For its first few hours Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is happy to just mosey along at its own pace. It's a typically pleasant jaunt through a colourful fantasy world, complete with supremely cute monsters that you whack over the head with big swords, but it's a bit... Boring. It looks lovely and everything's polished, neat, and tidy, but it's so safe and uneventful. It feels great to be playing mainline Dragon Quest on a big screen again -- the series' last PlayStation outing was Dragon Quest VIII back on the PS2 -- but the initial hype is dampened by how familiar it all is. It's been 14 whole years since Dragon Quest VIII, and almost nothing has changed.
We had a strange kind of apathy for Dragon Quest XI throughout its opening chapters, and admittedly, we were worried that it'd never quite hook us the way that we wanted it to. We knew what we were getting into -- we certainly weren't expecting wholesale changes from Dragon Quest of all things -- and we were still finding enjoyment in the traditionally paced experience, but with so many incredible role-playing titles readily available on PS4, we were left somewhat disappointed by the game's near stubborn reluctance to excite us.
That is, until we hit a point where the hero is joined by the best party to ever feature in a Dragon Quest game. XI's cast of main characters is its biggest strength, each ally sporting a kind of depth and level of interaction that the series simply hasn't offered before. With this lovable band of buddies at the heart of events, various elements of the title are elevated. The otherwise cliche plot is given surprising weight and charm, while smaller stories are fleshed out with more personality. Your pals are always chiming in with their own opinions, and you can stop to talk to them about the current situation at any time -- you end up feeling like you're really along for the adventure.
And what an adventure it is. The world of Erdrea is a pleasure to explore. It's not totally open -- there are 'zones' that are connected to one another via loading screens -- but it's still massive and full of diverse environments. Just travelling from one town to the next is a joy, and not just because the game looks picturesque at times. As soon as you step out into the wilderness and hear that rousing overworld musical theme, you can't help but get the urge to go marching off into the sunset.
Each location is beautifully realised, too. Early on, you visit an idyllic Japanese-inspired town that sits on the side of a mountain. The residents speak in haiku, and the bamboo buildings are in stark contrast to the stone structures of the decidedly European city that you visited previously. There's a quirk to every settlement and every dungeon, and the attention to detail results in a very memorable journey, even though it's likely to last around 90 hours. It's always a delight to see what's next.
Overall, Dragon Quest XI is a superbly crafted game. As mentioned, it's an unapologetically traditional experience with its turn based combat, text boxes, and somewhat basic levelling system, but it's all wrapped up in a gorgeously presented package. The character models in particular are satisfyingly smooth and bursting with life, but it's actually the monsters that steal the show. Each beast is brilliantly designed and animated to the point where you feel bad about beating them up.
Personality and charm have always been staples of Dragon Quest -- they're key factors in how the series has been able to sustain itself for so long -- but XI arguably takes its ability to woo the player to the next level. The further into the game you get, the more you begin to realise how much of an ode it is to the franchise's 30 year history. The nods and winks aimed at longtime fans may not land with newcomers, but they're perfectly placed.
Speaking of newcomers, it's worth mentioning that you can quite easily play Dragon Quest XI without ever having touched the property before. Its old school structure makes it accessible -- small quality of life tweaks are more than welcome as well -- and the story is entirely its own thing, as is the case with every mainline entry in the series. In fact, we'd go as far to say that if you're a fan of Japanese RPGs and you've somehow never touched Dragon Quest before, then this is a fantastic place to start.
Moving on, combat is the same as ever. The phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind, and fortunately for Dragon Quest XI, battling remains a timeless endeavour. It's still relatively simple, turn based, and difficult to fault. Some silky smooth animations help sell attacks and spells better than ever, but other than that, combat sticks rigidly to what works. What's more, levelling up your party is rarely a chore since you'll be getting into plenty of scuffles as you explore every nook and cranny of the game's world. Watching your party blossom into a deadly group of warriors is one of title's most rewarding elements.
So Dragon Quest XI looks great and plays great, but it doesn't sound especially great. Perhaps we were spoiled with the fully orchestral score of Dragon Quest VIII all those years ago, but XI's music sounds disappointingly cheap. Don't get us wrong, there are still some catchy melodies here, but you can immediately tell that it's just been pieced together on a keyboard. It also doesn't help that several tracks are used over and over again throughout. If it was any other JRPG we'd probably be singing the soundtrack's praises, but for Dragon Quest, it falls below expectations.
Keeping on the theme of audio, the English dub's done well, although some characters are certainly better voiced than others, and as always, there are so many accents on display. In turn, the localisation is superb -- there's some excellent writing here, with top notch puns and consistently flavourful dialogue.
