I consider myself to be a Role-Playing Game fan. The genre has been a major influence on me for seemingly ever: My first real addictive video game was the PS1’s Final Fantasy XI way back in 2000. Even before that the RPG was interesting to me. Dragon Warrior on the original NES and even Zelda II (which gave us the namesake for this very blog!) were among my favorite games.
When it became easy and more commonplace to purchase my own video games instead of renting them or hoping I’d get some as gifts for Birthday’s and Christmas’s, the natural path for me was the RPG. Final Fantasy X was my first PS2 game I played on my own personal PS2 and not my brothers. I grew up on the Game Boy Advance enjoying the multitude of excellent games it had to offer in the genre. Even later generations like the Xbox 360 gave me Mass Effect and Dragon Age. And even later the RPG genre has blended seemingly seamlessly into other genres. There are once genre-specific leveling mechanics and tier systems in every type of game out there, shooter, to mobile, to even sports games.
The Role Playing Game survived all of this. It has morphed into something completely new in the form of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. It has been redefined in games like Final Fantasy XV. It saw a renaissance of sorts on the Nintendo 3DS. There was occasional mainstream support with titles like Persona 5 or Fire Emblem. I started to forget what a traditional RPG even was anymore.
And then I played Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
At first it was a great nostalgia trip. Look! There’s a slime! Oh my gosh it’s so cute! This brings back the memories.
Then it was appreciating the game’s presentation. These 3D models are super colorful and really have a defined style. The details in the world and stages are top notch.
That lead to rationalizing why the game remained fun 40, 50, 80+ hours in. Was it the solid battle and leveling mechanics? Or the intriguing storyline and characters? Maybe it was the fact I’ve played a few of the earlier games and had an investment in the series’ history. Perhaps it was none of these and I can just appreciate a good video game?
If I am really reflecting honestly on my experience with The Luminary and company I think I can say it was all of these things.
Dragon Quest XI is just a wonderfully written, excellently executed, and thoughtfully developed video game. Regardless of its impact on the RPG genre, or the influence of its pedigree, the game just works on all fronts. Honestly: it’s hard to even find fault with it.
There are moments I thought “Hmm, I wonder why they told me that?” only for it to come back hours later and play a significant role in the overall story. The sheer number of these moments made progressing through the games two, massive acts a real pleasure.
As with any RPG a key aspect to the game is battling bad guys and leveling up. Dragon Quest XI borrows elements from the best in the genre, resulting in a truly rewarding, engaging, and addictive combat system. A sphere grid-like customization system, a well balanced challenge and inventory system, and the ability to swap out your party at will had me loving every single party member, and not just my super powerful main crew. It makes sense too: if this entire band of merry adventurers are traveling together, they should all be gaining experience and participating in the fights. I don’t think I would ever want an RPG that does things differently.
While I would argue this game is truly something to behold, I know it is not for everyone. It’s not even a game I can recommend to every RPG fan. The game heavily roots itself in nostalgia and an older gameplay style. Progress, though always happening, is kind of slow. It’ll take time and commitment to complete everything. There are some tricky battles and dungeons, but overall the game isn’t too challenging. However, all of these “negative” aspects are what I would really want in a game. Slow pace to enjoy the small stuff, focus on story over combat, and a rewarding experience for those who persevere to see all the game has to offer.
Thinking back to other RPGs I have played, I would rank Dragon Quest XI high on that esteemed list. It has the fun factor of my favorite Final Fantasy IX. And the addictive leveling of Final Fantasy X. And kind of a duh but being a Dragon Quest game it has the vibrant visuals I love in, well, Dragon Quest games. I cannot think of another tradition Japanese RPG I played in the past decade that really stands up to this game’s amazing quality.
If you’re an RPG fan, a Dragon Quest fan, or just a fan of compelling storylines and characters, you owe it to play this game. It will be time well spent in a world you will grow to love.