Dragon Quest, or Dragon Warrior as it was known for me growing up, is a long storied role-playing game that has had many chapters in the last couple of decades. From a Knight of the line of Erdrick to the long-prophesied Luminary we find ourselves diving headfirst into the stories and the worlds that have been created for us. Take one more journey with us through our review of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition (DQXI) for Nintendo Switch.
A Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) brought to us from Developers Square Enix, Toylogic, and ORCA, and Publishers Nintendo and Square Enix, Dragon Quest XI S is the next installment into an ever-expanding collection. This time it has been launched on Nintendo Switch with some new additions which make the game a little bit more interesting over the original versions. The original story is still good,but now it comes with remastered graphics for the Switch. You can also throw in a retro-style 2D mode to get one massive RPG that anyone would spend hours in.
Diving off the board and straight into the deep end we find ourselves as a young man who is completely unaware of his importance in this sprawling game world. Along with his best friend and her faithful dog companion, you set off to reach the summit of the tallest mountain near your hometown. All to prove that you are old enough to make your way into the world. Upon facing numerous monsters and reaching the summit, you find yourself under attack by some smoky foes. Just as you think something bad is going to happen, a tattoo on your hand begins to glow and lightning is sent from the heavens to wipe out the enemy. This is a strange situation for you and you will soon learn that you are a hero of prophecy, better known as “The Luminary”. Your adoptive mother tells you her tale and you set off in search of answers.
When I first started playing DQXI I fell in love with the characters, music, and story. On top of that, it is fun to have characters that look like they are from Dragonball Super. It starts off a little slower than most games with the whole climbing a mountain to show you are of age to leave the town aspect. Some stories move a lot quicker than that, but once you get out into the open world your story will begin to progress a lot faster than the beginning portion.
Figuring out where to go, and who to talk to is what makes RPGs like this fun for me. The map is huge in the 3D mode of the game, and gives you a lot to explore while you are completing the story. The sheer scale of this world is enough to keep you wandering around for hours. In the 2D version, there is a lot less to explore due to the smaller scale of the world. It is meant to mimic the old school games and allow you to find your way through the world more easily. You can see a top-down view of everything in the area. This is to be expected, of course, the more retro style has always been on a much smaller scale map wise.
With map exploration, it is much easier to find those hidden treasure chests, and the other little objectives for side quests while you are in 2D mode. While playing in the normal mode though you will be presented with quests that will be accomplished a bit differently than in 2D. For example, there is a mission early on where you have to save a cat by jumping onto a rooftop to get to it. In the 2D version of this quest you are simply given a ladder to climb up.
Combat is turn-based and offers you more of an attack, wait for your turn, and attack again feeling. Whereas more modern RPGs will offer you the action RPG approach with button mashing. While playing in normal mode, you run around the map and the enemies are persistent in the living game world. You can run into them if you want to fight, and by pushing your action button you can do some pre-battle damage to them. This offers you a way of getting into fights as you see fit, however, it will not help you defeat bosses further into the game if you skip fighting the enemies as you explore. As you enter battle you will be able to control your character only, however, there is an adjustment that can be done to the in-game AI for your companions so that you can control their battle commands as well. Leaving them set to automatic will allow them to attack or heal as they see fit, which works out pretty well most of the time. I normally set my games up so that I can control all of the characters, because the AI isn't always reliable. In DQXI, I find that the AI does pretty well in determining whether to attack an enemy or heal your party members.
In retro mode, getting into combat is based on a random encounter system similar to most other JRPGs. This makes the game a little more difficult if you are trying to avoid fighting, but in a game like this, you want to take the fights and level up. Some of the fights you have to take early on in the game are hard and having your characters leveled up and with the proper gear is essential to winning. Gearing up is not too difficult in DQXI, but you need to do a lot of fighting to gain the needed gold coins to purchase new weapons and armor. You can find weapons and armor around the world, and you can craft them as well, if you have the needed materials. Defeat your enemies and earn your experience points and gold for winning the fight.
While not required, DQXI has many side quests you can do in order to fill your time. Not only do they give you more filler content for the game, which allows you to get more out of the game, like this one mission where you have to craft a gold ring for a man who wants to give it to his daughter. You are given the materials to make it, and then you go to your mini-crafting kit in a camp and craft it for him. He rewards you with materials you need to use for other craftable items. It also provides you with some decent loot upon completion. You can earn crafting items, armor, weapons, and healing items to help you along in your quest to defeat the end boss and other baddies.
Speaking of crafting, the crafting system is pretty expansive and the mini-game to craft your items is fun, but challenging. When you go to craft an item you will enter into a crafting box where you see a rough outline of whatever it is you are going to craft. You will be able to earn new ways of striking your items to save crafting stamina and heat as you go. To start with you will have a limited amount to use to craft the item. Your objective is to get the strikes as close to the line as you can without going into the red zone. The closer you are, the higher the quality of the item you have crafting. Some side quests will require you to craft weapons or wearables for non-player characters for rewards as well. It adds a whole new meta to crafting in video games that I can totally get behind. You aren’t just sitting here and waiting for an item to craft with random successes. You are the one who is in control of your crafting fate.
The main thing that draws you into a game like this is the story, the second thing that draws you in would undoubtedly be the music. With classic soundtracks from the original games, and newer music that brings you into the future, they just draw you in and capture your imagination. When you are in a boss fight you feel the rhythm of the fight in your toes, and if you are running around in the wild you can almost feel the wind blowing through the trees. These are some great pieces to a good RPG, but one thing still hangs on my list, the ability to play the game undocked on your Switch. With a game like this there is a lot of reading that you have to do on the screen. This is something that is rather hard to do while you are looking at the tiny undocked screen. This game would be better suited for play on a larger screen television set while docked in its port.
Dragon Quest XI S for the Nintendo Switch is a good port from the other versions. I have played on the PlayStation 4 as well, and the graphics are comparable, but the 2D mode is what gives this one the step up. If you like the retro style as I do, you may choose to play the entire game in that mode, at least once. It gives you some additional things to think about, and additional gameplay features to play with. If you liked the PlayStation 4 version or any other version, then you will love this one, while it offers plenty for newcomers to the game and series to enjoy.
- Intriguing story
- Crafting system expands your gameplay options with the ability to make your own gear instead of grinding out battles to earn the money to buy them
- Expansive 3D world offers you a lot of area to cover, filled with quests and hidden items to obtain
- A 2D world option that allows you to play like you would have on the Nintendo Entertainment System
- Is better for playing on a television with the Switch docked than in the handheld mode
Full disclosure: A copy of the game was provided by PR for review purposes.