Note: This’ll contain massive spoilers for the story of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of An Elusive Age. This’ll also be much shorter than other analyses as its fairly innocuous and based on circumstantial evidence. Purely fun guesswork instead of concrete clues within the game.
Note: These are my favorite games from among my favorite game series. Major Spoilers for all series mentioned.
Phenomenal indicates it is among my favorite games of all-time in no particular order. This title is for games I absolutely loved.
Great Games indicates that the game would have been among my favorites, but was just missing one small thing that prevented it from being one of my favorites of all-time. I adore them and highly recommend them, but there was just this one small aspect that prevented me from making it an all-time favorite.
Average is self-explanatory. They aren’t bad games by any stretch, but I didn’t really find them charming and they definitely never came close to the games ranked above them.
Below Average is for games that I found severely underwhelming and was totally disappointed by. They’re still good games, but I don’t find anything positive about them or what little I find positive is overwhelmed by all the negatives. They’re either boring or terrible to me.
Garbage is for games that I absolutely hated. Either due to its poor technical aspects that ruined any enjoyment, or because the story was complete trash, or an amalgamation of both. That being said, game developers sometimes have to take risks to prevent their series from becoming stale. Sometimes, they want to try a radical new idea that they think will work great, but doesn’t have they impact they desired. Or perhaps, they missed the mark because they wanted to reinvent their game with a new concept for a new iteration.
I’ll add commentaries for each series and explain my reasoning in brief. This’ll likely be a self-updating blog post over however many years it takes for a new game to grapple my heart and bewitch me. I don’t expect anyone to really be interested in this one as it is obviously just my personal tastes being shared about subjective content.
Dragon Quest Series:
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PC)
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2), Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS), Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky (DS).
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations (DS)
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (PS1), Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS), Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (DS)
Of the Dragon Quest games that I’ve played, I’ve found the series to be largely phenomenal. I use to be concerned by arguments from people that Dragon Quest was somehow the same story in every game with no real changes in gameplay and plot, and I honestly have to wonder what the hell people were talking about. I had presumed these people had played the games, but over time I realized most didn’t even bother to look beyond the artwork by wrongfully accusing Akira Toriyama of plagiarizing himself. Also, I no longer understand how people can say the plots are all the same or generic. Dragon Quest V’s plot and events are far, far different from any other Dragon Quest. However, I do think that apart from Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest IX, the main villains don’t really have character development and motivations outside of some selfish desires or simply the desire to bring darkness to the world. Despite how much the player hates the leading antagonist of Ladja from Dragon Quest V, his motivations are simply serving his dark God, Nimzo.
Dragon Quest XI was a surprisingly good step away from that with the villainous motivations. Each of them fit the theme of the game, where the Light was used to signify working on improving from your personal failings to grow to be a better person, whilst darkness was allowing your personal insecurities to override your better judgment and to seek vengeance upon others due to an inability to deal with that pain. I found both Dragon Quest V and XI show that a silent protagonist can be depicted rather wonderfully in terms of motivations. Dragon Quest V more so, since DQXI falls back on the “But Thou Must!” trope to subtly hint at a particular plot point in its story.
As for the games listed as Garbage, I tried to get into Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, but it was a horrible game that is completely obsolete compared to both Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei. Rocket Slime, at least the first one that I played, is just a bad game and not very fun. As for Dragon Quest VII, I’m basing my ranking on the PS1 version that I played. I beat the main game in 123 hours and I just couldn’t bother forcing myself to do anymore. I really tried liking the game, but the plot makes no sense and completely falls apart by the end because of Melvin (the Hero) having random psychic and fire powers just to keep the story going after a major plot twist in the late period of the game. Unlike other casts of characters, none of Dragon Quest VII’s characters were interesting. Which is a huge surprise to me. For example, even without the party chat, Dragon Quest IV’s cast had a charm to them. Dragon Quest V’s cast is phenomenal. Dragon Quest 8’s was very good and endearing, while at least 4 of the cast members of Dragon Quest XI had great development throughout the story. But Dragon Quest VII seemed to gimp the development in favor of exploration and the exploration honestly felt like a giant chore in which I had to redo the same area twice; first the past, and then the present just for shard collections to get to the next point of the game.
However, I understand that Dragon Quest VII was an attempt to do something radically new, both with the upgraded job system of Dragon Quest VI and the massive story that expands throughout every single continent in a somewhat more episodic fashion. Dragon Quest IX attempted to be radically different too, but with more success. Both 7 and 9 seem to be the hit – or – miss games for fans. I can absolute appreciate that the developers wanted to try something truly new and unique for the series. I don’t recall puzzles and shard collections being utilized either before or after Dragon Quest VII. Despite it’s 2D pixels and old-school as fuck gameplay, Dragon Quest VII still stands out rather uniquely compared to Dragon Quest VIII which seems to have had its amazing graphics and gameplay wholly outdone by Dragon Quest XI. The gameplay isn’t entirely the same, but Dragon Quest XI certainly feels like a more upgraded advancement of Dragon Quest VIII’s system to me. To be fair, the overarching plot of Dragon Quest VIII still feels more unique and interesting as it’s premise and events. It felt as if you beat one game and started another during the major plot twist in the middle of DQ8’s plot. However, Dragon Quest XI’s characters and the presentation of its cookie-cutter plot is still done better and feels like a more complete journey. For me, the gameplay in Dragon Quest XI was the most fun of any Dragon Quest as the special attacks felt like they meant something significant and the double and triple tech attacks were amazing.
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.