With nearly 40 hours of gameplay on the clock, there’s no way that we would be able to finish Dragon Quest XI S in time for this review. However, despite our time with the game not bringing us anywhere near the mark for completion, Square Enix’s eleventh mainline entry in their iconic JRPG series is a title that we’d wholeheartedly recommend.
Based on last year’s Nintendo Switch definitive version, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is somehow a far larger game than its already elongated title. While it’s graphical quality does fall noticeably behind the 2017 original, this expanded re-re-release does benefit from a far higher resolution and doubled framerate over that Nintendo Switch version.
On the plus side, Dragon Quest XI S’ graphical downgrades don’t make for a bad looking title, far from it. In fact, the world of Erdrea still looks incredible. Backed by the gorgeously inventive recreations of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s adorably quirky monster designs and a richly developed world, these downgraded visuals are proof that a perfect aesthetic can outlast high-end graphics. Yes, in the midst of a next-gen launch it can look a tad dated in regards to some muddy textures and noticeable background aliasing, but it’s still a feast for the eyes.
Dragon Quest’s longstanding pedigree as the quintessential JRPG franchise feels easily earned just a few hours into this seemingly never-ending adventure. Despite making very few changes from the traditional formula of a JRPG, Dragon Quest XI S feels utterly engrossing, even when it comes to the tried-and-true nature of its traditional turn-based combat system.
As such, Dragon Quest XI S feels deceptively simple when you first dive in. Its story sees you take on the role of the reincarnation of the legendary Luminary, collecting six coloured magical orbs and saving the world from the plans of an evil Demon Lord. Its combat system originally appears to be a by-the-numbers four-person party system as you fight monsters with the typical battle strategies you’d expect from decades of the genre.
That’s just the start of Dragon Quest XI S. The more you dive into this lovingly varied world, battle its massive bestiary of enemies, meet the instantly lovable characters and continue to explore its intricacies further, you’ll discover that this is a game that just continues to climb in quality from its already stellar start.
Essentially, it’s an old school experience that has learned to only take in the modern design philosophies that work in its favour, instead of trying to create a game expected by modern AAA design. This isn’t a Final Fantasy XV, a game that felt unnaturally burdened by trying to be the RPG that gamers expected to play, this is just a modern Dragon Quest game, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s more than fine, it’s brilliant!
In fact, Square Enix has gone as far as to include a full demake of Dragon Quest XI within this remake, allowing you to play the entire adventure as an SNES RPG compete with sprites, random encounters, MIDI music and no voice acting. A hefty side portion of the main game, Tickington, even sees you exploring retro-style events from past games in the series to correct the course of time.
The only true complaint regarding Dragon Quest XI S is a rather controversial one: its music. While the symphonic arrangements included here are far better than the original game’s MIDI tracks – which you can switch to in game for some reason – there really isn’t enough unique music to populate the entire game. The same songs are often reused, likely to no fault of Square Enix themselves, and it does wear thin.
With that said, Dragon Quest XI S is a love letter to JRPGs that will also get you to play one through to the end. While we have yet to complete the game at the time of writing, we wholeheartedly recommend you dive straight into this instantly lovable RPG adventure. The journey is always moving, the characters are charming, the game is enthralling. If you want an RPG that will last a while, get this one. If you’re an Xbox gamer with Xbox Game Pass, download it immediately.
If the remaining sixty or so hours continue with the same quality as the forty we’ve already experienced, we’d give it a near perfect score. However, we haven’t finished it yet, so no score for you.