, which I personally don’t mind too much. I was still flooded with nostalgia and nearly brought to tears when Overture started playing on the main menu. For those picky about it, there are PC mods for orchestral music however.
Dragon Quest XI doesn’t deviate too much from the usual premise the series uses, but the story does have plenty of twists and turns. Whilst all the Dragon Quest games usually share the same themes and key ideas, with the demon lords and chosen heroes, DQXI manages to put a fresh spin on all the tropes whilst keeping the series’ charm intact.
The main story itself is pretty lengthy, with it taking anywhere upwards to 60 or so hours to complete. In addition to this, Dragon Quest XI boasts plenty of side-content and post-game story.
Dragon Quest XI is a complete, meaty experience. The game also offers a fair bit of replayability with a hardmode difficulty, and offers plenty of different ways to build the characters.
The main cast you meet in Dragon Quest XI first give off the impression of stereotypical, but quickly break that mould. The characters are all given plenty of development, and are quick to grow on you. Even the side characters are well written and full of personality.
Something else I thought was really impressive, was every town was inspired by different real life cultures and areas. This wasn’t only seen in just the design for the towns either, residents of the area would also have dialogue/accents that would suit the corresponding culture. It’s a small touch that really brings the game’s world to life.
Dragon Quest XI is without a doubt one of the best JRPGs in the past decade. I wholeheartedly recommend the game to any JRPG fans, or anyone looking for a great entry point into the genre. For any Nintendo Switch owners, Square Enix have also announced they are porting a Special Edition of the game.
Fans of the series will feel right at home with Dragon Quest XI. Whilst the game doesn’t stray at all from the usual formula, it’s a huge part of the series’ charm. The story is great, the cast is extremely lovable, and the world is beautiful and immersive. This is as traditional and classic a JRPG gets, and you’ll love every moment of it.