‘Dragon Quest XI’ review: A new coat of paint on the same Dragon Quest you love, or hate

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Chances are you’ve probably never heard of the Dragon Quest series. You may have heard or read of the series in passing, after which you may have closed the browser window. It’s not as popular and renowned this side of the world as the Final Fantasy series. However, it’s got quite the big fan following, even in India. The latest Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is finally out on current generation consoles, with its brand of light-hearted fantasy fare, its familiar art style and challenging turn-based gameplay.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Price: ₹2,999 on PlayStation 4

What’s it about?

We say familiar art style because the series shares a common link with the ultra-famous Dragon Ball Z. The same artist, Akira Toriyama, has created the artwork for all the Dragon Quest games. His iconic monsters, more than the characters, have become an integral part of pop culture. With DQ XI is where his art style truly shines, as his creations are brought to life in glorious three dimensions with appropriate cute animations.

The story revolves around a hero bearing a birthmark known as ‘The Luminary’, a ray of light in the land of Erdrea, which is swallowed by evil. Our hero, as a result, is hunted by everyone, and it’s up to him to rally the people, make friends and worthy companions, to aid him in his quest to find The Great Tree of Life and defeat the dark lord. Pretty normal fantasy fare, and while it isn’t The Lord of the Rings level, it’s still pretty good, especially the world that the hero and his friends travel through.

From the characters brimming with personality, to your lively companions fulfilling their roles as thief, magic users and warriors — all of them over the top and overtly dramatic to fit into the story. If you’re familiar with Japanese Anime movies or JRPGs, then you’ll be at home with this. At no point do the characters get grating though, as the story is genuinely entertaining, though it takes time getting used to.

How does it play?

Erdrea is a world that is all about exploration. A fairly linear game with a feel of an open-world game. You can travel on foot or horseback, along with your companions, and jump headlong into enemy encounters in the wild, or explore some of the towns. Dragon Quest XI, rather than scrambling to reinvent itself with the times, prefers to stick to its roots and make small conservative changes. Offering you a little slice out of time, clad in today’s graphics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the formula is nostalgic, with just that right coat of paint.

What stays true to its roots are its battle systems, which are turn-based and a whole lot of fun. You venture into the wild with your party of four, and rather than level-up and mix-and-match your party’s classes, you interchange them to keep things fresh. Thankfully, there are no random encounters, a staple of any JRPG of yore. So rather than the screen jarringly taking you into a battle sequence, you now see your enemy in the game world, and if you so choose, you can engage, or move along.

The enemies may be all fuzzy and cute, but they are challenging as hell, and you will need to employ all your wits about you to take them on. Which is what makes XI so exciting. Fighting and collecting loot is addictive, as is exploring the overworld for cleverly-hidden treasure. XI is a treat for the eyes, and a burst of colour, making you want to delve deeper into its world. You can spend hours just level-grinding, doing quests or taking part in mini-games.

Should you get it?

Dragon Quest XI may not be for everyone, with its old-school RPG mechanics, with a few modern touches, but still traditional for the most part. However, if you’re willing to give it a shot, you’ll find that XI is a warm blanket and cup of hot cocoa on a cold night.

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