“Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” is the eleventh of “Dragon Quest”, a Japanese role-playing video game series published by Square Enix (formerly Enix) since 1986. The original version was released in Japan in 2017.
It was created by the same main staff as the past works: game design and scenario by Yuji Horii, character design by Akira Toriyama, and music by Koichi Sugiyama.
The previous work “Dragon Quest X Online” (2012) was a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) with real-time combat, while “XI” reverted to the original format of single-player RPG with turn-based combat, just like the past works from the first “Dragon Quest” (1986) to “Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies” (2009).
In 2017, the original version of the game achieved a perfect score (40/40) in the cross review of Japanese video game magazine “Famitsu”.
According to review aggregator website “Metacritic”, “XI” received “generally favorable reviews”.
By September 2020, the game had shipped over six million copies worldwide.
The original Japanese version “Dragon Quest XI Sugisarishi Toki o Motomete (In Search of Departed Time)” was released in Japan for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4 (PS4) in 2017.
The traditional Chinese version was released in Taiwan and Hong Kong for PS4 in the same year.
The international version “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age”, which was based on the original PS4 version and was localized for North America and Europe, was released for PS4 and Microsoft Windows (Steam) in 2018.
The Nintendo Switch port with additional new elements, “Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition -” (the Japanese title is “Dragon Quest XI Sugisarishi Toki o Motomete S”), which was based on the international version, was released worldwide in 2019.
“Definitive Edition” (“S”) was ported to PS4, Microsoft Windows/Steam, and Xbox One in 2020. It was also released on Google Stadia in 2021.
Key Features of Each Version
The Original Version
The PS4 version features high-precision and beautiful 3D graphics created by Unreal Engine 4, which include photorealistic background and cel-shaded characters with realistic figures.
In the 3DS version, players can freely switch between 3D (polygon graphics including characters with about three heads tall) and 2D (pixel art) modes.
The International Version
The international version includes texts in five languages (English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian). It also includes a lot of additional elements, such as voiced English dialogue, first-person camera option, and support for 4K resolution.
The protagonist can dash in the field.
New Draconian Quests (hard modes for advanced players), “Reduced Experience from Easy Fights” and “All Enemies Are Super Strong” were added.
The Definitive Edition (S)
Japanese character voice acting was added.
Players can switch between 3D and 2D graphic modes, original synthesized soundtrack and an orchestral version of the music, and English and Japanese voice acting.
Side stories for some party members, like interludes, were added.
The side-quests area (The World of Adventure Logs, Tickington), which had existed only in the 3DS version, was added as a retro style area with fully 2D graphics (pixel art) and NES-like BGM. In this area, players can visit the worlds of past DQ series.
Battle speed can be selected from among 3 levels: Normal, Fast and Ultra-Fast.
New monster mounts were added.
In the previous 3D mode, only the protagonist was visible while travelling on the field, but in the Definitive Edition, party members and any guest NPCs follow the protagonist.
The photo mode was added. You can take pictures with the party members wherever and whenever you like during your travels.
The Draconian Quest “No Fleeing from Battle” was deleted, and new Draconian Quests, “Super Shypox”, “Townsfolk Talk Tripe”, and “Party Wiped Out if Protagonist Perishes” were added.
With the “Outfits” options, you can alter only the looks (costumes) of the party members without changing their equipped gears.
The “super secret boss”, who appears after beating the secret boss, was added.
First-person camera option was deleted.
“Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” is an orthodox evolutionary form of the DQ series after “Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King” (2004), which was the first game in the series to introduce fully 3D graphics, and a masterpiece as sort of the culmination of the 30-year history of DQ series.
The scenario is well-crafted and compelling. It features a storyline like a historical mystery, in which the truth behind the legend about the Luminary of the previous generation is gradually revealed in parallel with the protagonist’s adventure.
Beginners also can enjoy the story without stress because the difficulty level as a game is not so high. You can also make it more difficult by using Draconian Mode options.
Though you can enjoy playing “XI” without any prior knowledge, it features a lot of references and homages to the past works because it is the 30th anniversary title of the series.
Old DQ players will enjoy nostalgic atmospheres of the past DQ series in the sidequests of Tickington.
Though unfortunately the graphics quality of the Definitive Edition was degraded as compared with the original PS4 version and the international version because it was rearranged to suit the specs of the Nintendo Switch, the character voice acting and grand orchestral music make it more realistic and immersive.
“XI” is an old-fashioned single-player RPG that inherited the traditional system of DQ series, such as non-real-time turn-based combat and the experience level system. However, the players can enjoy the essential fun of DQ series — “the players identify with the protagonist, and experience events within the game” — to the fullest with its beautiful graphics, vast field, attractive characters, immersive story, and emotional music.
