The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Quarter Muncher: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Can they be called tropes of the genre when this series invented them?
Promotional art for the game. (Photo from Square Enix)

Editor’s Note: Quarter Muncher is a new gaming column at The Spectator, named after particularly difficult arcade games.

I have a genre-defining idea for the next big role-playing game.

The player is the chosen one and must save the world from a deep, dark magic that has more to it than meets the eye.

I know, I know. A bold, headstrong idea that will really shake up the industry.

In all seriousness, yes, that plot has been done to death in RPGs, but this week’s game, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, gets a pass because the Dragon Quest series made RPGs as we know them today.

Released in 2017 in Japan and 2018 worldwide, Dragon Quest XI (DQXI from here on out) sold well and was liked by critics. The main criticism against the game was that it felt like it didn’t innovate on the RPG conventions the series had worked so hard to establish.

DQXI has RPG trademarks, including turn-based combat, skill trees, swappable party members, a story that doesn’t make a lot of sense and obscure sidequests. Your party includes a thief, a child, an old man who loves porn mags and a flamboyant circus performer, among others. 

The plot of DQXI is pretty simple. As stated before, you are the chosen one. You can tell because everybody in the game looks at you and goes “Wow, the chosen one! Can you believe it?” You then have to go do whatever it is the chosen one does.

Gameplay-wise, you travel around the world visiting towns and fighting enemies. Standard RPG fare.

It seems like I’ve spent most of the time so far just reinforcing how DQXI is like other RPGs and not how it stands on its own. It’s a hard line to draw, as a lot of what is done well in this game is built on tropes of the role-playing genre.

For example, the combat encounters are done well. Gone are the days of random encounters surprising the player when they’re just trying to heal their party. Monsters are visible in the overworld, giving the player the choice to engage in combat or avoid them altogether.

Monsters usually just sit there until they see you, at which point they will either attack, run away, or do nothing. Just like real life.

Speaking of the monsters, they are unique and full of life. I could spend hours just looking at the game’s bestiary. The iconic Slime, Cruelcumber, Platypunk, Robber Rabbit, Succubat? Who comes up with these guys? I almost feel bad taking them out for experience points. Almost.

The music is also phenomenal. An epic orchestra underplays every action from leading a parade to praying at church (yes, these both happen in game. For those who aren’t convinced, check out DQXI’s take on the franchise’s main theme.)

While the dialogue is a weird mix between wacky and serious, I’m still not sold on the voice acting. It’s just too over the top for me at times. Middling voice acting is an RPG trope that I would like to see less of, personally.

It’s not bad, per se, but I struggle to call it good. I think it’s a directorial fault instead of a fault of the actors, but regardless, I finished the game twice and it hasn’t grown on me yet.

The characters are likable, but not lovable. I didn’t dislike any of the party members, but I don’t love any of them. Even my favorite character, the secret 8th party member whose identity is a spoiler, didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

As is yet another staple of modern RPGs, the game takes 80-100 hours to complete. Only invest if you have time.

All that said, if you love the foundations of the RPG genre, this game is for you. If you’re new to RPGs, give it a shot, even if the time investment seems scary at first. I give Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, 4/5 quarters.

Tolbert can be contacted at [email protected]. Join him on his quest to do whatever the Chosen One does.

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