The Dragon Quest series shares a lot of similarities with Monster Hunter. It's popular in Japan. Western players took a much longer road to figuring out why they like it. It sticks to the formula and it has specific idiosyncrasies. Turn-based combat, saving in churches, slimes, stupid hair, British accents and music brought to you by a war crime denialist. It’s all there.

In Dragon Quest XI, you play as the non-descript Luminary (another way of saying "The Chosen One"), who is the only one who can save the world from the Dark Lord. The twist is that instead of offering aid on your journey, the big kingdom you first visit has marked you as the Darkspawn, thrown you in jail and razed your hometown. Figuring out why that is forms the thrust of a mystery narrative that doesn’t so much develop as dangle on the end of a very long stick leading you through a series of fun mini-arcs as you gather new party members and macguffins. Merely getting the platinum trophy for Spider Man didn’t take as much time as this game will during just the critical path.

The presentation of Dragon Quest XI is basically what would happen if Square Enix of 2018 made a PS2-style game, with all the weirdness that implies. If the game doesn’t have its characters and camera stand stock still while dialogue scenes play out, it’s having them do elaborately animated fight scenes with far more dramatic editing and cinematography. Of a similarly mixed quality is the music, which is all MIDI, and not orchestrated like one might expect out of Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts.

The combat and general game flow is only marginally different compared to how it worked in Dragon Quest VIII, the last console entry released in the West. Perfectly vanilla turn-based combat all the way down. The animations are quick and snappy while managing to convey character and charm. A new detail that drastically changes how spell-casting characters work is a skill that lets them steal magic points with staff attacks, giving the player license to throw their cool spells around more liberally than they might have in other games.

One thing that hasn’t changed at all, an element that could be felt in the Dynasty Warriors spin off is the equipment grind. See, keeping your party on the appropriate level for whatever part of the game you’re doing is easy enough. Keeping them equipped for those same parts is far more expensive, and the game is as stingy with gold coins as Mr. Krabs. To try and alleviate this, there’s a small crafting mini-game you can play to create and upgrade that equipment, but to use it effectively requires either omniscience or a page open at the wiki.

While it makes a more effective throwback to the heyday of JRPGs, more so than even Bravely Default in my opinion, it is still an insistently formulaic Dragon Quest game, except now it’s conventionally attractive and on a console. I’d suggest picking up a cheap copy of Dragon Quest VIII on 3DS, just so you can know if this is your jam or not. Pending any further drastic changes in my opinion, I’d say Dragon Quest XI is worth $45 max.

Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Logan know by emailing him at

Comments powered by Disqus