Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age- Definitive Edition – Non-Review
For this post, I wanted to try a new format. This is not a review but after beating the game I wanted to highlight the game for those that still haven’t played it or those that have started but haven’t completed. The reason for this type of spotlight is that I think reviews tend to spoil your enjoyment of a game, highlighting negative aspects that many people will probably not notice or consider a positive. Of course, bugs/glitches and false promises are important to know about before purchasing a game, but I try not to watch or read reviews until I finish the game myself If I plan on ever playing it.
So, for this post, I’ll try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but will be discussing and showing video/images of the main characters, an overview of the plot, and features of the game. People like to crap on games they don’t like, so this non-review will just describe the strengths of the game. If you want a review that highlights the negative parts, I'm sure you can find a lot of those on other sites, or read the zero reviews on Metacritic.
So with that let's jump into it. If I had to describe why I enjoyed DQ11 so much in one sentence, I would say it takes the best parts of older dragon quest games and can make a polished, entertaining, and epic adventure for a new generation.
If you haven’t played a single Dragon Quest game, no problem since each game has its own separate story, and this is probably the best place to start. But if you have, you may recognize the art style, enemies, items, music, weapon types, and more from previous iterations. Even the running gag of puff puff is still loud and proudly displayed in the game. And if you don’t know what that is, check out Censored Gaming’s video here.
There’s something about Dragon Quest 11, that makes it feel more like a first-party Nintendo game. Together with a great story and cast of characters, the writing and dialogue are one of my favorite parts. Each town you visit has characters who speak with different dialects, like the Spanish influenced Peurto Valor. I must give credit to the devs and the localization team for hitting this one out of the park. The game is charming, with beautiful environments and monster design. It's been a long time that I enjoyed talking to NPCs in town to hear what they had to say.
At first sight, because of the bright colors and style, some may dismiss this as a kid's game. But I would best describe it as a family-friendly game that kids up to middle-aged men like myself will enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times the names of towns, like Sniflehiem, or characters, like Healijah, made me laugh. There are even talking cows that seemingly can predict the weather, talking monsters who aren’t all evil, and the adorable spirits (called Tockles) that roam the land, are all small things that I found a lot of humor in.
The game keeps the tradition of the silent protagonist, who is voice acted as a child but as an adult doesn’t voice any dialogue. Unlike western RPGs with multiple dialogue options that generally tend to give players a false sense of choice, this game often presents you with options with a yes or no answer, but you are forced into one answer to progress. Not sure if this is some meta-commentary on choices in most video games, but I got pleasure out of saying the wrong answer and seeing how characters would react. But there were a couple of standout moments where your choices did effect a certain section of the story played out, that blew my mind.
This game easily is up there with the best JRPGs on the market. It’s an epic game in every sense of the word. My playthrough took about 60 hours and you can double that for those who are completions. The side quests are great and offer worthwhile rewards in the form of items, crafting plans, or equipment. These a lot of variety in these plentiful side quests, instead of the standard kill/fetch quests like in most games. Some can be done as a fun detour, while others are not as straightforward, requiring you to talk to and locate a specific item in areas across the map. These reward you with better items, making it feel worthwhile, as you can see ahead of time what the reward will be.
I love story-driven games and the story here is good. It’s quite traditional and involves you and a cast of colorful characters who are trying to take down an evil wizard who is trying to take over the entire world. You are a chosen one, the one people call the Luminary, who is prophesied to conquer this evil and bring light back to the world. Sounds familiar, but each character has their own memorable and satisfying story.
Luckily travel and many aspects of the game have been made much less punishing compared to previous installments of the franchise. You can easily zoom, or quick travel, out of areas and into towns or camps you previously visited. You also have the option of purchasing items from a vendor or crafting equipment using the forge. Along with the ability to spend gold to purchase missing ingredients, this always makes you feel that gold is a valuable resource and makes combat more worthwhile. Of course, for the best weapons, you can’t purchase all the missing ingredients, but it does tell you where you can find each item. You can also rework items, up to +3, from the forge to improve their stats.
Except when traveling the seas, random battles have been done away with. Enemies can be seen in the environments, and you can initiate a battle with them or decide to run around them. There are a variety of dungeons and bosses, but not as time-consuming or difficult compared to previous games in the franchise. Of course, if a challenge is what you’re looking for, there’s extra content after the main story that ramps it up significantly. This game does end-game content right. It doesn’t feel tacked on or filler. It keeps up the same quality as the main quest.
