Note: For this review, I’ll begin with a spoiler-free portion and then go into spoilers after a warning.
Dragon Quest 11 is an absolutely amazing experience. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s a fairly cookie-cutter good versus evil story, but the manner in which they utilize the cliches feels surprisingly organic and original. I’m quite pleased with everything and I have no complaints about the interface or gameplay at all. I sank 123 hours into this game and I’m quite pleased to say that it never got boring, there’s so much content to have fun with, and I cannot recommend this game enough! Definitely get Dragon Quest 11, if you’re interested in purchasing it or are choosing between it and other games. From what my brother and a close friend tell me, it’s far better and feels more complete than Final Fantasy 15; they both played and beat both games recently and unfortunately, Final Fantasy 15 doesn’t really have much in the ways of coherent structure and half the game you basically have to watch or buy other content for. Dragon Quest 11 is a complete game with so many side-stories and sidequests that give a wealth of content. No stupid paywalls and no DLC scams like other games. I’m so happy that this game was released overseas. It’s a phenomenal experience. If you want a complete game without any nonsensical DLC scams or wish to support games that go against such scams, then please consider supporting games like Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
Notwithstanding, this game is fantastic on its own merits. Here are some reasons why, from its weakest components to its strengths:
Music: 8/10. Quite possibly the sore spot for some people. The music is unfortunately the MIDI version which just doesn’t sound as good as the Symphonic Suite. If you played Dragon Quest 11 on Steam like I did, then there are mods to replace the MIDI files with Symphonic music which makes the game sound far better. I played the game on MIDI since I didn’t mind too much, but definitely consider using the mod if you really can’t stand the MIDI format of music.
Gameplay: 11/10. Hyperbole’s aside; It’s Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay on steroids. There are so many fun skills and combined attacks from pep-up (the Dragon Quest 11 name for the tension system that first began in Dragon Quest 8) that it never gets boring. The gameplay feels fast-paced as it isn’t slow by any stretch for turn-based games and you can even have characters move around the grid; even if it does nothing and is only cosmetic. The skill tree section seems a bit reminiscent to Final Fantasy X, but I would say it’s more similar to Digital Devil Saga 1-2, except it’s done way better than any of those three games. Unlocking new skills allows for all sorts of amazing benefits and actually feels like meaningful milestones within the combat itself unlike in Dragon Quest 8 where the moves barely did anything and didn’t even kill weak monsters.
You collect skill points as you level-up and you’re able to change them if you feel you’ve made a mistake by speaking to a cleric at a Church. The skills themselves look amazing on screen and there aren’t any slowdowns or unpolished attacks from what I played. Some Team Supermoves have a few short cut scenes but they go by quick and offer to further the exhilarating atmosphere.
Story and Plot: 9.7/10. The plot and story are done amazingly well; this is particularly surprising for a game with a cookie-cutter good versus evil theme. This game really shows that it isn’t always the specific style of story that disinterests people, but rather the manner in which it is shown to us. Everyone in the game had believable character motives, plotlines intersected in shockingly engaging and interesting ways, and – while the beginning is a tad slow – it really picks-up and is a blast from beginning to end once the third party member joins. Some plot elements which I had assumed was oversights in the very beginning were later either clarified exceptionally well or specific characters were heavily alluded to having different character motives for their actions than what I had thought was the truth behind their motives. And please don’t be confused on this point, the perspective of these characters is at first shown to be one-sided, but then more story info and a clearer explanation from the characters themselves help to explain why actions that seemed like oversights were actually very well-developed and understandable actions from their points of view. I love when games do this. Dragon Quest 11 does this incredibly well. I still have some gripes related to the early portions of the game, like the Dragon Quest 11 Hero being so forgiving of certain actions taken by Heliodor, but that’ll be explained in the spoiler-section of this review.
Characters: 9/10. Four of the party members; Sylvando, Erik, Rab, and Serena get an amazing wealth of character development during major sections of the game’s story. Some of which isn’t until deep into the plot, but its handled beautifully and well worth the payoff. I was a bit taken aback by how much I could empathize and love this cast of characters and I couldn’t help but compare it to previous games. What really surprised me though was even side-character villains like Jasper have some of the best character motivations and development; I was honestly stunned. He seemed like a typical henchman and then they give you an inner look into his life and an explanation on why he became what he was. Veronica, Jade, the main villain, the Superboss (yes, the Superboss of all people), Hendrik, and the King of Heliodor get really good background character motivations. They all feel as enriching as Dragon Quest 8’s cast. So, they’re either really good or adequate, but they don’t really feel like they grow as characters like the aforementioned four others. Please don’t mistake my words, they’re not bad characters. They’re really good static characters, but they don’t feel like they develop beyond their background histories. They’re still very fun and enjoyable; they definitely enrich the story, but it seems primary focus was oriented more towards Sylvando, Rab, Erik, and Serena.
As is usual for Dragon Quest, if you spend time talking to NPCs, like I do out of fun, background characters like Veronica and Serena’s parents, Erik’s fellow thief Derk and other background characters later revealed, and Rab and his background history are fairly well-developed characters in their own right. It really surprised me and it really enhanced my enjoyment of this game. I had initially felt it was lame to be playing yet another Good Versus Evil / Light Vs Darkness story so typical in JRPGs and even more so in WRPGs, but to my chagrin I changed my mind after awhile. The characters were so developed and their trials so engaging within the scope of a really interesting plot that all I had left was a really enjoyable and fun experience.
I can’t help but compare this experience with Dragon Quest 8. This game’s cast far outshines Dragon Quest 8’s cast of characters. I was genuinely surprised, since this cast is much larger. With respect to comparisons, I would say that while Dragon Quest 8 had really fleshed out backgrounds and really fun party chat which helped flesh out the characters even further in their stories, it didn’t translate to the cut scene stories of the game which felt like a lot of their characters centered around their pasts or – with one particular character – a single conversation in their past being a defining moment for them which didn’t really make sense to me. Dragon Quest 11’s cast is just done far better than that to me. I would say this cast is second only to Dragon Quest V’s cast, but Dragon Quest V still remains my favorite and I’m obviously heavily biased in that regard. Heh. Erik, Rab, Serena, and Sylvando — like the Dragon Quest V cast and the Dragon Quest 9 side-stories — provide the best of both games along with an enhanced version of Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay that improves in every way.
Extra Content: Hands down, this game has some of the best extra content ever. Three extra dungeons (albeit rehashed designs), a litany of extra side-story quests for Post-game, an extra ending for beating the Superboss of the game, and 20+ extra story after you beat the Final Boss.
This is the quintessential Dragon Quest game and offers the best that the series delivers on. It definitely deserves Game of The Year, if nominated. I hope it gets such an award, because it absolutely deserves to. If you’re considering purchasing this game, I highly recommend it! It doesn’t have any dlc scams, it’s a complete game which you can spend 120+ hours on, and it has a really challenging and fun Superboss fight. Definitely consider purchasing Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
Overall, phenomenal game and I definitely loved it. The beginning was a bit slow up until the third party member showed up where it really got the ball rolling, the extra content is great, and the plot is written incredibly well and always manages to remain engaging and interesting. Thus, I’d rate it a 9.7/10.
Overall Score: 9.7/10.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR DRAGON QUEST 11: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE AND OTHER DRAGON QUEST GAMES BEYOND THIS POINT.