One of my favourite RPGs of all time, so much so that I included it in my wish list of RPGs I’d like to see remade, was Dragon Quest VIII. I loved the way the game looked, the characters, the whole nine yards. So, imagine my joy when a strong contender for longest name of a game for 2020, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, was finally slated to appear on the shiny Xbox in the corner of my living room. And best of all, it was to launch straight onto the fantastic Xbox Game Pass service, making it essentially free to play. So, has the wait been worth it, and is a new Dragon Quest game, on Xbox, the best Christmas present that could be given?
First released way back in 2017 on the Nintendo Switch, Dragon Quest XI has certainly taken its time arriving on Microsoft’s shiny games box, and I’m happy to say that the wait has been worthwhile. Yes, in the second paragraph of the review, I am happy to proclaim that this game is a triumph, and that everyone should stop reading right now and start downloading it.
The first thing is the way the game looks. It’s a cel-shaded, hand-drawn in style visual experience, and the design of the characters, the monsters and even the landscapes are absolutely top notch. The voice acting is also very good indeed, with each main character having a distinct voice, whilst a special mention has to go to the music. Performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, it is just superb. The stirring theme music, the battle music that puts you on edge and ready to fight, even the sad, more downbeat stuff that sometimes has to be played: it’s all brilliantly written and performed. There is literally nothing that I would change with the presentation of the Definitive Edition of Dragon Quest XI S.
The story is another humdinger. You know when someone’s birth is the stuff of prophecy, it means that their life is not going to be easy? Well, so it proves for the hero here. As Dragon Quest XI S opens, a baby is being carried through the forest by his mother, and due to a series of mishaps he ends up drifting down a river where he is eventually found by a kindly old man. This man is Chalky, and he gives the baby hero to his daughter to raise for the next 15 years as his life plays out easy and peaceful, in the small town of Cobblestone. On his 16th birthday, he has to perform a ritual with his best friend, and they climb to the top of Cobblestone Tor, where a monster attacks and his hidden powers begin to awaken. Our hero is The Luminary, the foretold one who will battle the forces of darkness, and as such he is sent to see the King to announce himself. However, the King has different ideas, denounces him as Darkspawn, and throws him into jail. After Erik, the first companion we recruit, helps us break out, we have to set off into the world to find out why the King says we are evil, and to find out what it means to be The Luminary.
So, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition looks great, has a cracking story and sounds brilliant, but obviously this would mean nothing if the game played like a bag of spanners. Luckily, this isn’t the case, playing very well indeed. Set in a third-person view, you and your party run about large open areas, teeming with monsters, in order to get to where you need to be. The monsters can be fought or ignored as you choose, but since battling is the only way to get stronger and level up, it’s probably for the best to try and fight everything that crosses your path. Pressing “A” as you get close to a monster will allow you to get a sneaky hit in, weakening the beasties you are about to fight.
Once in the battle, it’s pretty much business as usual. The camera can be positioned wherever you like, and whilst this doesn’t give any benefit to the strength of attacks, it will allow you to see the best view of proceedings. You can control up to four characters at once, and while I prefer to take charge of each person’s actions, it is possible to get the other party members to fight for themselves. It’s also possible to switch party members on the fly, so if you suddenly need a healer, it’s easy to alter the line-up and draft someone in.
The design of the monsters, especially the bosses, and the animation of the attacks is first rate, and makes battling a real pleasure. Pep powers are another function that can be used; as each character fights they have a chance of becoming pepped up, glowing blue and making them stronger, faster and able to perform team up attacks, between one, two or even more of the characters joining in.
So, Dragon Quest XI S plays well in the field, and the only other thing that is missing then is a good, strong skill tree setup and equipment menu. Luckily, Square Enix haven’t let us down here, either. As you level up, each character gains skill points that can be used to unlock new skills, spells and even Pep attacks. Each character has a number of different skill trees to put points into: for example our hero can use swords or double handed swords, and can also put points into the Luminary skill tree, giving him new powers. With eight characters to find and recruit, you can see how you can soon build a diverse roster, with tanks, spell casters, healers and more to use. Even playing the game and following just main story missions will take you many hours as Dragon Quest XI S is huge, but then there are a plethora of side missions to find and fulfil as well. These range from simple fetch missions, all the way up to defeating a certain monster with a specific attack, so there’s no shortage of content to go at.
To be honest, all I need to do in terms of concluding this review of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition on Xbox is to echo my sentiment from the second paragraph. This is the best RPG I’ve played this year, bar none, and as such I recommend it to anyone and everyone. The story sucks you in, the game looks beautiful and sounds amazing, and with hours and hours of content to go at, there isn’t a mark against it. It’s a rare thing, but this is as close to a perfect game as you’re going to get, and I have no hesitation in giving full marks.