[Review] DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition – Nintendo Switch

Written by Schwetty
  • Developer: SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release Date: 27/09/2019
  • Price: $59.99 / £49.99
  • Review code provided by Nintendo

Why’s Everybody Always Picking On Me?

You think you’re having a bad day? Let me tell you about this guy I know. Says his name is the Luminary and that everyone in the world save for a handful of people are out to get him. Talk about bad luck, am I right? He gets thrown in jail, attacked by dragons, chased off a cliff and that’s just in one day. His tale makes me think I’ve never had a bad day in my life. To make things worse, knights are also chasing after him making his life miserable. They seem like the worst kind of people ever, and add insult to injury, everyone in the blasted kingdom worships the ground these guys walk on. There is still more to my friend the Luminary’s tale, and I’ll be more than happy to indulge you further in The Luminary & Erik’s Excellent Adventures Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age.

Dragon Quest XI S is the newest title from the longest running Japanese role playing series (one year longer than Final Fantasy and Megami Tensei, believe it or not) and in it, you take control of the Luminary, a descendant of the hero of legend, born into this world to stop the Lord of Shadows from bringing an end to the world. As I had mentioned already, you find yourself with the deck stacked against you as many in the world believe you to be the harbinger of darkness, that the Luminary is the reason that the Lord of Shadows exists. Thankfully, along the journey to clear your name, you find other people who believe the Luminary has been and will always be the savior of the world. They join your party in true JRPG fashion and the merry band of do-gooders travel from one place to the next righting the wrongs of the world and making fans and friends along the way.

I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum in this review and speak in generalities, but it must be said, the story is fantastic. In my opinion, it may be the best paced story in a game I’ve ever played. There are rarely, if any, slow moments. There is always a large, overarching story in place, but many of the smaller stories steal the spotlight due to the supporting characters. These characters are full of hopes, fears, needs, urgency and just life in general. Each feel like it could have been its own episode or miniseries in a show or anime. I can see it now, “The Luminary and the Mystery of the Masked Martial Arts Tournament” or “The Luminary Versus the Mural of Avarice”. These were two of my favorite side stories, and they did a swell job of moving the main story forward. Even if they didn’t, they were endearing tales on their own.

The game can last anywhere between 75-130 hours depending on the amount of time you want to spend on side quests. My playtime clocked in at 81 hours and I had only completed roughly 30 of the almost 90 side quests available. This is a dense game that doesn’t end when the credits roll. It would be a disservice to the game if you didn’t continue after reaching the “first ending”. As I said, no spoilers, but the story doesn’t end there, and it is quite vital to understand many of the mysteries and history of the game world to reach the second “real” ending.

I felt great duress emotionally when restarting the game after the first ending. Your character is given a choice that greatly alters the world and all the decisions you have made thus far. To move forward in the game, you must choose a certain path, if not you are free to continue doing side quests. This decision drastically changes everything, and again, it led to some tear-jerking moments. I can’t discuss it without spoiling the game, but just trust me; it reverts a lot of character building that has been developing over the past 60 hours (or however long it took to reach the first ending).

I still loved the story, even if I got mad at many of the elements. The writers did their part in making me care so much about their creations that I felt the ramifications even after I stopped playing. I haven’t had a JRPG story hit me this hard since Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger.

The Same Ol Song and Dance

Gameplay in Dragon Quest would be what most people expect in a turn based JRPG. You and your party explore the overworld, talk to NPCs, visit towns & shops, dive deep in dungeons, and battle! Turn based battles feel perfected in DQ XI S, as they start off very simplistic and give you more tools as you progress. By the 30-hour mark, your characters will have many different abilities and skills unlocked, making battles feel more fleshed out than the standard attack and block.

Speaking of skills, each character has their own skill grid which allows you to unlock abilities, skills and attributes in any order you please. Want to focus more on spells with the Luminary, you can! Want to make Rab a skilled assassin with claw blades instead of a mage, it’s an option. Dragon Quest doesn’t offer truly limitless possibilities, but it gives each character a few different classes they can develop into, which should suit most play styles. Add with it the fact that you can have four characters on your team and are able to switch party members on the fly; it can make battles extremely dynamic.