You can also start the game with adjustable “draconian quests”. It's great that you don’t have to unlock these which traditionally might be unlocked as a game’s new game plus feature. These draconian quests help customize your play style, such as preventing exp gain from weaker enemies, going straight to a game over if your main character dies in battle, or not being able to purchase items from vendors, just to list a few. These can also be adjusted if you change your mind later in the game.
The combat has been adjusted and gives you the option of traditional or the new combat system. In the new combat system, you can assign tactics to your party members to automatically attack, use spells or focus on healing. No longer do you have to input your actions and hope your character doesn’t die before your healer’s turn. In the new combat system you can move around the battlefield, but you won't be able to avoid damage or deal more damage if you move behind your enemy. It gives you a lot of freedom on how you want to play. I choose to always input commands to my main character while letting the AI control the rest. The battles felt more fast paced compared to previous Dragon Quest games, which I enjoyed. During important boss battles, I would take control of all of them as I wanted to use specific attacks or buffs. The traditional combat system feels more like the familiar turn based combat, with the camera fixed behind the attacking party member, whereas in the new combat system the camera is stays behind the entire party, giving a wider field of view.
The new definitive edition also includes a new 2D mode, where you can play the entire game in traditional 2D glory. You can check out my video where I took a side-by-side look during the first hour of the game. This is a great addition, but the game is so beautiful that you would miss out on a lot of you skipped the regular 3D version. But similar to draconian quests, and redoing your skill points, this can also be accessed anytime by visiting a save point.
With a party size of 4 and 8 total characters to choose from, you would think that half of the characters would be neglected. Luckily characters not participating battles also gain experience so you won’t have to spend extra time leveling them up. Unlike other RPGs of the past, you can swap out KO’ed characters from your party any time without skipping a turn or needing to Rez them first. This comes in handy when going up against a tough battle. The one downside is that dead characters won’t gain experience by the end of the battle if they remain dead.
While playing RPGs I always default to the tank, DPS, and healer archetypes for my party. In DQ11, while multiple characters can fill the same roles, no two character learn the exact same skills as they level up, giving them each a distinctive style. For example, one character may have a good group heal, or heal over time effects, but not have a strong single-target heal or resurrection spells.
Each time you level up you also gain a certain amount of skill points. The early skills don’t require much, but the most powerful require you to save up or reallocate your points. While some characters can equip the same weapons or equipment, each character has a different skill tree to advance in. You can choose to have a character play more of a support role or focus just on skills that increase damage. There are also hidden panels in the skill tree that are generally better and require more of an investment to unlock. But if you decide you want to reset your skill points, or found a new weapon that you want to specialize in, you can easily visit any save point and spend gold to unlearn them. This is great for those heavy investment skills that turn out not to be as useful as you first expected, such as dual-wielding. I always imagine dual wielding to be super epic, and like how my characters look wielding two badass weapons, but I often forget the off-hand weapon does less damage, that together with how much more damage I take without a shield always has me switching back and forth.
One main mechanic of the game I haven’t mentioned yet is the ability to become Pepped up during the battle and unleash pep powers. After dealing and receiving damage you will periodically enter a pepped-up state, which causes your character to glow and gain an increase in stats for a few turns. You can cut this effect short by using a pep power. There are a variety of different Pep powers you learn along the way that have a variety of different effects, such as dealing damage to the enemy or buffing certain party members. You can unlock different pep powers through the skill tree, and specific moves require certain members to also be pepped up at the same time. You can unleash truly epic pep powers the more characters that are part of it, but at the same time have to determine if that special is worth using up the temporary buff of being in the pepped-up state.
Dragon Quest 11 is a great game not only for fans of JRPGs and Dragon Quest fans, but a stellar game for RPG fans in general. Aside from Persona 5 being my favorite RPG, I would put Dragon quest at a close 2nd. Now that it's available on most platforms, there is no excuse not to play it.
I hope this got you guys interested in the game or motivated to continue playing it. Another thing I almost forgot to mention is that whenever you load up the game you get an as short recap of what was taking place in the story. It helped me jump back into the game after my schedule got busy and I didn’t play for a while. For a lot of games the more time that passes the less I want to return because I feel I might as well start over, or need to watch recap videos without being spoiled. But the game makes it easy to catch up and pick up where you left off.
I can continue gushing about specific features, moments, or quests I enjoyed, but similar to what I mentioned at the beginning you’ll find more enjoyment if you discover them on your own.
So I hope this post or video helped you, if it did, leave a like, comment or consider subscribing to my channel for more gaming content.