Having first come out on the Nintendo Switch, the definitive edition of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age at last came out for other consoles on 4 December 2020, expanding an already staggeringly huge game that launched September 2018 worldwide. For players who had the original, the game barely needs any introduction, but here’s the gist of it:-
You play a silent protagonist who lives in a sleepy little village. After undergoing your coming of age ceremony, you then receive the revelation that you are the apparent reincarnation of the legendary hero, the Luminary. You’re sent off to Heliodore to tell the good news to the king. Wow, imagine the game ending within the first hour!
… of course not. You are declared an enemy of the people, the Darkspawn, and thus begins your adventure, bu being thrown into jail. What colourful characters and zany adventures will you experience? It’s a long journey ahead.
While DQ XI doesn’t have a New Game+ per se, I do like that you’re offered the choice to start out with the Draconian Quest settings to make your game harder. I figure this would be good for those who’ve played the original, and bought the game again for the Definitive Edition, and considering how long the game is, for fresh players who simply like the challenge, they can do so at once. The options available are:
- No Shopping
- No Armour
- Reduced EXP from easy fights
- All Enemies are Super Strong
- Shypox / Super Shypox
- Your allies become super embarrassed because… reasons.
- Townsfolk Talk Tripe
- They can lie when giving you info
- Party wiped out when protag dies
Most games tend to lock these additional options until after you’ve cleared the game at least once, so it’s nice you can just slap these on. You can choose to play the game in either English or Japanese dub: I picked the latter, which gives the warning that there may be discrepancies in the text.
Another thing is that even on the PS4, after the initial startup, the loading screens aren’t that long which I really appreciate. The world is fairly seamless and open too, so I’ll give em credit here.
With character designer Akira Toriyama once again at the helm, the distinctive style pretty much anyone can recognize from Dragon Ball is present in the characters. The world is gorgeous to explore in 3D mode, and with the addition of photo mode, you can really slam that camera shutter. Its options for poses and such may not be the most extensive one out there, but it’s all in good fun.
As you run around in 3D mode, your party members will trail behind you in the Definitive Edition. If them teleporting behind you on occasion bothers you – like after a climb – well, you’ll have to get used to that. Monsters will bounce around on the overworld which comes in handy: you can hit them to get pre-emptive attacks.
Alternatively, you can switch to 2D Mode through the Church. While nice to see the classic look of ye olde Dragon Quest games, you can’t immediately pick up from your current progress. If you want to play 2D mode, you can consider it as starting an entirely new save. Whether you opt to swap back and forth, all the items and such are kept across the graphical changes. It’s also unvoiced and doesn’t have the fully rendered cutscenes. The monster encounters are also random, since their sprites don’t appear in 2D mode.
Your mileage may vary, but at certain points in the story, I do feel the awkwardness of having a silent protagonist. 2D mode makes this slightly less jarring, since no one talks there anyway. I’d argue the selling point is to play it in 3D mode, however, but play however you prefer.
You can do Party Talks, where in 3D mode you can see your party members kinda hang about. Also in 3D mode, since they now trail behind you, you can just talk to them directly and get some hints or just plain gossip as you go along. It’s also available in 2D mode, likewise unvoiced.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS!
First things first: your default running speed is good enough to make your way across the large maps, and you can go even faster with R2 (or your platform equivalent). You do automatically slow down when you’re in smaller buildings so as not to make a comedy routine of bumping into things you don’t want to. In the overworld, you can find horse bells to magically summon a horse and gallop across the map double time, especially fun if you need to run to find that obscure side quest in wherever the hell it is.
You’d be seeing the Church or its outdoor statue equivalent a fair bit in this game as it does quite a few things:
- Saving your game
- Reviving knocked out party members
- Curing status effects or curses
- Changing between 2D and 3D mode
There’s some use of day and night cycles, which you have to worry about less early game.
As with any good JRPG, there are secrets and treasures you can look out for. Handily enough, your very first party member, Erik, has a skill you can use in the Quick Menu to tell you how many goodies are there for you to sniff out. Hilariously enough – for me – while rifling through a wardrobe for items, the NPC actually had dialogue responding to my kleptomania, for that bit of flavour. Don’t worry about getting arrested for stealing grandma’s fishnet leggings. You can craft your own less scandalous equipment with a portable forge you get a little later in the early game, for which you’ll have to find recipes and the corresponding materials to make.
When it comes to a certain degree of convenience, I would say 2D mode is much nicer for exploration as it’s all out in a flat plane. There’s less button pressing to interact with things like rope or cliffsides, and you don’t have to weep about not being able to jump over a waist high fence. Don’t expect to do impressive parkour feats in this game.
While it may look like an action RPG in 3D mode, Dragon Quest XI‘s battle system is firmly turn-based. You can set tactics which works like an auto-battle system, whether to automatically use skills, or just bash things in, hopefully without the monsters calling in too much back-up. There’s a Pep Mode which is pretty much like a Limit Break / Ultimate, which you can also set to use automatically. It’ll fade over turns, as you might expect. Incidentally, while you can do pre-emptive strikes in 3D mode, you can’t do it on a horse.
Level ups provide a full heal, so you don’t have to run to find a campfire. You do have the option in the menu to smartly assign your healing items in your inventory so that you can think a little less on that end. It’s cute that your party members will also give a thumbs-up when they get more powerful, besides their default win pose. Levelling up will provide skill points that will unlock a variety of passive bonuses and new skills.
THERE BE DRAGONS IN YOUR QUEST
It’s Dragon Quest XI S. It’s an expanded edition of an already massive JRPG. There’s so much you can do that it might even be incredibly overwhelming, so it’s one to take at your own pace. If you’re one who plays slow, you even get the story recap when you load back in, so it’s less of an issue to catch up with the story.
That’s not even mentioning the colourful cast, the great writing also helped by the localization team, and the beauty of the game in either 2D or 3D mode. You can consider this the quintessential, classic JRPG experience, with many things yet for you to discover. For fans of JRPGs, you can’t go wrong with Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age!
|So much to do and explore||
Switching between 2D/3D is troublesome, but at least you keep your items
|Can play in 2D/3D mode||
May be overwhelming due to the sheer amount of content