Square Enix’s longest running RPG franchise Dragon Quest (beating out Final Fantasy by a matter of months) is back with its eleventh mainline entry Echoes of an Elusive Age. The review copy I gracefully received included a letter from the game/series director Yuji Hori (also notably created Chrono Trigger) who briefly explains it’s basically his magnum opus putting his 30 years of industry knowledge into this game with the aim to take the player back to a time when you didn’t need to worry about DLC or online features everything you need is right there ready to rock ‘n roll.
Going into the game I didn’t know what to expect and was greeted with the usual formulaic story. A dark and stormy night, royalty and good vs evil it is all by the book yes, but its approach is one of being master of the craft and if something isn’t broke don’t break it. It doesn’t take long before your character is a baby floating down a river to be discovered by a kindly old man, who grows up, sets out to gather a party of warriors (I just feel the need to mention here that Jade is ultimate waifu) and make your way to Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. You’ve done it all before I am sure but the ain’t broke approach doesn’t stop there as its roots run into the rest of the game from its monster types and designs to game play elements like simple turn-based combat.
Going with the simple yet effect allows the game to really shine by wasting little time with how the formula will play out, instead using resources for world building. The graphics in this are just down right beautiful and some of the best I have seen, ever. When the game switches between a cutscene and gameplay I found it incredibly hard to tell the exact moment and had to wait on in game clues to figure it out, it truly looks that magnificent. All the art work is classic Akira Toriyama, who if you don’t recognize that name was the lead artist on every other Dragon Quest game, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Ball as well as Astroboy. Basically, if you have seen any artwork from any of the former mentions then you will have some idea what everything will look like.
The score by another Dragon Quest mainstay, Koichi Sugiyama, is not only completely fun and whimsical but fitting and beautiful. There was never a point I felt it didn’t fit with what I was watching happen on the screen, whether it be the rare orchestral score that pops up or the charming as hell MIDI used throughout it works. I do however have a minor gripe with one aspect of the audio and that is the voice acting, now don’t get me wrong it isn’t bad but well let me explain. Every place you visit will have its own style of dialogue and accents to go with it, from an older Japanese style village talking in hiaku’s to the boisterous, obnoxious and annoying Australians. The worst however is the town you start off with (including your main characters voice) are all distinctly Northern English much like every single voice in Fable. They are all very stereotypical and what you would most likely associate with said accent but while these accents and voices don’t always hit the mark they do however lead into the world building aspect really well giving credence to a familiar place we may know and identify with.
I hope you are all in for an expansive adventure as Echoes of an Elusive Age is a big game, there is a lot to do and accomplish. If you were going just from story beat to story beat ignoring most battles and just focusing on experiencing the story you are still looking at a 50-60 hour game but you would be missing out on so much. There are many weapons to collect, abilities to unlock, appearance altering clothes and armor, casinos, horse racing, side quests, accolades and a bestiary of around 700 monsters to unlock. Once the main game is all said and done you are then granted access to a post-game which is massive and continues the story on giving more than one ending. I finished the main game at around 70 hours now I am over 100 and still have more story and things to accomplish.
How can I summarize my experience with this game? It went above and beyond all my wildest expectations and delivered well over 100 hours of pure enjoyment. Dragon Quest XI hearkens back to the simple yet effective formula of JRPG’s and mixes it with modern ingredients effectively giving us a game that is almost like someone took a time machine and went back to the early 90’s to kidnap Yuji Hori and bring him into the twenty teens to develop a game. From the beautiful opening cinematic to epic post game I wholeheartedly recommenced you pick up sword, shield, pack your bag full of healing items and venture forth to Yggdrasil.
Zombie was provided with a review copy of the game.