Dragon Quest XI sticks to what it does best, offering a traditional Japanese RPG experience that's simply a joy to be a part of. It's an old school adventure wrapped up in gorgeous current-gen visuals, but it's the lovable characters that win the day. The game's fit to burst with personality, wit, and charm, superbly localised and meticulously crafted. It may not push the genre forward, but it's peak Dragon Quest, and it's absolutely one of the best RPGs on PS4.
It's finally here...
@ me if you have any questions!
@ShogunRok How are the puddles?
100 years later but we finally got the review for Dragon Quest XI 😜
@Octane There are poison puddles that damage you if that counts.
I'll pick this up sometime later this year.
Did you change all the pictures by the way?
@ShogunRok Well if its alot like DQ VIII then I'll be picking it up. It's been so long since I played that game that I don't remember much about it. Is there alot of sidequests? If so, are they well made?
Looks good, I'll get this after I finish spider-man and horizon zd
Great review,if a little late! Not that it matters as I had this on pre-order and would of bought it whether it had a great review or a bad one!
But boring to begin with??nooo,I've been loving it since I hit 'play'!
It's so great to be able to play a Dragon Quest on the tv again.A fantastic quest that I'm absolutely loving.I'm really happy they added the voices for us though because they really do bring out each of the colourful characters personality!
@ShogunRok Nice review. I'm kind of having the same reaction as you - as you know - and feeling the same way. Beat the big scorpion in that 4th pic last night as a matter of fact.
My wife complains about the music all the time. Not that it isn't orchestral, but that it's the same over and over again. We still have a ways to go but there really isn't much variety and they play that one piece much too frequently.
One thing I really think could use a slight improvement is the battle system. Not that I mind turn based - haven't played one of those since FFX maybe so it's quaint in a nostalgic kind of way - but it needs more. Grandia 2 on Dreamcast is to this day the best merger of real time and turn based I've ever played, so that would have been welcome, but it just needs more. Moving around for almost no reason seems pointless, I just do it so I can see who's turn it is, they don't do a very good job of highlighting that. But it really needs a turn listing.
I played a lot of the well known JRPG in the past - all of the offline FF, Chrono Cross and Trigger, Skies of Arcadia, Legend of Dragoon, Lunar, Star Ocean, XC, Xenogears/Saga, Dark Cloud 1 & 2, Rogue Galaxy - and most of those were turn based, and what a lot of them had was a way of seeing who goes next, whether on your side or the other. Some were mixed real time like the FF games, showing how long until someone went, but even those that were strictly turn based still showed a line-up of avatars - again both good and bad guys - so you can strategize a bit. By removing the turn listing in a turn based game you are removing almost all of the strategy. I really want to see when the bad guys go, and I really want to see which of my characters goes next so I can plan accordingly. It's almost button mashing at this point. Erik is always set on "No Mercy" b/c he's pretty useless anyway, but with 4 members in the party things get interesting but not interesting enough if I can't see the turns and plan out 3 or 4 moves in advance.
But it is still a nice change of pace after Ni No Kuni 2, just straight out no apologies turn based JRPG. Which I've decided finally means it's time for The Witcher 3 after this, that's about as much of a change as my limited genre set is going to get.
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'
Already have my copy, but will have to beat Kiwami 2 and Spider-Man first.
Looks like I'm in for a treat.
Could do with a really good JRPG. I was left really disappointed by Ni No Kuni 2.
Thanks for the review. I'll be taking a punt on this. I have Octopath to finish, and Divinity 2, and I'm wondering if I should get the Xenoblade 2 expansion (which seems to be basically a full game?) before I get this. RPG Paradise or what?
And then Red Dead 2. And some Tomb Raider out of obligation.
@ellsworth004 It's very, very close to DQVIII, just bigger and with more in-depth characters. It's obviously perceived a little differently since it's 2018 and not 2004, but if you liked VIII, you'll no doubt love this.
Side quests are in but there aren't that many of them and they're more like challenges. Defeat a certain monster get an item, defeat a certain monster with a special move — that kind of thing. You get some decent rewards for doing them but they're not really a major part of the game.
@ShogunRok 'It feels great to be playing mainline Dragon Quest on a big screen again'. It will be my first time. I played DQ8 on an awful 14 inch crt. How on earth i used to play 4 player split screen on that thing i do not know.
I know what you meant though, and great review. Cant wait to pick it up!!
@b1ackjack_ps. get both.ni no kuni 2 is amazing.a 9 out of 10 for ni no kuni 2 for me.amazing game.word up son
Push Square’s reviewers ability to convey an effective examination of games in relatively few words is worth of praise and what keeps me coming back, but sometimes i wish you went against the site’s policy of fixed length reviews and let them be longer and more multi-faceted.
