In Japan it is THE role-playing game par excellence, the one everyone wants, from the youngest to the elderly. We are talking about Dragon Quest, that after 8 years from the last main chapter, the IX (the X is not to be considered as such as an MMORPG) returns to the limelight with Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of a Elusive Age, released in the land of the Rising Sun last July 29 with a lot of confirmation for the release in the West in 2018. Obviously we at Holygamerz could not miss the opportunity and we tried in depth the Japanese version of the game on PS4, ready to bring you our impressions.
Version tested: PlayStation 4
He who has to save the world
Years pass but the plot of Dragon Quest is almost always the classic of the genre: the protagonist is the hero with the task of saving the world from the forces of evil. Dragon Quest XI opens with a small introductory video, set years before the start of the game that sees the rulers of some countries gathered together, while discussing something not too clear, then the palace will be attacked by a horde of monsters, the whose goal appears to be a newborn with a symbol on his hand: it is our protagonist, the reincarnation of a hero who saved the world from a terrible threat centuries earlier. After a short escape, the baby is found by a passer-by and subsequently adopted. After 17 years and after a special test, our hero is ready to go on a journey, to discover the world and the task to which it is destined from birth. From this incipit you can always think of the usual heated soup but Yuji Horii and his team have created something memorable. The cast, the secondary characters, the opponents, practically anyone who is not an NPC brings with them stories to be experienced and discover that almost overshadow the simplicity of the basic plot, on which we obviously prefer not to dwell too much until we do a review of the European version. However, it must be said that the story of DQXI is beautifully told, between twists, revelations and touching moments that inevitably bring down a few tears. Unfortunately the game does not feature any dubbed dialogue, which goes to affect a lot on the events and the choice of Square given the importance of the series continues to be discussed even today.
The Hero's Path
Leaving the village of Ishi it is immediately clear how you find yourself in front of a huge game world, even more than Dragon Quest VIII. It is no coincidence that it will immediately be possible to move on horseback, which can be recalled through special points scattered on the map, but in any case we will spend most of the time moving on foot. What is striking about Dragon Quest XI is the feeling of "true" that permeates the title. Monsters in the field, for example, generally go about their own business, some sleep, others fight with their fellow men, and so on. Needless to say, once they get close, their attention will be all on us and the fight will start. One of the novelties of DQXI is introduced in the battles, namely the possibility of using two different fighting systems.
The first way is that "Cinematic". This is none other than the classic combat mode of all recent DQs, where with each character, strictly during his turn, we will find ourselves selecting a move and this will be carried out through particular shots, which enhance the attack itself.
The second, however, is the modality "Free", with the player who can freely move a character during his turn in a delimited space. In any case, the basic system is always that of turn-based JRPGs, always determined based on the speed of the fighter, enemy or ally.
As far as exploration is concerned, our adventure has led us to visit all kinds of places, from exotic kingdoms up to the underwater one, from snow-capped peaks to interiors of active volcanoes with all the dangers of the case. It goes without saying that to reach certain places it takes a lot of time both on horseback, on foot or by ship, which can be used when you arrive at about a third of the adventure. And what about the cities, each with its different places and customs. A joy for lovers of the genre for a game that will take 100 hours if not more to complete.
Unity is strength
The second novelty of DQXI is undoubtedly linked to the Zones and Link Systems. For the eleventh chapter, the developers have abandoned the possibility of accumulating tension, which the enemies can still do, to introduce these two particular systems.
The Zone System is a voltage-like state, but which only activates when a character takes a certain amount of damage. Once activated, not only will we suffer less damage, but all of our stats will suffer a noticeable increase whose duration does not end at the end of the fight, but for more battles. The Link System for its part is usable only when two or more characters have the zone activated. In simple terms it is a way to use combined attacks between the various characters. From simple attacks in pairs to defensive moves up to devastating choral skills that leave no way for the enemy. Never in the past has using characters wisely been so important in a Dragon Quest and these changes are very welcome. As for the skills, whether they are single or for the link, these are unlocked through gods points earned by leveling up, practically identical to what happened in DQVIII. Each character has his own fighting style and is able to use different weapons, moreover some are able to wield two weapons at the same time, swords, boomerangs or daggers.
What do you do now?
The question we ask ourselves in the paragraph is a recurrence throughout the game, not because we don't know what the next goal is, visible on the world map with a red exclamation point, but because of the fact that often the player finds himself spoiled for choice for the activities to be carried out. We can explore the map in search of hidden treasures and dungeons or spend time touring the cities, huge in some cases, relaxing at the spa or gambling at the casino, a classic element of the series that also returns here. Alternatively we can dedicate ourselves to horse racing minigame, deep and fun as few where we will find ourselves competing on various circuits against three opponents controlled by the AI with different levels of difficulty. That's all? Of course not, both in the cities and during our travels we will meet both humans and monsters looking for the help they will give us several side quests to complete, although these turn out to be a bit too recycled in the long run. Finally, many hours of gameplay will undoubtedly be spent on forge, essential for creating new equipment as those sold in stores are significantly lower. To create an object of any kind, however, it is not enough just to have the ingredients but the player will actually have to work them in what is in effect another minigame. Alternating heat with cold water and the power of the hammer, our object will take shape and if we can achieve a specific score in each part, our creation will be enhanced further.
The meat on the fire in Dragon Quest XI is really a lot and will delight lovers of the genre.
All very nice, or not?
It's hard to complain about the game on a technical level, yet the defects are there and are also evident. To begin with, the shots in certain situations do not show us anything at all, which causes the pre-emptive attack of the enemy with the risk of relative game over, the result of a difficulty calibrated not very well, with enemies who are usually never dangerous but who in other cases are able to wipe out the whole party in an instant. Another negative note is undoubtedly the absence of dubbing as anticipated. This will also be justified on 3DS, given the size of the card, but on PlayStation 4? The excuse of not wanting to make the two versions too different does not hold, given the technical abyss that exists between the two sides. "Bad" also the soundtrack, where 2/3 abundant of the songs are shamelessly taken from the old chapters of the series. It almost seems superfluous to say that on PS4 the game is visually stunning. Although the engine used is the same as in Dragon Quest Heroes, it immediately catches the eye how the developers have dedicated it a lot of attention to the details of characters and settings. As usual, the Unreal Engine 4 proves to be reliable and suitable for any situation.
To conclude, it is a must to have some doubts about the Switch version, never shown until today and that we certainly would have liked to see in action and also try, although we recently learned that this will use the Epic Games graphics engine, which is what therefore it would confirm that it is a port of the PS4 version, the one we analyzed.
Comment The eleventh chapter of Dragon Quest is a game that wisely mixes old and new without distorting a historical saga too much. The characters are the best you can ask for a JRPG but the plot is still too tied to the classic patterns of Dragon Quest. Many good things as well as bad ones, see the absence of dubbing that on PS4 spoils the experience or the soundtrack a bit with almost all the songs shamelessly taken from old games in the series. All this without knowing which versions will arrive in the West next year. The test of the Japanese version, however, leaves us with an immovable certainty: Dragon Quest XI will be the next, great, masterpiece of the genre. Pros and cons ✓ Outstanding cast
✓ Two battle systems
✓ A huge world to explore x The absence of dubbing
x Doubts related to plot and ost
x What versions will arrive in the West?