Dragon Quest XI – First Impressions

Dragon Quest XI has been one of my big fixations lately. As someone with limited Dragon Quest knowledge, I’ve found it to be a wonderful and very accessible JRPG. It has the visual polish and scale of a modern big budget game, while also sticking to the roots of its turn based fantasy roleplaying. If you want a shiny modernised entry into old-school JRPGs, you really can’t go wrong.

It begins fairly simple and intuitive. You’re a hero on the run, out to save the world of Erdrea from an ominous evil. Over time, the rich depths of that world and the game’s mechanics gradually reveal themselves to the player. You forge equipment, build attributes for specific skills and recruit a whole lot of fun diverse party members along the way. 

Each character has two or three different fighting styles you can choose to build on. This offers just enough customisation that your party feels personal, without overwhelming you with options you don’t fully understand. Few things fill me with dread like getting halfway through an RPG and realising my team sucks, so I definitely welcome the more focused scope of options. Even if you do mess up your stats, you can always reset your skill tree and get all your points back! Trial and error is encouraged, giving you plenty of chances to build your best team.

There are a couple tweaks that help to modernise the experience, such as monsters appearing on the overworld and voice acting. If I know anything about Dragon Quest, I know that it’s been persistently faithful to its original play style and presentation (although that seems to be changing with Dragon Quest XII). Thankfully, all of these changes are subtle and tasteful. This creates a welcoming experience that still remains in touch with the classic JRPG spirit.

Lengthy JRPGs can be daunting at times. But despite its length, Dragon Quest XI is pretty easy to digest. Each new town has its own characters and its own little story to tell; from the cowardly prince crushed by his father’s expectations, to the tournament fighter who’ll do anything to protect the town orphanage. It reminds me of One Piece in a way. This vast and exciting world, built over time with smaller episodic setpieces. It makes me genuinely excited to see where it’s heading.

I’ve been playing the Definitive Edition of Dragon Quest XI on Nintendo Switch. It’s easily one of the prettiest games on the system. There’s a couple fuzzy textures, but it’s still absolutely stunning. The Definitive Edition also seems to offer a much nicer orchestral soundtrack, and some welcome additions like a battle speedup option. Despite not looking as pretty as the vanilla game on PS4, the Definitive Edition is probably the best way to experience the game.

If I had to nitpick anything, it would be the difficulty and soundtrack. After fifteen hours, it’s only just starting to offer a little bit of challenge. That’s not to say it’s a total breeze though, and I’m hopeful that it steps up a little as it goes along. I don’t always get fixated on difficulty, but it’s something I appreciate in the RPG genre. A balanced sense of difficulty makes building these personalised teams feel worthwhile. To my knowledge, Dragon Quest XI does offer a hard mode after beating the game. Might be worth a shot later down the line. As for the soundtrack, I just wish there were more songs. I also can’t say they’re the best songs I’ve heard from Dragon Quest. Still, it’s got some nice tracks and they get the job done.

I like Dragon Quest XI a lot so far. It walks a fine line between JRPG tradition and modernity, and the result is a fantastic addition to the genre this series pioneered. Most importantly, Dragon Quest XI is just a really great game.

Did you like this? Is there something you want me to write about? You can find me on Twitter @BristleBris. TV shows, films, anime, western cartoons, whatever you want (within reason)! Prices start at $3 per 100 words. You can find more details here.

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