The main story of “XI” consists of three parts: Act 1 (16 Years After), Act 2 (After the Catastrophe), and Act 3 (After Going Back in Time).
There are pros and cons of the story development of Act 3, in which the protagonist goes back in time and tries altering the history in order to prevent a tragedy.
Some people may feel Act 3 to be superfluous because the story seems to be completed in Act 2.
The story development of Act 3 seems to reflect the Japanese people’s sentiment after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, i.e., a desire to deny a disaster actually happened and to pretend that nothing happened, just like Makoto Shinkai’s anime film “Your Name.” (2016).
However, the story development of Act 3 is interesting like an alternative history science fiction, in which the mythology of Luminary is recreated after the protagonist alters the past, and the world of “XI” is connected to the first three works of the DQ series, called the “Erdrick (“Loto” in the Japanese versions) Trilogy”.
Synopsis (Spoiler Alert)
The story is set in Erdrea, a world created by the world tree Yggdrasil.
16 years ago, in the Kingdom of Dundrasil, the queen gave birth to a baby boy (the protagonist) with a mysterious mark on his left hand.
The kingdom is attacked by an army of monsters. The queen leaves her baby to the princess of the Kingdom of Heliodor. The princess escapes, carrying the baby, but she is caught by monsters and falls into a river, parting with the baby. The kingdom is destroyed by monsters.
The baby is found floating down a river by an old man named Chalky in the village of Cobblestone. The protagonist is adopted by Chalky’s daughter Amber and raised in the village.
16 Years After (Act 1)
After the protagonist’s coming-of-age ceremony, Amber tells him that he is the reincarnation of the “Luminary”, a legendary hero. She tells him to meet the King of Heliodor. The protagonist visits the Castle of Heliodor, but the king accuses him of being the “Darkspawn” and throws him into the dungeons.
The protagonist meets a young thief named Erik in the dungeons. They escape from the dungeons, and they are chased by Hendrik, a champion knight of the Kingdom of Heliodor.
The protagonist and Erik meet twin sisters of mages from the land of Arboria, Veronica and Serena. Hearing from the sisters about Yggdrasil, which has the power to beat off darkness, they embark on a journey to Yggdrasil with the sisters.
On their journey in quest of Yggdrasil, they gain three other companions: Sylvando, a traveling entertainer, Jade, a martial artist, and Rab, a mysterious old man.
The party eventually arrives at Yggdrasil in the sky, where the protagonist tries to take the Sword of Light, which has been sealed in Yggdrasil.
Then, the King of Heliodor, who is possessed by an evil sorcerer Mordegon, appears with his retainers, strategist Jasper and Hendrik. Jasper, who is a subordinate of Mordegon, attacks and subdues the protagonist’s party and Hendrik.
Mordegon comes out from the king’s body. He seizes the Sword of Light and changes it into the Sword of Shadows. He absorbs the power of Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil falls from the sky, and the world plunges into an age of darkness.
After the Catastrophe (Act 2)
After the fall of Yggdrasil, the protagonist finds he is in the undersea mermaid kingdom for some reason, being separated from his companions. Hearing from Queen Marina of the kingdom about the devastation of the world, he decides to embark on a journey again to defeat Mordegon.
The protagonist returns to Cobblestone, which has been semi-fortified as “The Last Bastion” by the Heliodor soldiers led by the king and Hendrik. Hendrik makes peace with the protagonist, and he goes with the protagonist on his journey.
The protagonist reunites with the rest of the party, but in the land of Arboria, he finds that Veronica died saving her companions during the fall of Yggdrasil.
The protagonist’s party forges a new Sword of Light, and they defeat Jasper and Mordegon in Fortress of Fear. Yggdrasil regains the power, and the world becomes filled with light again.
After that, the party visits “the Tower of Lost Time”, where they hear from the Timekeeper about the means to bring Veronica back. The Timekeeper tells them that only the protagonist will be able to save Veronica’s life if he goes back in time and defeats Mordegon before he seizes the Sword of Light. After saying goodbye to his companions, the protagonist goes back in time.
After Going Back in Time (Act 3)
The protagonist returns to the time just before the fall of Yggdrasil, and he reunites with his companions, including Veronica, in the land of Arboria. He climbs Yggdrasil again with his companions. He beats Jasper and gets the Sword of Light.
In the Castle of Heliodor, the party beats Mordegon, who had possessed the king, in cooperation with Hendrik. However, Calasmos, a new enemy called “The Dark One” is resurrected. The protagonist and his companions take on Calasmos in a final showdown.