Dragon Quest is one of the most popular RPG series in the world. It spans several mainline entries as well as a variety of spinoff titles, much like Final Fantasy. But one thing helps set Dragon Quest 11 S apart from the rest of the entries in the series and the competition. That is, the game is packed full of new content that previously wasn't available in the original version of the game. These augments are such that you'll want to try out this version even if you played and completed the game in its first iteration.
Setting off on an adventure
Dragon Quest 11 S is, from top to bottom, a traditional Japanese role-playing game. You take on the role of the silent protagonist, yours to mold as you see fit, who uncovers a shining new destiny ahead of him as his village's chosen Luminary. The Luminary is the reincarnation of a centuries-old hero who once saved the world from catastrophe. While most find the Luminary an absolute hero and paragon of virtue, some individuals from his home village of Cobblestone believe he’ll be responsible for bringing darkness to their lives.
Thus, the Luminary must set off on an important quest to realize their destiny while convincing others that they are who they say they are — and not a threat to these individuals’ familiar way of life. It’s a familiar path that calls to mind every other Dragon Quest entry over the years, with comfortably rote interactions that give way to surprising twists you won’t see coming. Just as there are plenty of lighthearted interactions and jokes, there are some equally dark moments that require you to roll with the punches -- there are highs and lows specific to the overall Dragon Quest series as a whole.
The characters alongside the Luminary help to make the journey worth your while. You’ll meet the sarcastic Veronica as well as the over-the-top Sylvando, each has their own unique personalities. Though not every line is voiced, which can be par for the course for many games of this length and breadth, the variety of accents and speech make getting to know everyone feel like a fun and organic process.
Grinding it out
While the story coasts along fantastically on its own, you will need to do a bit of grinding here and there to hold your own in combat. That may become tedious for some. At first glance, it may seem like a new and improved version of the same turn-based affairs seen in games like Final Fantasy or other tiles of that ilk. The space the battlefield occupies is yours, and you have free-roam of the area if you choose. If you prefer a more traditional, stationary battle experience, that's allowed here as well.
Even with all its modern panache, Dragon Quest XI's combat is delightfully old-school. It goes back to the drawing board with turn-based combat, character progression, and plenty of equipment to outfit your characters with. It's a good thing there's plenty to enjoy about the combat system, as you'll be dealing with it quite a bit. It's necessary to grind out levels if you ever want to kill that enormous boss waiting around the corner.
You can opt to go it alone, or allow your computer-controlled companions to choose which actions to perform from a list of tactics. It is on you to set up options for characters to heal or attack at your leisure. This can help tenfold when you’re dealing with advancing enemies that you aren’t sure how to approach, giving you a baseline to start from.
There's a decent assemblage of characters with their own individual roles to fulfill, but if you find that one party member isn't jiving with the rest, or struggling to find their own groove within their particular role, you can swap them out in the heat of battle with a simple button press. That makes certain situations that could potentially feel like a slog a bit less frustrating. The system can save you from irritating battles that would have otherwise put a damper on the fun.
Battles are important, alright, but you'll need to spend an equal amount of time ensuring each character grows in useful ways. Each one receives a set of abilities that can be leveled up via special grid, with a different design for each character. Some skills are actually hidden behind others, and you can unlock more new skills as you earn ability points. This forces you to be choosy when creating an adventuring party.
Each character is widely customizable beyond their selection of abilities and skills, too. You'll need to outfit each one with gear, and you can do this by simply buying some or picking it up from out in the world. Additionally, you can utilize the intricate crafting system and forge that lets you create your very own types of gear, utilizing recipes found throughout the world. The forge lets you cast and recast items, even combining old items with new materials to craft something completely new and improved. Forging in and of itself is fun, but its greatest contribution is the complexity missing from other RPGs.
A shiny new set of extras
You may be thinking this isn’t a new game at all -- you’ve played through Dragon Quest 11. But Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition is quite possibly the best version of the game you can play on PC right now or otherwise.
The addition of a 2D visual mode is an exciting option that breathes new life into the entire narrative. It transforms the game into what looks like, for all intents and purposes, a Super Nintendo title.
There's even a new town called Tickington. There, you'll find the Tockles, the keepers of time. You can explore Tickington and get unique "passwords" (yes, as in the "past") that let you play through areas from Dragon Quest games of the past. Finding Tockles around the world offers another layer of replayability as well as Easter eggs for players familiar with the series. Plus, this area doubles as a haven for particularly difficult battles once the game is finished for players looking for a real challenge
But there's much more than that. You also get a set of additional chapters assigned to each main party member to explore once you hit a certain point in-game. During this section of the game, you're separated from your party members and sent in different directions.
With these added tidbits, combined with improved playability, UI, character voices, and overall added polish, Dragon Quest 11 S really can say it’s the best of the best. All of these new additions make for compelling reasons to come back and keep playing, even if you know the game and its story from front to back.
Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition performance
I ran Dragon Quest 11 S on the custom desktop PC I built equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900x CPU with 32GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU. It coasted by at a smooth 60 frames per second with all settings at maximum.
I never experienced any visual fidelity or lag issues and the game ran fantastically from start to finish. However, for all the attractive environments and cut scenes, I found I preferred playing in 2D mode quite often, as it added a fun, retro flavor to the game that it had otherwise been missing originally.
Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition is a welcome return to form for JRPG enthusiasts new and old. It’s a classic fantasy adventure featuring memorable characters, an engaging narrative, and a massive world to save. It’s one of the best the overarching series has to offer by far, and will no doubt get new players interested in seeing much more. Plus, it’ll let you indulge in that retro gaming-hungry side of you that so many new games just can’t quite broach.