I will start this post off by saying that I like Dragon Quest XI. I think as a JRPG, it does everything well to the point where I don’t have any personal flaws with it. The story is decent and honestly not one of my favorites to come out of this series. The characters however are some of my favorites from any game. It’s rare for me to enjoy every character in the ensemble, but Dragon Quest XI pulls it off to the point I enjoyed using all of them. With an early praise like that, you would think I would have nothing but good things to talk about this game. So why did I have such a hard time talking about this game? This is around my tenth attempt to write about this game; and every time I try to sit and write about it, my mind just draws a blank. I struggled to write about the good times that I had with the game and had very little negative thoughts about it. I understand why this game gets all the praise that it does, and I will admit that it is a solid JRPG that can easily be recommended. So why why why can’t I simply just talk about it? After the last attempt to write this, I finally came to an answer that most likely describes what I’m feeling. Dragon Quest XI is a comfort game. It does everything good that a JRPG should do, and it’s okay that it didn’t blow me away like other games have done before.
You are the Avatar. You were born to bring balance to the world and to stop evil. Unfortunately you were also born in Japan, so that makes you an anime protagonist instead. On the day of your birth, the anime antagonist was like “oh shit we can’t have this ruining my Bar Mitzvah” and decided to kill everyone that you knew and love; but not really since you were literarily less than 5 days old and couldn’t possibly remember anything. After pulling a baby Moses, you spend your childhood in the adaptive care of an old man and best mom out of any video game. After coming of age, you and your childhood friend Gemma climb a mountain to prove that you are real adults now and can do real adult things like read your grandpa’s chicken scratch handwriting to find out that you are adapted. Now it is up to you and your weird glow-in-the-evil tattoo to clear your name from being branded as the anime antagonist and travel through time (I think that’s what happens, that part in the story was never explained) to save the world and be the best Dragon Ball Z character ever created.
I played Dragon Quest XI on and off for the past three years. I started playing it a year after it came out. I played somewhat constantly up until you get to Gallopolis (about 5-6 hours in). Nine months later, I started Gondolia (the next story event) and went on another hiatus. Seven months later, I finished Gondolia and got the ship, but for some reason I put the game down again. TEN MONTHS LATER, I decided that I had put this game off for too long and was ready to commit myself to finishing it. No doubt school and other games that I wanted to play at the time had a part in this. The fact that a definitive version also came out while I was playing this also didn’t help (more on that later). So with that large gap in time that I had in the beginning of the game, something about the game must have not clicked with me to stay invested. Honestly, that wasn’t the case. Immediately when I started the game, I knew I was going to get hooked on it for a while, but my previous encounters with Dragon Quest games taught me that this may take me a while to finish. I was starting grad school at the time, so I was unsure of what my new time commitment to things was going to be like. Not to mention that I started playing at the beginning of 2019 and other games came along to distract my time. I made the subconscious decision to hold off on Dragon Quest XI until the time was right.
I’m glad I took the time to play this when I was ready, because I was able to enjoy myself. It took me about a month to get to the “end” and not once did I feel my normal burnout. If I play a game constant for a while, I normally tend to get burnt out after a while and try to head straight towards the ending. Towards the end, I was still having a good time and felt good about getting to the end of it. I haven’t felt that way about finishing a game in a while, so I’m glad that I still possess that emotion somewhere. As I write this, the feel good feelings are still there, and I want to find some excuse to return to the game to finish the post-game content as well as obtaining the platinum trophy.
The Game Itself
Was it just me, or did this game feel “easier” than other Dragon Quest games? My first Dragon Quest experience was Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2 and I remember that game being really difficult. Dragon Quest IX had its moments as well, but thanks to multiplayer and a younger brother who likes to grind, it didn’t feel as difficult as its predecessor. Battles in Dragon Quest XI were engaging, but I didn’t struggle with many fights. Since the battles were engaging, I didn’t run away from a single encounter I went into. Heck, I would go out of my way to fight almost everything that came my way. There is something about the flow of battle that never made it boring to fight each battle. I didn’t feel like I was over leveled or anything, but I think I have matured to the point where I know how to build my characters well and know what abilities to use during certain fights. I didn’t know until the final boss with the Lord of Shadows that if your first four characters die in battle, the other four will replace them and the battle will continue. That never happened to me in my entire playthrough and it shocked me when it happened. This is not me saying that fights are easy, it just means that I was so familiar with each character’s strengths and abilities that I was able to utilize them to the fullest in each fight. Something that I’m hardly aware of in most JRPGs.
