Today I will review Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch. I personally have mixed experiences with the Dragon Quest games. Some of them are really well balanced games, while other entries feel too similar to the rest of the series. While I haven’t played all of these games yet, I will admit that up till now some of the Dragon Quest games I had played were starting to blend together. I had completely played Dragon Quests I, II, IV, VII, IX, and a portion of III. Now that I have finished Dragon Quest XI, I can say that this game stands out in the series as one of the best.
For some background, Dragon Quest is an immensely popular game in Japan. It features artwork by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball Z fame, and is a turn-based RPG. It was said that these games were so popular that people were skipping work and school in Japan just to play the latest entry in the series on release day. This was supposedly enough of a problem that a law was passed so that video games would only be released on the weekends.
Now let’s talk about the game itself. Starting off, this is the best looking game in the series, where the 3D models look fantastic, and still have the artist’s charm shine through in high definition. The musical score has a cinematic feel that is reminiscent of classical music, and it suits the medieval fantasy setting perfectly. Additionally, the voice acting is quite impressive too, as it even captures the unique accents that all characters have throughout the game world (many Dragon Quest games have characters in each area have a unique accent in their written dialogue). Presentation wise, this game is perfect.
This game is for the most part, a typical turn-based RPG. There are some modern adjustments to the main formula, most notably is that there are no random encounters. Instead, monsters wander the game world, and it is up to you to decide if you want to fight them or not.
What is most interesting is that I frequently found myself avoiding most of the visible enemies in all areas of the game easily. Since this type of game makes the playable characters stronger by gaining experience points from fighting monsters, you would figure this would make the characters in my control under-powered. I actually found that for the most part, I was strong enough to fight the enemies I did encounter, as well as the many boss fights for most of the adventure. There were only 2 times I had to fight common enemies till I was tough enough to fight off the next big challenge, and even then, I just had to learn a crucial spell or ability to progress. I am thankful that it wasn’t mandatory to fight most of the foes I could see and still move forward.
Another modern change was to have the player make their character’s decision when their turn comes up in battle. Previous entries in the Dragon Quest series required you to choose the actions for the whole party, then you had to watch them take their turn in whatever order the game says they act in. This change made it much easier to decide when to take each action. This was particularly helpful with deciding when to heal the party.
Particularly unique to this game is the pep system. From time to time, one of your characters will become “pepped up” and gain a few stat bonuses. They also gain access to “pep powers” which are strong actions that often require multiple characters to be pepped up. Using these actions will end the pepped up state for all characters involved, but they can be quite useful if timed well. Additionally, the pepped up state wears off after enough turns have passed, so you have to decide if you want to make use of the enhanced stats for longer, or to use a pep power now for a strong advantage. This decision is most relevant in boss battles, as these battles are much longer.
There isn’t too much character customization in this game though, as much of the time you will just equip the best weapons and armor you can find or afford. There is a feature called the character builder, which is a chart where you use skill points to access new abilities or stats. You do have to gain them in a certain order to get certain abilities quicker, and some abilities are hidden until enough of the nearby skills are gained in this chart. Each character will get skill points from leveling up, though you may not get enough to get a new skill every level. You can also pay gold at a church to reset one section of the character builder chart, so you can get a certain skill in case you messed up the order you learned your skills in.
It also isn’t unheard of for an RPG to have a way to craft new items. This game is no different, as Dragon Quest XI has a portable forge called the fun-sized forge. Unique to the Dragon Quest XI S edition, you can access this item any time you aren’t fighting a monster or in a cutscene. You will need to find a recipe and certain items to make what you want, but you can also pay for the items right then and there if you have enough gold. Some items can’t be bought, so you will have to keep your eyes peeled to find the items needed for good gear. Incidentally, you also have to play a mini game to craft the item properly, and it will be easier to craft items as you gain levels. If you do a good job, you can make a better version of the item. If you do, you will get perfectionist pearls, which can be used to try and rework the item into a better version of the same piece of equipment.
Now it is hard to acknowledge the qualities of an RPG without mentioning its story. At first glance, Dragon Quest 11 seems like a typical medieval fantasy tale of good vs. evil, with a prophesy of a hero to take down the bad guy. There is an early game twist, though, where the monarch of a nearby kingdom believes the prophesy states that the coming of the hero actually brings about the great evil villain that must be defeated. This is a neat twist to an old and overused tale. From there, the main character meets new allies and journeys to find the truth and the means to defeat this villain.
