There have been a handful of Dragon Quest releases over the last few years to include Builder, and Heroes I & II but this is the first entry in the main series to release in the West on a home console since Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2 in 2004! X was an MMORPG and never made it to the West and IX was released on the Nintendo DS. So it’s been a while. I’m around 15 hours into what Square Enix has proclaimed is roughly a 70 hour game if you stick to the critical path. So far I’m enjoying it but want to stay clear of spoilers for my initial impressions. So I present to you in no particular order things to know before you start Dragon Quest XI.
What’s in a name?
It hasn’t been Dragon Warrior since the release of Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2 in the Americas. I’m sorry but the name Dragon Warrior is cooler than Dragon Quest. Okay, that doesn't really count. Let's get to the REAL things.
While camping you’ll be able to craft items. You can craft armor, weapons, and accessories. You’ll open up a crafting window and play a mini game. As you level you’ll get different crafting abilities that increase your likelihood of making stronger items. You’ll be able to craft very powerful items early in the game (compared to your level). I’ve crafted +3 weapons and shields before I was level 10. Crafting doesn’t take a lot of time and has a tremendous payoff for your effort. You can also enhance gear that you find. You’ll be able to find new recipes throughout the world as well. A number of them are hidden in red books on shelves in NPC’s houses. Others are stashed away in chests.
You’ll be able to assign tactics to your party in battle. This allows you to manually control anywhere from none up to all of your party members and set the AI to control the rest. You can adjust the AI to have the characters fight conservatively or go all out and deal as much damage as they can. I’m not sold on the system but if you want to go on autopilot for fights it’s there. Personally I think they should allow you to speed up combat like they do in the FFX and FFXII remakes and speed through easy fights..
In addition to earning experience and gaining levels you’ll be awarded skill points with each level. You can then spend these skill points to gain new abilities or bonuses. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You can go to a church and reset your skills for a small fee. Most characters have 3 different areas of expertise you can spend skill points in. It pays to specialize. Trying to become a jack of all trades isn’t optimal and will probably end up badly.
There are a lot of different mounts you’ll encounter in the game. Most of them are gained from defeating them in combat. They typically have a special ability. If you can’t figure out how to solve a puzzle or reach a new area look for a sparkling enemy in the area. Chances are they’re the solution.
Chase the sparkles
If you open up your map you’ll be able to see all the locations that items are scattered about. Most of these items you’ll be able to use while crafting. Whenever I enter a new zone I find myself running from sparkle to sparkle on my way to the objective. This cuts down on the amount of gold you’ll need to spend in the game and also allows you to craft nice items.
Seek out the purple dots on your map. Square Enix says there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 hours worth of content here. A lot of the side quests early on will teach you about Pep Powers, crafting, and other miscellaneous features about the game that may not have been emphasized in the tutorial. They are worth your time.
Don’t be afraid to log out
Last but not least don’t be afraid to log out. When you log back into the game the loading screen will give you a recap of what you have done so far and what you should be doing. There are also NPCs in areas that have pink dots over their head that will tell you what you should be doing next. This is a seriously underutilized feature in other games and makes it so easy to jump back into DQXI after you’ve set the controller down for a spell.