The presentation of this game is one for the books. One thing that I love about the Dragon Quest franchise is that they go out their way to make each region unique with their environment and the dialect that each region uses (even though character designs are almost the same). This game is gorgeous! I’m not the biggest explorer in most games, but the world felt adventurous for me to explore. Some of the details on enemies thanks to glorious HD make them standout a bit more than the older games. Their animations in the overworld almost make them feel like they are a natural part of it, and the death animations are expressive as well. The world of Erdrea just feels like an adventurer’s realm full of secrets and exciting places to discover. Most RPGs don’t bring out the adventurous side of me, but that feeling never really left even during the final hours.
A Merry Band of Heroes
Onto the main cast. I know I said I liked every character that you can play as, but the one character that I felt the least for was the Luminary. At first, I didn’t like his design. There is nothing that sticks out with his design, so he just felt bland to me. Also in my playthrough, he was the only person who didn’t have a dedicated role. Jade and *Spoiler* were powerhouses in my team and I could effectively rely on them to handle most fights. I was reluctant on using Rab for a while, but when he becomes your only magic user and healer for a while, you soon realize that he is a great secondary magic user. Plus, he has some ridiculous abilities that make fights a breeze. Erik became a last resort character since he was fast and could evade a lot of attacks. Serena outclasses Rab as a healer, but I still preferred Rab since he could do other stuff as well besides just waiting to support. Even when *MAJOR STORY SPOILER HAPPENS* Serena just couldn’t catch up to the work I put in with Rab. Veronica stayed powerful no matter what and she still easily outclassed Rab when it came to magic. Sylvando is a wonderful support character with his multitarget abilities and sex appeal. If you don’t like Sylvando, then you just need to find some enjoyment out of life darling. That just leaves your character, the Luminary. Honestly not a lot going on except the his Zap magic which is very effective on most enemies and his Giga abilities that deal large amounts of damage. He is the McGuffin that keeps the game going, I just personally wish he was more interesting.
I Found A Complaint!
Okay I do have one major complaint that I would like to talk about and it is not about the game. This is about the developer of the game, Square Enix, and how annoying it handled the release of Dragon Quest XI S. So, I played the original game when it came out on PS4. Around the time that I put the game down for the second time, we got news that a Switch version of the game was coming out and it would be the definitive version of the game. I didn’t bother with it much since I had already started the PS4 version and I wasn’t about to start over just for extra content. What does annoy me is that Square originally said that they weren’t going to bring the definitive edition to PS4 or PC because “reasons” just for them to release a definitive version for PS4, PC, XBONE, and Stadia a year later because they were dumb and forgot that they liked money for a moment. What’s more, if you owned the original on PS4 or PC, you couldn’t transfer your data over for again “reasons.” This means that a slowpoke like myself couldn’t experience the “definitive” version of the game because I hadn’t finished the original and could not justify paying $60 to start a game over that I hadn’t finished yet. I know this is a first-world problem, but I’m a guy who likes to play the full experience of a game preferably the first time around. If I had finished the original at the time it came out, maybe I would have double dipped to play it all again. As of now, I would like to play the definitive version to see what big difference there is, but that won’t happen until years from now. It makes me second guess playing Dragon Quest XII when it comes out since now I have to worry if a better version of the game will be released a few years after the original.
I think I have talked all about what I wanted to say about this game. It was difficult thinking of anything to say about this game since at the end of the day it is a really good JRPG. There are plenty of other articles and reviews that talk about how amazing the game is and why you should play them. The real vibe I want to leave you guys with is that it is okay if an amazing game does not blow you away. Sometimes it is good for a game just to be cozy and comfortable in order for it to be a good game. I definitely want to return to the game at some point to finish the post-game and get all the achievements since I enjoyed it so much. If you came reading for a hot take or a convincing argument to play this after all this time, I’m sorry to say but I got nothing for ya. The game is good. Play it if you like JRPGs or going on adventures because it is worth it and then you can help me put better words into how I feel neutral about this game.
Game Stats (So many things so I just took screenshots):
Thanks for reading,