Many of the scenes are presented so well that you can feel the raw emotions that were meant to be conveyed. You could feel the sorrow of the characters in one scene, and the next scene could have you in stitches due to laughter thanks to a comedic moment. All of the characters have a well-defined personality from the get go, and the game doesn’t waste anything they show in any of its scenes. Anything that hints at more character development will eventually surface and become clear sometime in the main story.
I will have to admit, there is one weakness in this game’s writing, and that is the main character himself. Like many video games before it, the hero of our story doesn’t talk. Even though there is a lot of lore connected to the protagonist’s destiny, he has nothing to say, so it feels like he is just along for the ride, and only contributes to the action and gameplay. The silent hero doesn’t work well here, but doesn’t take too much away from the game.
The game for the most part was fairly easy for an RPG veteran like myself. Newcomers might find moderate challenges here, depending on how easily they grasp the game’s systems. The game does offer some tutorials throughout, so as long as new players read every bit of info the game introduces them to, they should be able to move forward without too much trouble.
Lastly, Dragon Quest XI S features a 3D and 2D mode for the entire game. The definitive edition is the only version that has this feature. You can switch between these modes at the in game churches, and there are some important differences. Other than the art style, 2D mode features classic style Dragon Quest action, where you choose your entire party’s commands for the turn, in order to watch them act in the order they move in. Additionally, there are random encounters in 2D mode, so you can’t choose when to find a monster to fight. I played the entire game in 3D mode, which appears to be more enjoyable.
If you are unsure of 2D mode, there is a series of side-quests that take place entirely in 2D. You even travel to areas from old Dragon Quest games here, and can get enough of a taste for the mode to decide which you like better.
Overall, Dragon Quest XI S is a great place to start for those new to RPGs. It is amazing that the Nintendo Switch got the definitive edition, with minimal technical hiccups despite the Switch having “weaker” processing power. That there is additional content is truly a marvel of technology, and shows that the game is more than its system’s technical prowess. It is a must play for fans of the series and other players of RPGs.
- Play when you have plenty of time to spare, as it takes about an hour to feel like you’ve made progress. This is true despite more frequent save points in relation to other Dragon Quest titles.
- Whether or not you want to fight enemies is up to you, just keep in mind that you may infrequently need to gain more experience points to get strong enough for the next boss.
- Start in 3D mode, and try 2D at some point, then decide which you prefer. Stick with your preference for the rest of the game for a consistent experience.
- Explore as much as you can, especially in towns, as there are rare goods to be found.
- Use the forge when you get new recipes for good equipment.
- Look into side quests, if you like. Don’t spend too much time on them if you get stumped.
- Focus on the abilities you want most in the character builder. Typically, you will focus on one or two sections at a time.
- There is a post-game story you can try out. It appears to be quite extensive, but the main tale could be satisfying enough for many players.
- If you are looking for a real challenge, you can play a new game with restrictions in place that the game offers you. I would only do this after playing the game at least once.
- Great graphics.
- Impressive orchestral music.
- Voice acting is full of character due to accents.
- Solid, if simple gameplay for an RPG.
- Cutscenes are well done.
- Plenty to explore and discover.
- Can choose to fight enemies.
- Can access the forge anywhere.
- Main character lacked personality (very minor complaint).
- Game isn’t difficult (possible con, based on personal tastes).
- Equipment is expensive.
- Some revival spells have a chance to fail.
- MP restoring items are somewhat scarce and cannot be bought.
- It appears there are some items and quests that can be missed (this needs to be verified, but doesn’t interfere with enjoyment much).
9.1/10 The best in the series, and a good starting point for newcomers
Dragon Quest XI S is a very smooth experience, and a must play for those who enjoy the genre. The game falls into a range of 8.9 to 9.2. Obviously, those not into the genre might not agree, but this game might win over some non-believers with an open mind.
That was what I thought of Dragon Quest XI S for the Nintendo Switch. What about you? Did you enjoy the game? What was your favorite part? Were there any differences between editions I didn’t mention that should be here? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this review, click that like button to show your support. You can also subscribe via email to keep up with That’s All Games. Until next time, have fun gaming!