The best JRPG you will play in a long time

It is no secret that the Dragon Quest series is the most popular role-playing series in Japan and with good reason.

Dragon Quest XI: An Elusive Age is the first single player experience we have had since Dragon Quest VIII so to say we have waited a long time for it is an understatement. As fans outside of Japan we waited a year due to translation and minor tweaks but was it worth it? Very much so.

Taking control of an un-named protagonist who rarely speaks you are the Luminary; you are born into a vast world who must journey to find out who he is and whilst also saving the world. While being a relatively simple plot it has all the same reoccurring themes that past Dragon Quest games have given us along with a great cast of characters with personalities that drive the story forward. Each character is an individual and their personalities are a huge and full of life; the voice actors that portray their characters have done a fantastic job. Dragon Quest games have always been translated well and for me the voice acting here has definitely not been lost in translation.

The games opening cutscenes are simply beautiful and some of the best when it comes to cel-shaded graphics and thanks to the power of the PS4 there is no slowdown in gameplay, the full potential is seen when playing on the PS4 Pro. Much care has definitely gone into the character design thanks to Akira Toriyama, the characters designs not only blend well with the world but most importantly their personalities.

Dragon Quest XI is a linear adventure although there is a lot of backtracking to be done later, as you start out you will come across many doors, treasure chests and other odd objects that serve no purpose (for now) but coming back to these later is a necessity for completionists. Dragon Quest XI boasts a huge map and for explorers this is a great plus but sadly it isn’t as open world as previous entries in the series, still there is much to navigate, the same principle makes a welcome return, go around opening every wardrobe, smashing barrels and pots in every house you come across, on top of this there are some funny none playable character reactions to be had in Dragon Quest XI. You can now also jump which adds more depth to exploration as you are now able to traverse rooftops and find spoils in more locations than just on the ground.

The battles in Dragon Quest XI are completely turn based, if you’ve come from playing Dragon Quest Heroes hoping for more of the same then I am afraid to tell you that Dragon Quest XI’s roots are stuck firmly in the ground when it comes to combat. Enemies can be seen on the map now and while random battles are completely gone the game is still strictly old school Dragon Quest; there is an option where you can move around during battle and place your team wherever you like but this has no effect on the battle at all but more of an effect on the camera, personally I don’t use this but it’s a nice feature if you wish to take in the games gorgeous visuals and let your team do their thing.

While you can give orders to every one of your party members you can also opt for characters to go all out on their own. Show No Mercy will mean the character will use everything that I have without any regard for MP usage, while Focus on Healing does just that, tactics are good for grinding and take out the ease of initiating the same command every battle.

There is no tension system in Dragon Quest XI, instead there is what is known as Pep Powers, if your character takes enough of a beating they go into a trance like state much like full tension, this will mean your character will hit harder and able to use an ultimate attack which will mean they hit the enemy hard but are no longer in a Pep Power state. Pep Powers when used with your party members add for some hard hitting attacks aswell as interesting looking attacks which show your characters bouncing off of each other.

The games tutorials are something you will see for much of the game; the game holds your hand pretty much throughout but don’t let this distract you, Dragon Quest XI can be tricky when you least expect it, when I first got a full party of four I found myself running to the next town as I came from a battle beaten and bruised and the fact I could avoid all the battles I found myself very fortunate indeed. Don’t expect monster groups to remain small, once you have a full party expect battles to be evenly matched. There are camps scattered around the world of Erdrea, these are welcome safe havens where you can rest and talk to your party members who give hints at what to do next. You can even purchase items and partake in some crafting, with the power of a mini forge you can craft some amazing armour and weapons for your character, by hitting spots and filling up the meter to the green you will determine the outcome of the armour with the option of bettering it further using Perfectionist Pearls, the whole crafting is great and I spent most of my time early on with it as it is a great use of kitting out your party early on, especially when gold is more scarce and you need some use from the abundance of items you have found so far. You can save at any of the statues you find on your travels and these are found pretty much anywhere, on returning to the game you are informed of what has happened in recent events should you forget if you’ve not played in a while in which case (shame on you) There are also highlighted NPC’s on the map who will guide you in the right direction should you also forget where to go next.

The music in Dragon Quest XI is fantastic and everything you would expect from the fantastic composer that is Koichi Sugiyama; however I do wish we had the orchestral option in game. Whilst the opening theme is orchestral all the music in game is not, on release Dragon Quest VIII had an orchestral score which made an already vast game bigger than it is. The music score in Dragon Quest XI is by no means bad, an orchestral score would just would just make an already grandeur game better. Of course the games sounds remains unchanged, level up and attack sounds are the same aswell as the victory fanfare. I mean if it was any different you would still definitely not forget you were playing a Dragon Quest game as the fan service is second to none.

Of course it would not be Dragon Quest without a sizable amount of main story and again it does not disappoint as there is many hours to be had and that’s without going off gallivanting at the horse races or otherwise gambling in the Casino. You could also spend your time finding all the mini medals you need or finishing off those quests you may have picked up and have yet to complete.

A PlayStation 4 Review code was provided by Square Enix