As for the difficulty of the game, it felt very balanced, to the point I never found myself needlessly grinding for hours on end to feel strong enough to defeat the next boss. There is a significant spike once you start the end game section after the credits roll. There was a definite need for grinding at this point, but the world has changed drastically, which means revisiting old areas offers new surprises and this offsets some of the strain of grinding. However, if I had spent more time doing side quests, I might not have needed to grind at all.

One new way to grind in Dragon Quest XI involves gaining experience from riding monsters. In your travels, shiny monsters will appear. Defeating one of these beasts will allow you to ride them and some can attack other beasts. When you do, it will give a smaller portion of experience and it won’t bring you over to the next level, but it can get your characters basically to the next level. In the menu under attributes, all your characters show how many experience points are needed to reach the next level. Attacking and defeating monsters while riding one can bring your exp needed down to 0, meaning you will just need to fight and win one battle to level up. It doesn’t completely solve the need for grinding, but it can be a fun alternative.

Battling and exploring isn’t all there is to offer in the world of Erdrea, as there are a few mini games, such as horse racing and a slew of games in the casino, including poker, roulette and slots. I didn’t spend much time with horse racing as I didn’t care for it, but I spent a few hours playing slots and racking up over a hundred thousand tokens. Having the casino games reminds me a great deal of the Yakuza series, and I say that in high praise as I am a huge fan of their countless side activities.

The Beauty of Yggdrasil

As if I haven’t gushed enough, Dragon Quest XI is a beautiful game. Character designs are by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. I know it’s either you love it, or you hate it, but I am a fan of his style and personally enjoy the anime cartoony style. The aesthetics always make for fun and friendly looking townsfolk as well as sometimes cute and goofy looking monsters, such as the iconic Slimes and Drackys. This doesn’t mean that enemies can’t be quite evil and malicious. Take a glance at Arachtagon, a giant maniacal spider or Indignus, a mighty demon warrior. These foes show the darker side of Toriyama’s design and when shown in glorious 3D, I love it even more.

If you want to experience the entire game in crisp 16 bit, it is completely up to you. I spent an hour or so in 16 bit, and I enjoyed it, but I personally loved the full 3D world the team at Square Enix created. I felt like I was shorting myself by not experiencing it. Now there is a portion of the game that must be played in sprite format and it involves going to other dimensions in the Dragon Quest world and fixing wrongs that have been committed. These side missions take the party into small portions of previous Dragon Quest games to either battle a set of enemies, solve a puzzle, or bring iconic characters a quest item.

The music in Dragon Quest XI S is fully orchestrated and it is a delight to the ears. The main overture of the Dragon Quest series always brings a smile to my face, but it’s when the music gets eerie that the compositions shine. Supernatural Evil Castle was one of my favorites along with Corridors of Darkness. The main battle theme was quite energetic and reminded me of something that would have been at home in the Sean Connery Bond films, which surprised me, but I guess I never knew I wanted a Bond inspired Dragon Quest song til now.

Sorcery I Tell You!

Playing a game as grandiose as Dragon Quest XI S on handheld just seems like an impossible feat. Yet, the game is still crisp and clear with very little downgrading. I spent almost equal time adventuring in handheld as I did in docked mode, and I was still blown away at what Square Enix was able to do with this game. It may have been the fact that Nintendo helped to bring this version over and they shared their “secret sauce” with a third party, or just that SE takes visual fidelity seriously. Either way, I am a happier gamer for all they did. This game was easily one of the best-looking games on the Switch, if not one of the best.

Final Thoughts

Dragon Quest games are legendary. There is no point in trying to argue this. I came into this game as a causal fan, playing a handful of the dozens of games that have released in the 33 years this franchise has existed. Now after spending over 80 hours with this game, I just want to drive back in and finish everything. This game ranks high for me on must play Switch experiences and with all the extra content that is present in this version, such as the character stories and other DQ worlds, this version is the ultimate way to play.

Pros

  • So Much Content
  • Epic RPG Story
  • Perfected Battle System

Cons

  • Horse Racing
  • End Game Difficulty Spike

Verdict

DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a modern-day classic that can stand with the likes of Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger. It is all killer and no filler.

5/5

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