Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Nintendo Switch (TBA)
  • Nintendo 3DS (JP)
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (30.83 GB)
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is my first game in the Dragon Quest series. In fact, it’s only one of a handful of JRPGs that I have really gotten into so please keep that in mind when reading this review.

Gameplay:
Dragon Quest XI is turn-based JRPG with a big and beautiful world to explore. However, instead of one big open map, the game consists of a series of smaller areas.

The combat is streamlined, but don’t mistake that for being easy. I love RPGs but there’s something about the combat in JPRGs that I usually bounce off of.

Attacks and abilities are all chosen from a menu and everything is turn-based in the simple but elegant combat. I appreciate that it doesn’t have systems on top of systems.

I recently tried Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and every time I felt like I understood the combat, the game introduced a new system. I don’t understand why the combat had to be so complex. At times it seemed like the combat was getting in its own way. Just because something is more complex does not make it better, just as how something simple and elegant doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

Dragon Quest XI provides more than enough challenge without needlessly complicating things. There are no random encounters on land. Unless they run into you, you can avoid combat by moving around enemies to avoid them. Collecting crafting materials goes much faster when you don’t have to fight through five groups of enemies on your way across the map.

At any point, party members can be swapped without penalty and every member gets XP from a battle whether they took part or not. This came in very handy as there were a couple of characters that were too similar to others who I preferred. Yet, in some boss fights it was helpful to have two characters with similar abilities or a character with great buffs that I didn’t use most of the time.

Having more weapons at my disposal allowed me to get creative at times and it diversified the combat. If I had to constantly rotate members in and out to level them up, I would have simply just stayed with the same group to avoid grinding for characters rarely or never used. Dragon Quest XI is already an epic journey without wasting my time on more grinding, which is a trap many JRPGs fall into.

Party members can be assigned attack styles which is another way the combat is streamlined. Players looking for a more hands-on approach can select every attack, ability, or item used for each member every turn. Alternatively, you can select an attack style and the AI will select their actions. Why continue to select heal or the basic attack every time, when I can just select choose “Focus on Healing” or “Don’t use MP”? Because of this, combat goes much faster.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

You can even select an attack style for the main character but this is where I drew the line. Why play the game if I am not even going to play the game? Okay, I did try this once. It was late in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs had allowed their opponents score twenty-one unanswered points. It seemed like a good time to grind a few levels.

The attack styles were nice because they allowed me to focus on my character in the beginning and learn the game without being overwhelmed.

Players won’t make it too far however if they only rely on the AI to choose their member’s actions. Even mini-bosses will require more strategy. These fights last much longer than a random group of enemies and require an understanding of your full party’s capabilities. Spamming a member’s magical abilities won’t finish a boss if you don’t take the time to cast some buffs and debuffs.

One wonderful addition is that every time you start up the game, there’s a text summary of everything that has happened so far. Every game should have this.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

The story is great and really goes places. Each party member is unique and their personality really shines, and the lighthearted humor is a key part of the story. Despite everything that happens in the story, and some of the darker themes, it manages to stay hopeful. Most games would try to shove darkness and despair down the player’s throat and go for heart wrenching moments. Dragon Quest XI always remained a joy to play.

Crafting is not automatic. There’s a minigame involved and the better the player does, a higher quality of item will be forged. Not everyone wants to spend the time going around the world collecting materials. Weapons and armor can be bought from merchants and, if reforged properly, they will have better stats.

Never get lost again. In the menu, one of the options is party talk where your party members quickly review the current objective. In every town and village there are people with pink exclamation points above their heads to help you on your journey. There’s even a quest catalogue for side quests that provides hints.

A quest giver asked me to locate a certain book for him and mentioned that he had already searched the western half of the town. That little tidbit was included in the quest catalogue. Luckily, I stumbled across the book on my way out of town. Had I not though, there was no way I would have remembered that.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

As part of the lighthearted humor, all the enemies have pun or literal names. For example the Dancing Devil is a little devil who dances back and forth. Many of the names are quite clever and each area with new enemies was good for a few chuckles.

My one complaint about the game is that there is no manual save option. The game either autosaves at specific points or when your character is confessing to a shrine or priest. I understand not being able to save just anywhere, but the save locations are too far apart.

Typically on my way to a new destination, I would kill any enemies I encountered along the way. Upon arriving at a new city or village, I would rest at a campfire to recover my party’s health and MP and confess to a statue to save my game.

In caves and dungeons it does not work this way. In my first cave, I killed a number of enemies along my way towards the boss at the end. By the time I made it to the end, my party was low on health. I spent most of my party’s MP for healing and then promptly got stomped out of existence by the boss. I lost thirty minutes because of this.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

Yes, I should have stocked up on potions before the cave and used those to heal my party instead. Still, I lost thirty minutes though. What game in this generation does not have a checkpoint before a boss fight? The next time, I killed all the enemies leading to the boss, ran back outside the entrance of the cave, saved the game, and then ran all the way back to the boss, avoiding all the enemies along the way. I couldn’t just avoid all the enemies and miss out on all the XP.

There are a number of difficulty spikes throughout the game too, and not just boss fights. Whether a mini-boss took me by surprise, or I got careless and my party was wiped out, I always lost too much time. Even if I chose to go back to my last save location after dying, keeping my XP while losing much of my gold, it would take too long to run all the way back to the boss.

Visuals:
The first thing I noticed about Dragon Quest XI was how beautiful it is. The world is so bright and colorful.

The character designs look great. However, as I traveled to more and more locations I started to notice NPCs that were clones of other NPCs from a different city. The least they could have done was change the hair color or something.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

I had very few framerate and performance issues, just some slight pop-in from time to time. The most noticeable was when I would leave a certain city and a few seconds later, part of the grass would pop-in.

Audio:
The music is repetitive and too loud. I had to go into the menu and turn it down because the overall volume was fine but the music was drowning everything else out.

When it was first released in Japan, there was no voice work. English voices were added as part of bringing the game to the West. However, Japanese voices were not added for those interested.

Personally, the voice work is a big part of what makes Dragon Quest XI so special. The voice actors really bring the characters to life and each one is unique and interesting. The voice work highlights this and brings out their emotions.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

The story would not be nearly as impactful without the voiced dialogue. Partly because of the actors and partly because the game is so long. I know at some point my eyes would have glazed over during conversations and I would not absorb everything as I keep clicking through the text. This is from someone who enjoys to read too.

I am sure there are plenty of opinion articles out there arguing for and against the silent protagonist so I will try to keep this short. IT’S JUST WEIRD! No more, let them speak.

The first time I leave the village, I head to the big city to present myself to the king. For a while he talks more to himself than me because I can’t talk back. The main character just stands there and nods with little expression on his face. A lowly peasant making grandiose claims to the king.

The king follows up with questions to which the characters give some shoulder shrugs and hand gestures and the king and everyone in the throne room goes nuts. There’s a weird disconnect in watching this while knowing what’s going on and what is being communicated. Just let him talk!

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4)

Conclusion:
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is an epic adventure set in a beautiful world. I had a two hour layover at an airport and was playing Dead Cells on my Switch and all I could think about is how I wanted to be playing Dragon Quest instead.

The combat is difficult but approachable. For someone looking to get into the series, or someone curious about JRPGs, this is the game you’ve been looking for.

For most RPGs, the story is a reason for you to go from place to place and to finish the game. I haven’t reached the finish line but I am going to put in the seventy plus hours it takes to finish the story because I have to know where else it goes and who else I will meet.

A few quality of life issues would have made this great game even better, but for veterans of JPRGs and newbies alike, this is a must play game.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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