Dragon Quest XI PAX East 2018 Preview: Square Enix Goes the Extra Mile with Western Release
At PAX East 2018, we learned a lot about some of the changes and new features coming to the Western release of Dragon Quest XI. It’ll be the first mainline game to get an international console release in over 10 years, which is a pretty big deal. Although the Dragon Quest series usually gets a Western PlayStation or Nintendo console release, that was unfortunately not the case for Dragon Quest X. But it appears that Square Enix is returning to business as usual in a big way.
Dragon Quest XI will include complete English voice-overs, a feature that wasn’t even part of its Japanese release. It’s perfect for people who aren’t all that excited about reading pages and pages of dialogue in a game, but for those who enjoy a more traditional JRPG experience, such as myself, there is the option to skip past the narration or turn it off. There’s also a revised Draconian Quest mode where players can customize the level of difficulty in their game experience by turning certain useful game features on and off.
The art style of Dragon Quest XI is a stunning blend of cell shading and photorealism. Both the menus and UI got a complete overhaul, possessing a style similar to that of Dragon Quest XIII. It will be the first-ever game in the series to get a PC port. As with many of the features Square Enix has added for its Western release, the PC version of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age won’t be a copy and paste job. It will offer native 4K support along with other features and settings that won’t be available on console.
We did get to see some gameplay from Dragon Quest XI at PAX East 2018, so proceed with caution since there are mild spoilers ahead.
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In the demo, the game begins in the town of Cobblestone, where you’ll discover that you are a hero reborn, or a Luminary, from a legend long past. When you come of age, you must leave the safe confines of your home to pay a visit to the king and tell him who you are.
Prior to leaving town, you are gifted a horse, and then you head into the overworld. The overworld is an explorable area on the map that connects you to the various locations in Dragon Quest XI. The addition of a horse makes long-distance travel less burdensome, with most actions, such as jumping into combat and interacting with items, easily executed from on top of your horse.
In the overworld, there are monsters scattered throughout. Combat is still traditional turn-based (YAY!), but there are no longer random battles, only encounters. Monsters chase or run away from you depending on your level. Battles can be completely avoided by pressing dash on your horse and booping enemies out of the way. There’s no experience gained from doing this, but it’s convenient and pretty fun.
There is a new battle mode to explore called Free-Form Fighting. This lets players run around the battle area and attack from whichever angle they’d like. This doesn’t have an impact on damage dealt or anything, but it’s still a pretty cool feature to explore.
During long trips, you and your party can rest at campsites. It’s worth mentioning that there is a day and night cycle in Dragon Quest XI that can change the behavior of some NPCs and monsters on the map. While resting at camp, you can talk to party members and buy/sell items at the shop. There’s also an option to equip gear in the shop, which is a very thoughtful add-on that reduces menu toggling.
It’s clear that exploring in the overworld (and anywhere else, for that matter) is highly recommended. The best part about it is that players need not worry about venturing too far since you can no longer explore areas outside of your level range. We did see that there are small, ghostly figures hidden throughout called the Spirits of Lost Time, but after inquiring further, we were told that we’ll have to wait to find out more about them.
Similar in style to the Final Fantasy games, Dragon Quest XI is a standalone experience, so anyone can play it without being familiar with the story of any previous installments. There are, however, throwbacks sprinkled throughout that will be recognizable to fans of the series. The game is about 95 hours long with all 3 endings, not including any of the side quests. It’s due to release as a complete experience, meaning there will be no DLC, on September 4, 2018, on PS4 and Steam.