This is a review for Dragon Quest XI Echoes of an Elusive Age, played on the base model PS4. (Digital Copy)
The first thing that strikes me about the Dragon Quest series has always been the art style, as I imagine it would any Dragon Ball fans out there, being that it’s Akira Toriyama’s style. Since the jump to 3D; Dragon Quest fits the anime style characters into a semi realistic looking, yet animated world and with great effect, which has never been truer in the case of the latest entry, Echoes of the Elusive Age.
Starting up the game greets you with a nicely animated cutscene ran along with the series trademark theme tune any Dragon Quest fans may have grown to love.Starting a new adventure log is straight forward enough, you put in the name you wish for your hero and can then get on with smacking about a few of the series’ mascots, the slimes.
This time however, there is an option for something the game calls Draconian Quest, which are options to make the game a little harder for those of you who like a little extra challenge for their buck.
Most of the options are self explanatory, with the exception of one known as “Shypox”. For those of you who have yet to play the game I won’t spoil the surprise about what this is in the hopes you too will be as amused by this setting as I was.
You can activate as many or as few of the settings as you like when starting a new game. If you decide to give these optional difficulties a try but are worried what kind of an impact it might have on your game, fear not, you can visit one of the many churches in the game to receive benediction and have these restrictions removed one at a time. Be aware though, that if you choose to have them removed, you will need to start a new game to restore them.
The story of Dragon Quest XI is one that has been told countless times over the years in various different “flavours”, especially in these kinds of games, so any fans of the genre should be fairly familiar with the premise. The brief summary is, without giving away too much, a child is born who is prophesized to defeat the evil plaguing the land and restore the light.
If you’re reading this now and thinking to yourself about how much it does sound like a story you’ve heard before then you may be right. As with many stories though, it’s the way the story is told that will hook you in and have you wanting to continue playing to see how this progresses and how the characters you may grow to like will deal with the situations they find themselves in.
I found myself being surprised by the story on a number of occasions, thinking one thing would happen when in fact something completely different does and as a result I found myself getting sucked into the world even more.
The opening, where you’re introduced to your tiny baby hero was especially evocative, almost mirroring certain scenes of another hero from Akira Toriyama. I’m sure many of you will know who I’m talking about after watching that particular scene.
Dragon Quest XI does a great job of getting you invested in the characters, though based on your tastes you might find some more likeable than others.
Dragon Quest XI plays about as well as you’d expect, despite the odd button choices. You might find yourself as I did, pressing the options button to pause the game only to have your character begin wandering off in a straight line because you’ve unknowingly activated auto run.
The game’s controls are set in a way that it allows you, should you choose, you can play with only your left hand with the L2 button also functioning as an action button, there is no way to go back in this one handed play mode however so if you find yourself making the wrong choice in battle you’ll have to reach over to the circle or use your other hand to back out.
You’re possibly wondering why you might need to have one hand free on the controller but it can come in handy, pardon the pun, if you’re interested in the casino prizes as winning enough tokens to get the good stuff can be quite time consuming and to be honest boring. I used my other hand to hold my phone and watch a comedy show to take my attention away and before I knew it, there was the jackpot.
Outside of battle there are a few other things you can do, mini games wise, the afore mentioned casino games that consist of the classic ones you would expect to see, slot-machines for example. If casinos aren’t your thing, you can participate in horse races. They’re easy to get the hang of but the later races can become quite difficult to master, giving your opponents unfair boosts forcing you to learn the track and master it to clam victory and the rewards therein.
There are several camps you can settle at throughout the game world which give you a chance to rest and restore your stats, this can be especially useful if you’re running low on items. At the camp you can talk to your party members to hear what they think about your current situation, or to remind you what it is you should be doing next. Every camp has a statue that functions as the games churches do and allows you save your game or have party members revived etc. Many of the camps also have shops where you can replenish your items, buy equipment or materials for making your own equipment.
The camp also features an item known as the fun size forge, at which you can use the various materials you’ve gathered during your play to create new equipment.
It works like a little blacksmith mini game where you start with a blob and hammer at sections until the equipment takes shape. It’s not as simple as just banging on some squares however as you’re presented with different moves to handle the pieces that are more difficult to make and you only have a limited number of points to use, with the more effective moves requiring more points. Successfully forging an item grants you with perfectionist pearls, which are used to reforge and possibly improve equipment that you already have, requiring only a number of pearls and the item you wish to reforge.
There are many quests available that can be completed at any time, some of which will offer you valuable rewards for your time. As you progress through the game more side quests become available but unfortunately many of them will have you traipsing back and forth across the map to collect certain items and deliver them to the quest giver, sometimes possibly making you wish you could have all of the quests at once to reduce some of the back and forth. Thankfully the game has a fast travel system in the form of the Zoom spell which makes hunting for things much quicker and simpler.
When it comes to the combat it’s fairly straightforward, as you might expect from others in the genre you might have played. You have up to four characters from your party in a line and pick the actions you want them to perform. You can choose what order you want them to be in, with the characters in the first position supposedly taking the brunt of the attacks, though when I played it seemed as though the enemies would attack the weaker members of my party anyway.
If you don’t like commanding the characters yourself, or just decide you want a little break, you can choose to have them use their actions themselves, possibly the moves they think suit the situations at the time. There are also two camera styles, one just keeps your characters lined up so you can remained focused on the action by controlling it for you. The other setting allows you to control your character freely around the battlefield while you fight, unfortunately though this has no effect on your attacks or your ability to dodge.
Inventory management can be a bit of a pain, each of your characters can only carry so many items along with their current equipment. If you want to remove all of the unnecessary items and put them in the bag, you’ll have to do it one by one for each character. This means if you’re the kind of player who likes to make sure that your characters are well stocked for future encounters, or are carrying multiple sets of equipment so you can change mid battle, you can expect to spend a relatively long time dealing with inventory management.
Overall, I found Dragon Quest XI to be a very enjoyable experience, despite the little problems I had with the game such as the inventory management and the boring casino games. I spent a great deal of time with the game, around 240 hours by the end, though that may be an exaggeration since the game can’t be properly paused and still counts time when you’re not actually playing, regardless I feel as though I definitely got my money’s worth.
My only real gripe with the game was the over use of the music, much of the game’s music is one particular piece. I kept thinking that it may have been a little better if different regions had different tracks, some did, but for the most part it was the same chirpy overworld music. Playing any game for as long as I played this one hearing the same tune for much of the time is bound to grate on even the most resilient player’s nerves.
If you’re a long time fan of Dragon Quest or the RPG genre, I definitely recommend picking this one up. For those of you who aren’t but are looking for a good place to start, this is it.
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