Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 28.10.2018 4

Review for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on PlayStation 4

The Dragon Quest series is a legacy lasting over 30 years. Along with Final Fantasy, it stands as one of the most enduring Japanese RPGs. Unlike Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest's core has always been mostly the same and is so deeply rooted in its traditional turn-based RPG mechanics. Outside of the experimental spin-offs where the franchise copied Minecraft, made Pokémon style monster-catch 'em up and the inevitable Musou entries, the numbered titles have maintained a very consistent "if it ain't broke" attitude. With only Dragon Quest X, the MMORPG, being the odd exception, it can be comforting to go into Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age knowing exactly what you are going to get... for better and for worse.

To enjoy Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, it is important to understand some context behind it. There is an element of nostalgia that is infused into these games, right down to the very safe Akira Toriyama character designs and very typical medieval fantasy setting. Even the music has a very early RPG quality to it in that it sounds like midi-tunes and can become grating after a while. The story is a very straightforward hero's journey with all the expected twists and turns anyone might expect if they have been watching movies or playing games for the past 40 years. Dragon Quest has never tried to re-invent the wheel and Echoes of an Elusive Age is certainly not going to try.

Like always, the protagonist of Dragon Quest XI is one who is destined to be the "Dragon Warrior" in one form or another. For the first 20-30 hours, accomplices are introduced and the world is established. It is not until what feels like the 30% mark the real story begins and the actual threat is established. Before all that the journey is a very long fetch quest where the heroes keep on missing a plot important McGuffin. Certain plot elements are introduced very early and won't pay off until halfway through, which could range about 50-60 more hours. It can be easy to forget about the meaning of what a "rainbough" is supposed to be when chasing it for so long when there are many subplots that get in the way. By the time the main plot gets going, as much play-time has been logged as would be in the entirety of most RPGs.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on PlayStation 4

Fans of Dragon Quest VIII will likely feel very at home with Echoes of an Elusive Age since it is very clearly paying homage in many ways. Certain character archetypes are borrowed wholesale and have been totally re-imagined. Fans of Yangus, the affable cockney thief, will undoubtedly notice many parallels with Erik, the affable New Yorker thief. Remember King Trode and his fallen kingdom? Morrie the circus performer? Even those have their analogues in Dragon Quest XI. Certain plot points and concepts - like time travel, gambling mini-games, floating islands, battle arenas, the devil himself, silly accents, equipment-crafting, and a sprawling collection side-quest - are the very fibre of Dragon Quest and XI does not disappoint.

Compared to a fan favourite, like Dragon Quest VIII, XI is mostly an improvement. Expect more Quality of Life (QoL) features than ever, since save points are no longer restricted to just churches and can be found out in the fields which also can fully restore HP and MP. Sometimes it feels like Yuji Hori and his team went a bit too overboard in making Dragon Quest XI more accessible and newcomer friendly since now the game autosaves after cut-scenes and when entering a freshly loaded environment. There is even a marker on the map to show players exactly where to go on top of the party chat system where it is already explained what has to be done. This is overkill and is utterly unnecessary; one or the other would have sufficed. As if it wasn't enough, there is always a re-cap of information whenever a game is loaded. It can feel like talking down to the user at times due to how it beats them over the head with so many safeguards.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on PlayStation 4

The first thing anyone will notice about Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is that it is gorgeous. This is the finest Akira Toriyama's designs have ever looked in a 3D engine except for maybe Dragon Ball FighterZ. XI's art direction emphasises on volume and subtle cel-shading to give the characters and world a living 3D illustration quality. Little details, like how the Unreal Engine 4's bump mapping system emulates the hatch etchings on materials and the lush, rich colours, make everything feel so lively. The environments are expansive and full of detail, with wonderful, tall swaying grass that just feels right to run around in as a large rock golem stomps around in the distance. A very special mention must be given to Toriyama's creature designs, which have been flawlessly realised and perfectly animated in and out of battle. Each one is so distinct and memorable, ranging from the completely silly and ridiculous, to tough and threatening.

Cut-scenes are directed with a great deal of care; camera angles are used effectively to convey certain emotions and character animations are mostly fully realised. It does happen once in a while, but there are a few scenes where characters obviously were not animated by hand and were left with stiff motions and flat blocking where the developer likely used stock animations. For the most part, it feels like playing a CG animated movie thanks to the graphic engine's ability to convey camera effects like soft-focus, motion blur, and long lenses. It is this amazing presentation that will keep people playing Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age past the 100 hour mark. The only area where things look a bit lazy is how assets get copy and pasted throughout many of the towns and villages. Certain house layouts get reused multiple times, and interiors of wells are all almost identical. The interior of every mansion will be seared into player's memories because they all look the same.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on PlayStation 4

Copy and pasting assets and recycling of unimportant areas are minor quibbles with a huge RPG of this calibre. The real problem of Echoes of an Elusive Age is its utterly flat and grating music. Koichi Sugiyama phones it in with this entry and even gets lazy since some of these tracks are recycled from older Dragon Quest games, inappropriately. It is one thing to bring back a fan favourite music track as an Easter Egg or self referential joke, but to use the same town music for several towns in a row is just lazy. The low quality midi synth of the music can be irritating to listen to after a while and in some areas it hurts to play as a wannabe electronic trumpet blares away.

For all of its strengths, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age presents a bleak and sad reality. Fact is, games like this are very far and few between and as time goes on they will probably be fewer made until they are just not made anymore. In this generation, the amount of turn-based RPGs that have been produced on this scale can be counted on a single hand. It is a genre that is sadly going the way of the dodo bird and only very small indie games bother to represent it at all. The impeccable production values, attention to detail, and almost CG movie quality like presentation for a 100 plus hour turn-based RPG is something that gamers could only dream of years ago, and here it is. RPGs today are becoming more and more like action games; no more strategically commanding every action of every party member. There is a satisfaction to be had from a carefully built party and using the right action at the right time to overcome a very powerful foe while relaxing and playing the game with one hand.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

One day, Dragon Quest may succumb and drop turn-based combat. Thankfully, that is not today. Echoes of an Elusive Age may play it very safe, but the carefully balanced combat and wealth of ways to build the characters keeps things from getting boring. The sheer density of content in the main quest means it will take a staggering amount of time to complete. Compounded with some entertaining and charmingly written side-quests, this journey breaks the 100 hour mark easily. There can be a few too many instances of catering to the lowest common denominator that even the hard mode modifiers can't fix, but if it means more people can enjoy this amazing game, then so be it. The only thing holding back what could be almost a masterpiece for the genre is its terrible soundtrack.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Gut (guest) 02.11.2018#1

Hypocrite. If this were ported to the Switch, it would get 10 / 10. The Switch is garbage, and underpowered, no sane developers want to put their games there, so stop hijacking PlayStation exclusives reviews, this site once only put out Nintendo games reviews, keep it that way, and stay out of other consoles reviews just to hijack its metascore. Pathetic.

Gut (guest) said:
Pathetic.

Says the guy that cares about Metacritic scores.

Gut (guest) said:
...no sane developers want to put their games there...

Like:
idSoftware
Bethesda
Bandai Namco
Konami
Square
Capcom
Ubisoft
EA
Blizzard
Platinum Games
FromSoftware
and the 1000+ indie developers?

A lot of quotes in the Internet are attributed to the wrong person
                                -Georgios Karaiskakis

 If this were ported to the Switch, it would get 10 / 10. The Switch is garbage, and underpowered

it would still have a terrible soundtrack.

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