Like in this case.
I will get this at some point for sure, but I've been hearing about the game having average soundtrack, and sadly that is one of the worst things a long JRPG could have in my opinion.
I want this game.so bad but right now I have Octopath Traveler to finish up and Spider-Man to begin. Thinking I might see if this goes on sale for Black Friday.
@b1ackjack_ps This, all day long.
Never played DQ besides a demo on...ps2 I think, so I am 100% hyped for this now that my love for JRPGs is way way way bigger and now that I know that you don't need to play the other games!
@b1ackjack_ps I haven't played this yet, but I can tell you Ni No Kuni 2 isn't great, it's not bad as such, just absolutely average at everything. The first one I loved though.
Too many new games and not enough time! Spider-man and Tomb raider keeping me busy right now, and Forza Horizon 4 and AC Odyssey in a few weeks. I’ll get this but unfortunately it’ll have to wait.
I rather we get a review later for something like this, you can't really judge or even touched the surface with a game like this with the small play time a lot of review sites use
If you can only get one , this by a billion light years , ni no is ok but this is one of the best JRpgs in a long time a great game in the tradition of those classic games of the snes/ps1 /ps2
One of the few games i happily bought on release and not wait for a sale to increase chance of a sequel
If you love the turn based games of the snes era etc i think I will like this.
Been playing nonstop since launch. Been late to work a few days (3AM need to go to bed moments), pushed back Jury Duty to Nov, missed every Yankees game the last 2 series (And they in a wildcard hunt)... no idea what is happening in F1
Yep, that amazing. Basically best turn based jRPG I have played in ages. Do not get tired, frustrated, lost... can play this for hrs, until life gets in the way
My girl is really into the graphics (like Ninokuni2) so she likes to see me play as she does other things - so not in trouble with her for the time sink 😃
Wish it had a turn list on the side during battles - and keep hitting Auto Run by mistake.
@rjejr yeah man, the turn list needs to be there - I get the visual cue thing. But really, the bar works better.
I already have enemies I am not built to deal with easily. A turn bar helps me know when the pain is coming and when best chance to clear them off the board.
Everyone should check out the video review Tim Rogers made for Dragon Quest XI for Kotaku...
One of the best reviews ever!
@suikoden Well it depends how early they got the review copy of the game or maybe they never got one but yeah I agree with you this game it's long I played 15 hours so far and I don't think I'm close to a quarter of the game but I love it 😍 it has a lot of charm my only complain are stairs for some reason it takes forever to climb one
@MikeW That wasn't a review that was a love letter to the game 😂
But it's well deserved, amazing game
@ShogunRok How long is it? It has my interest for when it’s cheaper, but length may decide for me. If it’s too long, I probably won’t bother.
@Bliquid Agreed, I’ve noticed the reviews are a bit shorter at times these days, and while well written, it can honestly produce a review that feels incomplete. This is a good review, but it feels unsatisfying a bit due to being short. It feels like the hands on had a depth to it that this lacked because there wasn’t room for it.
@Shogunrok Any thoughts on this?
I'm over 40 hours in and absolutely in love with Dragon Quest XI.
@ShogunRok How much of the battles can be automated? Will we still need to press X three times for the most basic attack on the nearest enemy?
I picked this up last weekend and put a few hours in, I'm definitely diving in this weekend along with Spiderman (I traded in some Switch games I don't play anymore)
@Jaz007 It's around 70-100 hours for the main game depending on whether you like to play at a slower place. More if you want to do absolutely everything including the endgame stuff.
@fontainelefunk You pick each character's action on their turn, but once you pick it, there's no pressing X again to forward the text, it all just happens. Repeat with the next character, and so on.
You can also set your party to fight on their own with various general tactics, which can be useful for grinding or battling through enemies you know you can beat. Not advised for tougher enemies or bosses, though.
@Bliquid @Jaz007 It's a tough one. We decided to shorten our reviews for multiple reasons (all of them good reasons, for the record).
We do try to stay active in the comments, though, so if anything is missed out that people want to know, you can always ask.
One day we might go back to doing longer reviews, it just depends on a lot of different factors.
@Agramonte Thanks for agreeing with me, sometimes I worry that I'm just old and imagining how things used to be.
@ShogunRok there are so many games i wish i could play and i can’t these days, i find pleasure in reading their reviews.
I like to read what competent people think of games i’m interested in.
I also like to read between the lines of said reviews.
Gameplay videos are boring and too spoilery.
@ShogunRok You just want less writing to do. We all know the truth.
