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Game Info:

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
Release date: September 4, 2018
Available on: PS4, Windows
Genre: RPG
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy violence, mild blood, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, crude humor, simulated gambling
Price: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Square Enix for sending us this game to review!

I’ve been playing and enjoying Dragon Quest RPGs since they were called Dragon Warrior on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Each title has its own unique story and characters, so you don’t need to be familiar with the other entries to enjoy this one. Though the visuals are top notch, I appreciated the throwback sound effects and familiar tunes from the previous games. I did install and highly recommend the free orchestral mod that replaces the MIDI-like sound files with symphonic renditions that add much more depth and quality to an already amazing soundtrack.

In Dragon Quest XI your character is the luminary, a reincarnated hero destined to protect the life-giving tree, Yggdrasil, from the upcoming evil threat. The game begins with your character being born with a mysterious symbol on his hand that confirms his identity and marks him as a target to the forces of evil. When his hometown is destroyed by hordes of monsters, he escapes Moses-style by being placed in a floating bassinet and sent downriver. He is raised by some kind villagers and they inform him of his destiny after completing the coming of age ritual of climbing Tor’s summit.

While exploring Tor, you’ll learn the basic controls and battle mechanics. Though keyboard and mouse are supported, I preferred playing with a gamepad since the button mappings are easier to navigate with it. The luminary’s childhood friend, Gemma, accompanies him since she is the same age and must also complete the ritual. When a character who is not part of your party tags along, they seem to have infinite health and the means to restore your health and magic points indefinitely. They’re certainly nice to have around! Once a person officially joins your party you have full control of their inventory and skill tree abilities. You can have up to four active party members and can swap them out mid-battle as long as they don’t have a petrifying status aliment. Some battles continue on if the luminary dies, but in others it’s an instant game over.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Beautiful visuals; excellent voice acting; well-balanced gameplay and good level design; lots of side quests; multiple endings
Weak Points: No magic point (MP) conserving fighting style
Moral Warnings: Combat violence and cold-blooded murder; references to reincarnation; language (h*ll, d*mn); tobacco and alcohol consumption; gambling is required to progress the main story; revealing clothing; sexual references and girly magazines

The default battle behavior is for the party members to “Fight Wisely,” and this mode works pretty well. Characters set to it are good at boosting, removing ailments from and healing others in need as well as using their own powerful attacks. My only complaint about this mode is that my party members would often run out of magic from spamming their most powerful and magic point (MP) consuming attacks. There is a setting for “No Magic Use,” but a magic conserving setting would have been nice to see. Of course, there is the “Follow Orders” mode where you have full control of each of their actions. I only used this mode for boss battles and let the AI handle the smaller fights.

Each of your party members has a unique personality and a backstory to them that gives them some depth and quests to complete. Every party member has different attributes they specialize in, and they can be equipped with various weapon configurations. Your first friend is a thief named Erik, and he can wield knives, swords, and boomerangs. Whatever weapon you equip on each person, you should also max out the abilities in their skill tree to unlock helpful special moves and related stat boosts. With every level gained, attributes are automatically adjusted, and skill points become available for spending on the skill tree.

There are many amazing abilities that you can unlock for party members. Many of them have a dual wielding option which lowers defense by not being able to equip a shield, but the offensive gain is a worthwhile tradeoff. There are some unlockable stat boosts that increase base health, magic, and attack power (when wielding a specific weapon type). Plus, somewhere in each character’s skill tree is a hidden stash of free skill points when unlocking a random skill.

When going into a big battle, it’s highly recommended that at least one of your party members has the magic ability or items on hand to replenish health for injured teammates. I learned the hard way that items placed in the “Item Box” are not accessible in battle. There is a tactic for setting your healer to “Focus on Healing.” Having a buffer and a person capable of removing status ailments is helpful as well. In the event that your party gets wiped out, you can restore your progress from the last auto save or manual save. The save points are plentiful, and I didn’t lose much progress when dying.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 62%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

Like previous Dragon Quest/Warrior titles, certain metallic enemies are very skittish and agile, but if you beat them, you’ll get a boatload of experience. Metal slime kings and handy hands can give you more experience than most bosses. It’s worth adding the metal slash skill if you plan on grinding on metallic foes. Thankfully, I found this game well balanced and not requiring too much grinding.

Along with the main story, there are several side quests to keep you busy for quite some time. I saw the first ending after forty-two hours, and there’s an alternative ending available for those willing to complete a new post-game story arc. Some of the side quests are funny and often have good rewards for completing them. There are some love-based ones, and I liked the one titled “Put a ring on it” that had me forge a gold wedding ring for a villager. The ability to create your own weapons and armor from recipes is quite powerful.

Be sure to explore all of the villagers' houses and read books in the bookshelves to learn how to make new items. It also pays to open up their dressers and take whatever clothes you find in there. I found it funny that I was able to take stuff and break pottery in their house without much of a fuss.

Aside from “borrowing” items from people, there are other moral concerns to address in this game. There’s an old man in your party who gets caught multiple times with a girly magazine. Some villages have girls offering the main character a “Puff Puff.” While not explicit, it does seem sexual in nature and according to many fans it’s referring to placing the character’s face between their bosom. After one Puff Puff service, it implied that makeup was applied to the main character. One of the male party members is rather flamboyant but nothing is confirmed in that department. Erik cusses a bit, but it doesn’t get much worse than d*mmit. Some characters are seen drinking and smoking. Many towns have a tavern and a couple of them have casinos. Gambling is required to complete the main story, but thankfully, the tokens are free in this particular casino.

Though there are many moral concerns, there are some good moral values being promoted in this game. While some party members are driven by revenge, others learn about forgiveness on their journey. Another lesson taught is that a bad action is not canceled out because it is benefitting a wholesome cause.

In the end, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a beautiful game that I recommend to any Dragon Warrior/Quest fan. It’s well designed, balanced, and fun to play. The characters are likable and the story is good. I look forward to completing the post-game content as time permits. If you’re not comfortable with the reincarnation references or other moral issues, you may want to pass on this one.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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