We were ten hours into Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age when we realised something: it's been way too long since we played a proper, old school Japanese role-playing game -- especially on PlayStation 4. Despite being over 30 years old, the Dragon Quest series hasn't changed much at all on a fundamental level, and for some, that might be a criticism. But for us, here and now in 2018, Dragon Quest XI feels oddly refreshing. It's scratching an itch that we didn't really know we had, and boy is it good at scratching.
With its turn based battles, classic Dragon Quest music, and delightful art style, Dragon Quest XI is a joyous return to the good old days. Except now, it's wrapped up in some lovely looking modern graphics, and incorporates a number of quality of life improvements to bring the overall package up to speed.
Obviously, Dragon Quest XI isn't the only game on today's market that's still chasing a much more traditional experience. In recent years we've had the likes of I Am Setsuna dipping into the purest of JRPG blueprints, and just a few weeks ago, we had Octopath Traveller on the Nintendo Switch reminding everyone that, yes, there's still a lot of love for nostalgic JRPG adventures to go around. But Dragon Quest XI seems perfectly happy to fully embrace its roots, only making minor changes to its trademark structure.
It's funny, because where Final Fantasy has almost always sought to innovate, regularly re-imagining itself with each instalment, Dragon Quest -- another Square Enix property -- has stuck rigidly to its tried and tested formula. Both are reasonable routes to take, but in standing its ground for such a long time, it feels like Dragon Quest has somehow come full circle. Dragon Quest is Dragon Quest, and as strange as it may sound, there's honestly nothing quite like it in modern gaming.
And that's why we're finding this latest title to be such a breath of fresh air. Playing it is an exercise in appreciating the smaller things -- the stuff that we take for granted in many modern games that can be so stuffed with buzzword features. The addictive quality of exploring the world and levelling up your party, opening conveniently coloured bright red treasure chests, and smacking amazingly designed monsters until they expire in a puff of dark smoke -- it's just timeless.
We know that we're not very far into Dragon Quest XI, but needless to say, we're enjoying it quite a lot. The story's starting to pick up, and although it's predictable and admittedly cliche, it's told with a degree of charm and character that few games can equal. It's classic Dragon Quest, but at the same time, it's Dragon Quest built for 2018, and now that we've played it, we think it might be exactly what we wanted.
Are you excited for Dragon Quest XI? We'll have a full review for you soon, but until then, let us know if you'll be going on a grand adventure in the comments section below.