'Dragon Quest XI' Is A Blockbuster Game That Doesn't Deliver


#1

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age is weighed down by history. After all, it is the most recent entry in a franchise that has been going since 1986, and that’s a lot of time to build up a reputation as being a certain kind of game. And, to the relief of many people who care about what the Dragon Quest games do in their bulk, Dragon Quest XI doesn’t break a lot of molds. It is a turn-based RPG with a big, epic story that follows all of the plot and gameplay movements that anyone familiar with the franchise, or even the genre, can see coming from a mile away. The eleventh Dragon Quest is a blockbuster that takes few risks, doubles down on what it believes works, and makes sure you’re as comfortable as possible.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbjaem/dragon-quest-xi-review-a-blockbuster-game-that-doesnt-deliver

#2

There was not thought, no strategy, and certainly no real active consideration on my part of how I needed to upgrade my characters or what specific choices I needed to make in the fight. Levels solved the problem every time, so I just got a couple levels.

This is disappointing to me. One of my favorite games of all time is DQ IX. I loved the different classes and how multi-classing worked. It made it so you could really min-max characters, and take on tough bosses by skill and deliberation rather than just levels. I put over 300 hours into it my senior year of high school, and continued playing well into my freshman year at college.

I also think Persona 5 really changed how I view turn-based combat. It was engaging and difficult, and one wrong move could result in a tpko. I want more turn-based games like that, and less like what it appears Dragon Quest XI is doing. I’m probably going to cancel my preorder, because this game just isn’t going to be what I want it to be.

That being said, this is a great review. I’m just sad because this isn’t the game for me.


#3

It’s worth taking that quote with a huge grain of salt, since I haven’t seen it repeated anywhere else yet, and have in fact heard the exact opposite. There’s also the fact that his stated playtime is around half the average and his overall talking about rushing past things and listening to podcasts, and I think it’s fair to say he didn’t really dig into the combat system much. That said, it is worth noting that he not only was able to play the way he did but, apparently at least, also didn’t run into any real reason to consider doing otherwise coming from the game itself; so players might need to be more self-motivated to engage with this stuff than average, which is unfortunate.

Separate from that: I really appreciate the criticisms of its handling of sex and nationality. I haven’t seen it brought up elsewhere yet, and I like being warned since it’s such a pervasive problem in the genre that never fails to put a damper on whatever game it’s in. At least it sounds like there isn’t any straight up blatant homophobia – that led to me completely stopping Trails in the Sky, and contributed to me falling off Persona 5 and being as yet unable to pick it back up.


#4

It’s been really interesting seeing the reviews for this one come out. Quite a few people seem to have Cameron’s take on the game, that it’s overly beholden to a formula that has done little to evolve past it’s 30+ years of tradition, with a predictable story to boot. And then there are reviewers like Tim Rogers who are saying that it’s one of the greatest games ever made, period. The gulf seems pretty wide. I wonder why that is? Is it just nostalgia for the series, or does it speak to something broader?

For me, I’m still going to pick this up on launch day. While I am bummed that Cameron didn’t find it revolutionary in any way, to me Dragon Quest is a comfort game, pure and simple. There’s something about the combo of menu driven combat, the steady grind, the art, and the music that immediately warms my heart. The feeling of playing past games in this series is very much in line with drinking a warm cup of my favorite tea on a rainy day. Sure, I’ve drunk this tea before, and it’s overly familiar at this point, but it still eases me and puts a smile on my face.


#5

I’ve read a few reviews, and I think your second paragraph answers the first. Dragon Quest XI is by all accounts a huge and well-crafted cozy RPG. Cameron wanted a game that challenges and surprises the player, and this isn’t that game. Players who are looking to sink into an RPG like it’s an old couch that’s worn to fit you, well, I expect they’ll have a great time.


#6

I think that Cameron’s take on this is something that a lot of people will agree with. I also understand and recognize that it is a totally acceptable way to feel about the game. We all have different tastes, wants, and needs from our entertainment time.

As a counter point I would like to point you towards this PHENOMENALLY crafted video review from kotaku. It’s got me stoked for this game in a big way. I also think it is such a fantastic example of what a review can be. I encourage you to set aside 37 minutes to watch it!


#7

My take away from the reviews I’ve read is that if you like Dragon Quest you’ll like this. If you don’t, maybe you won’t.


#8

I’m someone who is still waiting to “get” Dragon Quest. I’ve put a little time into both VIII and IX and liked what I played well enough but they never really clicked with me like a lot of my favorite RPGs have. I’ve wondered if that’s because I have no nostalgia for the era of RPG that DQ was born from. It’s not really a secret that DQ has a lane and sticks to it. With the exception of like…Earthbound and Chrono Trigger I have really disliked pretty much every RPG I’ve attempted to play from the NES/SNES era. My toes curl whenever I see reviewers or critics still bring up FFVI in comparison to modern games. There’s just something about DQ that I really, really want to like though. The aesthetic, the “hang out” vibe(thank you Tim Rogers) really appeals to me. At the very least I just hope I have a good time with XI and understand more about the appeal the series has beyond it just being traditional.


#9

As a few people have said, I definitely think this is a game preaching a choir that has already decided that the game is “for them,” so that’s right on the money, but this specific comment about “cozy” is something I would hedge against because it’s only “cozy” if the ethnic caricatures and horny grandpas don’t interrupt your idea of “coziness.” This is sort of a subtle distinction, but it’s a point worth making I think.


