Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Blu-ray/Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Do you like RPGs? Do you like JRPGs? Do you like JRPGs featuring characters designed by Akira Toriyama, with turn-based battles, large scale maps, multiple cities, crafting, and a fair number of side quests? Chances are you?ll be pretty into what Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age has to offer. It?s a game that?s pretty much in line with the previous Dragon Quest releases, with a robust 100+ hour campaign, featuring a large cast of heroes and villains, and even some hefty end-game content to explore.

Never played a Dragon Quest game before? Well, Dragon Quest XI is as good of place as any to start. On the surface, it looks like a pretty standard RPG with turn-based combat. As you progress through the story, you?ll start to level up characters and expand their skill options, gain access to a multitude of weapon types, find additional party members, engage in challenging boss fights, and get access to a large enough world map that?s filled with areas to explore. What helps make the Dragon Quest series stand out is the unique, pun-filled enemy designs, the orchestral, bombastic soundtrack, the overall upbeat charm of the world, and a number of consistent features that have been present in every single series entry.

I don?t know that there?s any one, big feature in Dragon Quest XI that helps this one stand out amongst the previous games. Obviously the game prior to this, Dragon Quest X, wasn?t your traditional entry in the series, being an online MMO. And the entry prior to that, Dragon Quest IX, was the portable 3DS game that featured a job system and a unique item/equipment locating spotpass feature. Instead Dragon Quest XI feels like the PS4 equivalent of Dragon Quest VIII. You?ll slowly build up your available party, they all have a pretty defined role (warrior, healer, thief, etc), and the game throws a pretty hefty amount of plot at you throughout. As you make it past the first 10 to 15 hours, you?ll gain access to the world map, which opens up your exploration options considerably. Finally certain Dragon Quest staples, like saving at churches, collecting mini medals, and grinding away on Metal Slimes, are still present here.

Crafting is one of the newer aspects in Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Instead of just throwing a bunch of items in a pot to create new items like in previous Dragon Quest games, you?ll actually have a crafting mini-game where you?ll attempt to fill up various meters in order to craft perfect quality gear. As you progress, you?ll gain more options within the crafting menu to increase your chances of success. Crafting is done via campgrounds located throughout the map, which also feature a handy savepoint away from towns, along with a merchant that will sell you healing items and crafting materials.

With the increased size of the overall world map, you?ll also gain access to horses to help you traverse a map quickly. As an alternative, you can also simply run around the map, which honestly feels just as fast and efficient. Also, random battles are gone, you?ll instead just encounter enemies bouncing around the map that you can either strike to initiate combat and damage them, or just simply run into them to start a battle. Moving in and out of fights is pretty snappy, and overall the loading times throughout the game are pretty manageable even on a standard PS4. Fully exploring a map is also worthwhile, as you?ll come across hidden treasure and material gathering areas. Side quests are easy enough to find via icons pinned to the map, and you?ll never really be left wondering where to go or what to do next with the handy party chat function that lets you converse with everyone in your party.

All in all, while this isn?t necessarily a fresh take on the Dragon Quest series, it?s still one of the best entries in a franchise that has been around since the NES days. It has a fresh, enjoyable vibe throughout that just makes it a joy to play, and if you equate gaming value with gaming time, you?ll be hard pressed to find another release this year that offers up as much content as Dragon Quest XI. If you?ve never really enjoyed the series, then I don?t think Dragon Quest XI will do much to win you over, but for the rest of us, I?d definitely suggest checking it out, you won?t be disappointed.

Square Enix provided us with a Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-