Playing a JRPG is like reading a good book. When it gets good, there is no way to put it down. You have this compulsive need to know what happens next. Granted, most books don’t include the many hours the hero goes through in preparation for the final battle. For most people, the very idea of pouring hours upon hours in repetitive actions is enough to drive them insane. But for others, there is a joy in slowly building up characters from the ground up. The slow incremental changes eventually adding up to something far greater than the sum of all its parts. The Dragon Quest series has long been the benchmark of what an RPG could and should be. And it continues its tradition with this latest entry in the series.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Dragon Quest XI is an RPG from the long-running Dragon Quest series. Carrying on with tradition, the player chooses the name of the Hero of the story. In this case, the reincarnation of the Luminary who is fated to battle and defeat the Dark One. Along the way, players explore a vast open world with plenty of monsters to fight and some side quests to do.
Gameplay and Features:
the bulk of the game centers around exploration and combat. Players can jump around to reach places and take mounts to make travel easier. Some monster mounts can even be tamed once the owner has been defeated. Some of these mounts can jump really high, allowing the player to reach treasure chests that are usually beyond reach. Other notable things on the field are sparkling gather points that the player can farm for resources that they can use for forging later on.
There are no random encounters in the game. Instead, the player has the option to initiate the battle by attacking said monster or avoid it completely by running past them. Sometimes, a monster catches up and initials combat themselves. There is no penalty for a surprise attack. Though there is only the chance that enemies will take a couple of swings before the player can take action.
The tried and true Tactics System allows the player to adjust the strategies of the team. Players can choose to take command of all units or a select few when the need arises. Personally, I would just take control of my character and set the battle tactics of the others according to the situation at hand. So far, it hasn’t failed me yet. The A.I. is good enough to know when not use A.O.E spells on a single target or use powerful MP spells on something that is about to die.
During the heat of battle, characters who have endured multiple attacks or overcome trials and tribulations, begin to enter a state known as “Pepped Up”. They start to glow blue and literally go Super Saiyan. Depending on who they are, several stats get a boost but all-in-all their combat effectiveness gets amplified. When other members of the group also Pep Up, they can do power combination attacks known as Pep Powers. It’s pretty enough to look at, and the end result is usually a win for the team. More combinations can be unlocked as the party levels up and learn new techniques.
Towns in the game are more than a typical place to buy gear and supplies. Almost all towns have a well that the player can jump into to find some hidden goodies. There are even some wells that hide a secret passage to unknown places. Boxes usually allow the player to reach the tops of buildings where a rope connecting two rooftops can be found. The rewards for exploring the outside of town are usually treasure chests and pots with potentially hidden items. Some buildings are open to the player, allowing them to open their wardrobes for clothing and bookcases to read letters and gain the knowledge to forge new items.
Campgrounds serve as safe havens in monster-infested grounds. The party can rest up and talk to each other over the campfire. More importantly, it is where the fun-size forge is set up. The forge allows the player to craft all sorts of items. They need to bash the material into shape on command or use Forging Flourishes to apply specific actions. Crafting gear also results in perfection pearls that the player can use to reforge existing equipment. A well-made piece of equipment will be far more powerful than anything bought from any shop. Provided the player knows the recipes and techniques to craft perfect gear.
The Good and the Bad:
The longer I play the game, the more it seems like I am watching an episode of an anime epic. The close calls and daring escapes in each cutscene remind of things I’ve seen Luffy and his crew do on a regular basis. In short, the party is always getting into all sorts of trouble. The personalities of each party member shiny through in almost every situation. They just can’t help but be true to themselves. And that makes them all the more likable. It also helps that most of the character designs and monsters are legacy designs by the legendary Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball.
One of the features of RPGs that I am really fond of is having a visual representation of the weapons your characters are carrying. Thankfully, Dragon Quest goes above and beyond by not just having the weapons’ visuals change not only in-game by also in cutscenes. I sure do love the personal touch. I sorta wish that clothes and hats also swap as well, but I suppose that’s asking too much. Instead, there are certain costume sets that can be collected, and once assembled, can change the appearance of the character. Maybe one day we’ll have fully customizable armor sets. We can all dream.
Dragon Quest has never been known to be complicated. Its simple and satisfying RPG system is more than enough to keep players, old and new, fully engaged in the experience. In a world of every changing battle systems, it feels good to take a step back and engage in classic turn-based combat. Small things like the party chat add a fair bit of charm and functions as a hint system in case you want to figure out what to do next.
Fortunately, there are only about 25 side quests in the game. The bad news is that some them are tricky to do. Especially the ones that require you to perform specific pep powers. The quests are usually worth doing, it’s not like there’s a penalty for not getting them done as quickly as possible. The tradition of collecting mini medals is alive and well. Look out for any collectors willing to trade for them. And of course, no Dragon Quest adventure is complete without seeking out every puff-puff spot in every town.
As with every JRPG, the higher your level is, the longer the grind is going to be. It’s just how it is. With a high enough level, fighting low-level monsters won’t be enough anymore. Naturally, that means seeking out more powerful monsters. And believe me when I say that the more you put off grinding levels, the harder it is to take down bosses. There comes a point where it just feels like forever until the next level is there within your grasp. It’s just better to just go with the flow and level up to the point that every encounter takes no longer than a couple of turns to finish.
When you choose to play a JRPG, what you’re getting yourself into is a grand adventure full of bonding moments and epic battles. It’s one of those things that you can sink in dozens of hours into, and be rewarded with character growth equal to the amount of time you put in. Dragon Quest is the standard when it comes to RPGs. I don’t mind if it gets called out for doing the same things over and over again. It’s that familiarity that I expect when I pick a game of Dragon Quest. Call me sentimental. My only gripe would be the ability to move around during combat. It serves no purpose as attacks will hit as if your party is all in a line. Easy enough to ignore if you pay no mind to it.
Now, if you are the kind of player that enjoys a fair bit of grinding, you will love this game. Fans of the Dragon Quest series have no reason to NOT pick up this title. It’s more of the same that we’ve come to love, now shown in beautiful HD graphics. And no, knowledge of past games is not necessary here. Everyone is welcome to come and experience the game.