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E3 2018: Dragon Quest XI Hands-On Preview – Return to Simpler Times

It’s been nearly 13 years since Western PlayStation consoles saw a main entry in the long-running Dragon Quest franchise, back when Dragon Quest VIII released on the PS2 in 2005. The series has seen plenty of activity lately, with spinoffs such as Heroes and Builders, but this numbered entry represents a return to traditional form. While Dragon Quest XI has been out in Japan since July 2017, the game is seeing a port to Western audiences this September. We managed to go hands-on with the upcoming localized edition, and have our impressions ready for you below.

A Quick Choice

We were only given two options for our play session: see Dragon Quest XI’s first town, or start things a bit further in a desert town to experience more of the story. I chose the more established game save. This got me right into the thick of things, though since the demo was limited to a mere 15 minutes, I quickly found my horse and trampled any enemies in my path, avoiding unnecessary battles with less important enemies. I was thus able to take in as much of the story as possible, up until the battle with the area’s boss.

Since I skipped out on the trivial battles, none of my characters gained any experience leading up to the battle. While this made the fight a bit tougher, it was not insurmountable. Once my time was up with the game, I had whittled down the boss’ health quite a bit, and was likely on my way to a hard-fought victory. But as is often the case with turn-based role-playing games, large fights take extra time to complete.

Staples of the Genre

Dragon Quest XI’s battle mechanics are typical RPG fare. Turn-based battles allow you to have each character in your party perform one action per turn, with a few exceptions such as an ability that occasionally grants a second action. Each character had a signature regular attack, abilities specific to them, and spells specific to their class (a mage class or priest class will have more healing spells, for instance, while the warrior or martial artist will have more ways to inflict damage on the enemy). A computer-controlled ally had also joined the team, whom I could not give any commands to. He mostly attacked the enemy when his turn was up.

There’s not much more to it than that. This is the franchise that gave us the classic slime enemy, after all. The whole world has a nice, bright color scheme, and all major characters are fully voiced across cutscenes. Akira Toriyama’s character art comes to life thanks in no small part to the Unreal Engine 4. Koichi Sugiyama’s music work, meanwhile, is as epic as you’d hope for a traditional RPG. Dragon Quest XI is a comfortable RPG that players should pretty much know what to expect to get out of when they buy it.

For those in search of a dependable RPG experience, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age should fit the bill nicely. It has all the usual bells and whistles of a lengthy RPG and appears to be a faithful localization of an exquisitely popular Japanese game. It’s not a complicated RPG, as the mainline series has tended to stick with the RPG mechanics that it helped to originate with the original entry in 1986. For many, this will be a nostalgic trip to the past, where anyone could pick up and play a lengthy RPG without having to remember a heap of mechanics.