#10

Good point about the criticisms of sex/ nationality. It shows that I have a long way to go in personal criticisms. I decided this game wasn’t for me based on gameplay, but not problematic content and tropes.

I totally understand where you’re coming from with Persona 5. For me it was bad, but I could overlook it (I’m privileged and I understand that). When I went to Persona 4 Golden, however, I was shocked. The homophobia, gay panic, and transphobia of that game was so off-putting that I can’t go back and finish it.


#11

Golden is actually the worse version because everything the game adds is actively awful, ESPECIALLY the epilogue.


#12

A few years ago, I tried playing FFVI because I kept seeing it brought up as an example of a well written game…I couldn’t take it. The dialogue and characterization was so flat and clumsy. I’d never begrudge anyone their enjoyment of it, but I would love to see more critical consideration of how some old games don’t hold up for modern audiences.


#13

Honestly, this is more due to the translation than the actual writing.

FFVI came out in a time where Square just did not give a fart about its western branches, leading to such nonsense like just not giving translation teams the actual script of the game. Often, the team had to completely play through and copy down text or reverse-engineer what they could in tight time restraints to get dialog in code, resulting in utter messes of scripts. This is why sentences all the way into PS1 era Square games already read strangely, and a lot of meaning and tone was completely lost.

The best example of this is the ridiculous scene in FFVIII where the time witch gives a speech to a cheering crowd that amounts to “MUAHAHA I AM EVIL” except that’s not at all what she was saying in the original script.

FFVI is kind of important because games on consoles at the time barely had stories. Like, when IV came out, it was revolutionary just because it had an actual narrative and script alongside graphics that actually looked like things. When VI released in 1994, nobody in console markets had ever really seen something with that much narrative (and it’s still a solid amount by today’s standards) or ambition, and the fact it managed to accomplish a good deal of what it set out to do, even in that butchered script, was kind of mind blowing.

Now why it’s still so badly translated in re-releases and updates is entire on Square Enix just not caring.

It’s not a thematically complex game (honestly Square is pretty bad about that with most of their games), but it has a great understanding of character and engaging the player. It is ridiculous for people to treat it still as some writing high benchmark (and boy oh boy it does not deserve that), but I think you’re not giving in the credit it really deserves.

FFVI literally changed how stories in games were handled. You can still learn a lot from examining what it does right, particularly the pacing of the first half and defining characters right away from their initial intro scene.

Guess I’m rambling at this point but I’m just saying that sometimes you gotta respect the classics.

But Chrono Trigger is legitimately written bad outside two party member side stories and is vastly overrated kthx


#14

I would definitely say that the GBA version of FFVI has a script that’s faaar better than the orginal SNES version.

That said, the real thing FFVI does better than most modern JRPGs (and certainly any game in the same franchise that came after) isn’t the script but rather the structure and pacing. The switch from the linear and momentous World of Balance to the melancholy and directionless World of Ruin (and the event that triggers the switch from one to the other) is easily one of my favourite pieces of game design and an excellent example of narrative, theming, atmosphere, and gameplay coming together into something greater than the sum of its parts.

It helps that the game is 40 hours. A bit of a behemoth compared to Chrono Trigger but incredibly brisk compared to Persona 4-5, Xenosaga, FF13, Bravely Default, etc.

A big part of its relative speed is that random battles take like 5-10 seconds because A) Combat animations that you see thousands of times are mercifully short, with even single-use summons being only a couple seconds at most, and B) the game understands that the purpose of enemies that can’t meaningfully hope to kill you is to raise the dramatic tension of the area as a whole by whittling you down and forcing you to spend resources, so monsters get in, land a couple hits, maybe inflict a status, and then die.


#15

Where does the homophobia of Trails come in? I’ve only played half of the first game and haven’t encountered it yet.


#16

I’d argue that the game completely falls apart in the world of ruin because the structure is thrown away for aimless wandering and side questing while trying to figure out how do make story happen again. It’s not a bad idea but the execution is botched.

Also the GBA version does have a better translation…but just barely. There’s still a lot of weird line structure, particularly Celes’ first scenes in the world of ruin segment, which came off as comical to me when I first reached them.


#17

Oh man, I really love the World of Ruin.

When I played Breath of the Wild last year, it reminded me more of the WoR than anything else.


#18

Yeah, Persona 5 wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen by any means, and it wasn’t the only reason I stopped playing. It was more just a reason to put down the controller for the night, followed by the story being in a huge lull and the writing getting endlessly repetitive leading to me just not feeling like picking back up again, till whoops, half a year has passed. I still want to go back to it at some point, though at this point I’m kinda holding out for a switch port.

Fwiw, I don’t think there was anything wrong with your reasons for potentially skipping it. The criticisms brought up in the review are good and valid but, I think, ultimately pretty minor, at least as described. I’m personally still planning on playing day one. Also for mostly mechanical reasons: a bunch of skill trees and a deep menu-based combat system, packaged in a colorful if simple adventure, are exactly what I could use right now.

@LoftyWords The introduction of Olivier is the specific scene I’m talking about. Like Persona 5, I’ll probably get back to it eventually, but in the moment it was enough to keep me from wanting to play anymore, especially with how early on it was and how many other minor but frequent things were bothering me already.


#19

Y’all wanna talk about a jrpg let down by its script, let’s talk about golden sun*

*we will talk for 50 minutes in an unskippable scene


#20

Yeah, this is more than a fair point. It’s something I feel like I’m going to have to contend with as I play through it. When the casual stereotyping and sexism popped up in past games, I was young and just saw it as bad voicework, bad writing. Now, not so much.