Dang though, 70-100 hours. I was hoping for like 40... Maybe 30....... I mean it sounds good and all, but I don't know about that much time. It's a long "I'll try something new." Thanks for answering.
I thought they redid the soundtrack and I could have swore I saw the I think Tokyo philharmonic in the beginning credits
@3MonthBeef nah. It reads like "apart from some gripes with the music, this is a near perfect, traditional JRPG".
It's a 9 or 10 all day long.
@ShogunRok er, it’s been out for a time now yeah, metal slimes! Where they at!! Please. Lol
@Octane cell upgraded!
@wiiware @wiiware I got this game first! Love spider-man but this game will hold my attention for longest! And I have kiwami 2, zone of the Enders 2nd runner and bought okami HD too!
@ShogunRok thank you! Was always gonna choose this game first, been waiting a long time! Still playing no.8 on 3DS XL.....
Great review, I'm on my way to get this, got so much more to play as I've only just got my Atelier obsession aha.
@dark_knightmare2 You're right, it does say that, but it's only for the opening movie unfortunately.
@Kiloman74 From what I understand Metal Slimes appear randomly alongside regular enemies in certain locations. Nothing worse than when one of them runs away, though...
Never played a Dragon Quest before but am very tempted by this one. Going on the Christmas list I reckon, once I've finished Spider-Man and a few other games in the ol' backlog.
@rjejr About half of those are full real-time dude. Dark Cloud 1 & 2, Rogue Galaxy, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Star Ocean are all real-time JRPG's.
While it's true that DQ is happy to remain traditional, I think if you look at DQ1 and then XI, you see countless, endless changes and improvements. It's not as static as people make out. Even going from DQ1 to 3, you see huge differences. They just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater like Final Fantasy ended up doing.
I have a few criticisms of this game, but they mainly feel like nitpicking (why have Zoom work indoors now? It invalidates Evac totally. Also, since Zoom is now free, there's literally no point to Chimaera Wings) with maybe a few somewhat strong criticisms (long loads times, too easy without Draconian Challenges), and overall this is one of the best JRPGs I've ever played - and as JRPGs are my favourite genre, that's saying a lot.
@Jaz007 It's very variable. On "normal difficulty" (i.e. don't set any Draconian Challenges when you start a new game) it's pretty easy and you don't need to grind at all. If you ignore sidequests, don't search every container, don't talk to every NPC, you could do it in several dozen hours. If you do absolutely everything, you're probably looking at 100.
@rjejr "Erik is always set on "No Mercy" b/c he's pretty useless anyway,"
Erik is easily one of the best characters. He can do tons of damage with dual daggers, but like in any RPG it takes a while to get to where characters are functioning like they eventually do.
@Kiloman74 First time I encountered a regular Metal Slime was in the area outside Gallopolis. Later in a place called Ocatagonia, you go to some caves under the city that's meant to have a higher encounter rate for them. Later, when you get past the gate at Puerto Valor, you can go to Slime Island where they have a much higher rate of appearance.
Finally saw the credits last night. My last save was 100 hours and 33 minutes. I have 28 side missions completed. I had 26 completed when there were only 26. I still have 9 or 10 as question marks.
So it's apparent there's still a lot to do in post game, but my biggest annoyance is without a doubt that locked gate in Gondolia with the 2 chests you can see behind it. I've been trying to get those since my first time in Gondolia. Cant' believe that girl didn't have the key after all I did for her family.
Second annoyance is CALASMOS. They just completely forgot about him and his big double-bladed spear sword. I found the piece of the lantern for that scholar but it didn't lead anywhere. Rab was so excited about the runes then he just dropped it.
Third gripe is pretty obvious is going to be post game based on the during credits scene so at least they set it up. That may have been the best closing credits cut scene since FF8. Still my favorite to date. In case you forgot or didn't play it that's the one with them having a party and using a videocamera to record each other.
Don't want you to spoil anything, I'm still planning on playing, but I have to know, how did I miss that second key? According to an article on Newsweek it was in an "obvious" chest in Haven's Above. I'm guessing that's the place that's like Kami's Lookout w/ the little Mr. Popo and Dendi kid the last Watcher. I'm pretty thorough, I comb every inch of every place, I'm doing fairly well on the targets, but I can't recall a chest there I may have missed.
"You won’t get the Ultimate Key, which allows you to access these goodies in plain sight, until well into the late-game content. You’ll find the key in a very obvious treasure chest after an important discussion at Haven’s Above."
So is that post game? I traveled to every floating island I could pre boss fight and I know at least 3 had dead roots that should be alive now. If I talk to the roots will the chest appear? Or did you never get the key b/c you moved onto Spiderman and RDR2? Rushing through a game like this to write a review has gotta suck if your a gamer.
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