The TWRM GOTY 2018 Collab has begun! This special event consists of multiple writers making their best cases for their picks for GOTY 2018. Check out each article posted daily from the 1st through the 15th and listen to their points, then on January 16th you will have the opportunity to vote on which game you think should be crowned TWRM GOTY of 2018!
Dragon Quest XI
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Platform: PC, PS4
Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game
“The following is a contributor post by the Iron Mage.”
I have played some fantastic video games in 2018. I have also missed out on many, for which I daily inflict upon myself lashings and floggings. But I’m glad I got to play this one.
When I played Dragon Quest XI, I had just finished getting through the original trilogy of Dragon Quests I, II, and III (the first of which I’ve reviewed on TWRM!). While these entries brought a plethora of novel innovations to the RPG genre and to storytelling in general, they were marred by such obscure and downright vexing design decisions, that “getting through” them would be an apt descriptor, if not an understatement.
But one thing that I noticed was that each entry brought with it a definite improvement to the formula. It was clear that, with time and experience, the developers at Enix simply got better at designing games and writing stories.
So, when I entered into the world of Dragon Quest XI, I was hoping to find that over 30 years of experience making games would make for a naturally better product.
And it went above and far beyond my expectations.
Although it’s become a clichéd statement when describing Dragon Quest, it really is true that it’s the video game equivalent of comfort food. When you’re going into a game in the series, don’t expect to be challenged, or for your entire outlook on the frailty of the human condition to be tested. Don’t expect some mind-blowing mechanics or heavily nuanced tactical gameplay. What you should expect is to be thoroughly entertained, won over by the adorably cheesy Old English dialogue, or the absurdity of the story. Expect to just have fun.
The very foundation of the games are medieval European high fantasy stereotypes. I mean, it’s called “Dragon Quest,” for heaven’s sake. To some, this factor might be a mortal sin. However, I don’t think we should focus on whether a thing uses clichés or not—what matters is how those clichés are utilized or subverted.
Dragon Quest XI uses almost exclusively the tropes of medieval European sword and sorcery, yes, but it does so with a sort of self-awareness and charm that is nothing short of masterful. And that isn’t to say that it doesn’t also subvert your expectations and provide you with a plethora of clever plot twists, because it certainly does that too, in good abundance. What I’m trying to say is that it’s really good, and it doesn’t matter what surface-level aesthetics the game uses, because it’s just really dang good.
Something that sets DQXI apart from the other games in the series, as well as other JRPGs, is the lack of a need for grinding—in fact, I found it to be relatively easy until the endgame and post-game. My only complaint is the strange choice to not use real orchestral music for the soundtrack, even if it was fully recorded*, but nonetheless, you can’t go wrong here. If you’ve never played a Dragon Quest game before, this is the perfect entry point!
*There’s some controversy about Dragon Quest XI‘s soundtrack being all sequenced using MIDI and instrument samples rather than the real thing. Although it still sounds passable, the issue comes from the fact that Koichi Sugiyama, the franchise’s veteran composer, purposefully barred the game from having a real orchestral soundtrack because he wanted to sell more copies of the music outside of the game. Thankfully, a Steam mod for the PC version remedies this by replacing every track with its orchestral counterpart.
Regardless, play it! Thou shan’t regret it!
+ An excellent story, boasting some of the series’ most intriguing plot twists and occasionally tear-jerking moments.
+ I have spent more time in the game’s casino than playing the actual story. The story took me about 50 hours to complete.
+ A wholly memorable cast of memorable and charming characters, each one having their own fully fleshed-out storyline.
+ A sizable post-game, tonnes of optional content.
+ It’s gorgeous!
+ Fantastic voice acting.
– The sequenced music might be a turnoff to some (though they are still high quality compositions!)
– The silent, emotionless protagonist can be a little bit awkwardly placed when every other character is so well-developed. Also, he looks like Trunks.
The Iron Mage, in his natural habitat, is commonly found wielding his weapon of choice: his 8-string guitar. He is fascinated with studying the arts and history through a critical lense, with focuses on new media and ancient literature. His YouTube channel showcases his dedication to writing challenging progressive rock and metal music, as well as experimental rearrangements of video game music.
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