STAFF REVIEW of DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition (Xbox One)

Monday, December 28, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition Box art JRPG’s are one of my most favorite genres. While it’s very difficult for myself to find the time to sink dozens of hours into an expansive game like most JRG’s, I make sure to find a way somehow if the experience and journey is worth it. I don’t have a lot of spare time, meaning I can’t generally play through a game twice unless it’s something special. I previously played Dragon Quest XI back when it released on Playstation a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Here we are a few years later with an updated version, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, and I’ve purposely made the time to sink another 50-100 hours into one of the better JRPG’s I’ve played in recent memory, extremely excited to see what’s been added in this Definitive Edition, but also the improvements on an Xbox Series X.

The Dragon Quest series has been around since the original NES, so over the course of over three decades, it’s amassed quite a following with quite a few games and spinoffs over the years and console generations. While I’ve played the odd one here and there, I never really got around to sinking a large amount of time into any of the previous games until this one, but now that I’ve done so twice, it still ranks up there in one of my favorites, even before the great Definitive Edition treatment.

So if you’re like me and have already sunk in countless hours into its original release, you’re probably wondering if this Definitive Edition is worth the upgrade, what’s new and if you should set aside another hundred hours all over again. Obviously the full Dragon Quest XI game is included, but with a slew of additions, quality of life improvements, new character-specific scenarios, new soundtrack, a 16-bit 2D mode and much more that made it a joy to play all over again while also feeling fresh.

That’s right, if you yearn for those classic days of 16-bit sprites but don’t want to dust off your Super Nintendo, you’re able to play the game from beginning to end in this classic mode. Not just the visuals can be changed though, as you can choose from the original soundtrack or an orchestral version. On top of that, you can also decide to have the voicework in English or Japanese. These may not seem like a big deal, but there are very few games that have gone through this much rework to add a completely different way to experience the game.

The original game was a bit slow paced, and because of this feedback, a X2 and X4 battle speed multiplier has been added if you wish to utilize it. This allows you to complete battles much quicker, especially if you set your tactics for your team to automatically fight. For those that have already done everything in the game preciously, there are completely new Draconian Quest settings, allowing you to alter certain elements in the game itself, making for a much more challenging experience. And lastly, a photo mode was finally added, and while not the most robust one out there, is sufficient enough to snap some gorgeous landscapes and make poses with your party.

Set in the land of Erdrea, it’s said that the Luminary is the one who will save the world from its darkest hour from an evil unlike any other seen before. You, the hero of this tale, is the reincarnation of the Luminary, as you bear the mark on your skin. Many of the world don’t see him as a savior, but instead a threat, as if he exists, it means that the presence of the opposing evil does as well.

The Luminary ends up being thrown in jail after informing the King of his true self, as he wants to try and stop the prophecy from coming true. You meet a fellow cellmate named Erik who helps you escape, seemingly tied into your own fate. I don’t want to say much more about the narrative to avoid any spoilers, but it’s an epic journey that will see the Luminary and his group of memorable friends embark on an unforgettable adventure to uncover the mystery of his own fate while all intertwining in different ways. The main campaign will take you a few dozens of hours alone to beat, but with all the sidequests and extra things to do, you can easily spend more than a hundred hours in the world of Erdrea.

The world itself is quite vast, as each area has its own map, some large enough that you’ll want to utilize your horse for quicker travel. What makes Dragon Quest XI interesting is that battles with monsters aren’t simply random after a certain amount of steps, but instead, you see them visible as you explore, for most areas. Run into them, or them into you, and you’ll begin combat, or completely avoid them if you’re trying to get quickly from one point to the next. It should be noted that in 2D mode though, battles are randomized, due to not showing enemies on the map.

Like most JRPG’s, you’ll be adventuring, leveling up, learning new skills and gaining new gear along the way. Towns are vibrant, full of characters, shops, inns, hidden chests, collectables and quests from residents. Generally you’ll come to a town, get a few quests that send you to the next area and town, rinse and repeat until the credits roll. As you learn more about the main plot, you’ll eventually be able to sail the open seas and even fast travel to and from any campsite and town you’ve been to along the way, drastically reducing wasted time.

While you can purchase new armor, weapons and accessories from the shops, you’re also able to craft your own once you find the necessary blueprints and have the materials to do so. This forging of gear is like a mini-game though, as it’s not simply pressing a button and you magically have the item. Instead, you actually need to craft the item in a forge-like game, filling out bars to determine its quality with a set amount of action points. Become proficient enough at this and you’ll be able to create gear up to +3, adding some extra bonuses to their stats. Or if you just spent a ton of gold on a new item, you can use the forge to improve it to +3, as you can only purchase base items.

While I opted to not utilize any, there are a handful of Draconian Quests you can alter your gameplay with if you want a much more challenging experience. Turn on game changing options like No Fleeing From Battle, No Shopping, Much Stronger Enemies, and more. If you enable these and find it too annoying or challenging, you can turn them off at a save point, but won’t be able to re-enable them without starting a new game, so decide wisely and plan ahead.

Combat is done well and allows for some customization. You can enable traditional style combat with turn based battles, easy enough to learn and get the hand of, but can also utilize a pseudo real-time combat system where you can move your team around the battlefield as well. Defeat monsters and enemies and you’ll earn experience points to level up. Level up and you’ll earn Skill Points to unlock new abilities and bonuses stats. Luckily there really wasn’t all that much grinding that was needed for me to progress through, though if you get lucky and defeat metal slimes and bosses, you’ll net a ton of experience and usually gain a level each time.

The skill tree is basic in design, allowing you to see a grid of different abilities, choosing the ones you want to unlock as you save up enough points. These new skills are different for each character, allowing you to specialize in different ways based on your playstyle. For example, the Luminary can attack with swords or great swords, so if you prefer one over the other, then choose to spend skill points into the corresponding tree to improve those abilities more. Some also offer passive bonuses like extra stats, MP, and more. If you happen to end up not liking your build, you are able to respect your skill points, but for a gold cost.

Dragon Quest XI looked great at its initial launch, but Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition looks absolutely stunning in 4K 60fps on an Xbox Series X. The world is so bright and colorful, the characters designed with that signature Japanese style, and of course it’s Dragon Quest, so plenty of adorable slimes throughout as well. Changing zones and going in and out of battle was near instantaneous playing on an Xbox Series X installed on the internal drive, something that was a hinderance with its initial release on last generation consoles. Some of the vistas are absolutely amazing, and I made good use of the Photo Mode to capture some of these beautiful backdrops.

Nearly every line of dialogue is voiced as well, and the main characters are very memorable. The voice acting is done quite well, though the Luminary himself doesn’t speak that you ever hear, which can be a little jarring at first. The soundtrack is epic as you’d expect from a massive JRPG, especially the newly added orchestral version, and each track fits the mood and setting of what’s happening on screen perfectly.

Regardless if you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, Dragon Quest XI is the perfect game to experience what Dragon Quest is all about. Not only is Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition one of the best JRPG’s you’ll find on Xbox, but it’s actually in my top 5 of all time. Easy enough for new fans to get into but enough optional challenge for those that crave it, this Definitive Edition really does live up to its name and is the version I wish I originally played two years ago.

** Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.2 / 10


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