I’m a huge fan of the Dragon Quest series, and yet I skipped the eleventh game in the series when it dropped in 2018 on the PS4, mainly due to lack of time to play it. Last year, Square Enix brought the series home to Nintendo with Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age – Definitive Edition on the Switch, and now it’s on the Xbox One, and I was not going to let the opportunity to play this game pass by again.
All of the hallmarks of the Dragon Quest series are here, and this definitive version of the game is the version to play, as Square Enix has packed the beloved title with extra content, including the ability to play it in 2D, with 16-bit-style graphics!
Aside from one of the longer names on the Switch and Xbox One, Dragon Quest XI offers players so much more than just words. While it uses the same old story of a nameless character rising above his station to save the world, getting there is where players find the most joy. Dragon Quest XI is huge — probably the biggest game in the series.
In fact, Square Enix even gave players a free demo of the game on both the Switch and Xbox, which was a good 10 hours or more of story — for just the demo!? In comparison, the campaign for the new Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War game is a six hour affair. This is an adventure that sticks with you, with amazing characters that join in on your journey leaving lasting impressions as the story pushes 100 hours or more.
Dragon Quest XI takes place in the world of Erdrea. It opens with the hero, an infant, surviving an attack on his home kingdom of Dundrasil and being smuggled out as monsters overrun the castle. The infant is then found by an old fisherman who takes him to his village of Cobblestone to raise as his own son. When the boy becomes of age, he is told the truth of his adoption and is sent to confer with the king of nearby Heliodor, which sets in motion a series of betrayals and more as the hero learns who he is and his destiny as the fabled Luminary.
The Luminary meets a thief named Erik, who accompanies him as they meet up with five other companions, and the story unfolds in exciting ways as they journey all over Erdrea in their quest to get to Yggdrasil, the world tree, to retrieve the Sword of Light and to stop the evil Mordegon. The party will visit various regions, encompassing different seasons as they grow stronger and learn more and more about the fate of the Luminary and his destiny.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition sticks to the tried and true Dragon Quest formula. Players grind and grind, and grind some more in battle after battle. Thankfully, the battles are no longer random, so you can choose who you fight and when. This was adopted in the later DS games in the early 2000s and it really changes how the game is played.
The wrinkle here is that you can choose to play Dragon Quest XI in its classic 16-bit form, and doing so bring back the classic (and annoying) random encounters, so players can choose how they play, and can even switch between the two styles at will. There are also story elements and the Echoes from the title, where you play classic scenarios from the nine previous games in the series (Dragon Quest X was an MMO, online-only game, and as far as I’ve found, it is not represented here for the “flashback” quests).
Interestingly, and without giving anything away, these classic “Echo” quests come into play in the end, which makes Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition one of the best, most encompassing Dragon Quest games in the franchise.
Combat is classic turn-based, with an active-battle element that updates it to newer generations. The addition of full voice acting also seeps into the battles, as the characters will chat with one another during the fight, signaling when best to pull of the massive combo moves that can be stacked using the accrued Pep, a power that fills in each battle. You can swap out weapons, forge your own, and in this “S” edition, change outfits of each character.
You can unlock new skills and power with the Character Builder, so customizing your four person squad (two characters hang back) is completely up to you.
The art direction retains Akira Toriyama’s classic style, and the music was recorded by the Tokyo Symphony, so it is rich, full, and epic. You can opt to switch to the MIDI version of the score, but why would you? Dragon Quest XI is an epic game and it deserves an epic soundtrack of classic Dragon Quest tunes and new favorites.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, if you can guess by the title, is the definitive edition of the game, and Square Enix has pulled out all the stops to create arguably the best Dragon Quest experience to date. As with most JRPGs, you get as much out of it as you put in, and taking the time to experience all the story and side quests while on your epic journey of discovery is part of the fun.
Modern role playing games have gotten so far away from the tropes that makes this genre so beloved, including the fabled Final Fantasy series, but Dragon Quest remains true to itself with each new chapter. It is the reason why the series is so beloved by both fans and critics, and Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is a worthy addition to the series for fans old and new.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. This review is based on a copy of the game purchased at retail. All images courtesy of Square Enix.