Posted October 5, 2019 by Andrew Cathie in Feature

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive In More Than Name

Announced for the Nintendo NX back in 2016, before we even knew the name of the Nintendo Switch, the wait for Dragon Quest XI on the platform has been a long one. Having played through the game once before on Playstation 4 for review, I knew that spending another 100+ hours completing the game would take months. So instead, I’m here to tell you all about how the Dragon Quest XI experience has translated over to its Nintendo Switch counterpart, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, based on my currently incomplete playthrough of the new version.

When I published my original review, I spoke about how much I enjoyed the pacing of Dragon Quest XI’s story and the quality of its writing. As you can well imagine, the existing story of the Luminary and his trials and tribulations have translated over perfectly. Even a year on and a hundred hours of story later, the story is still engaging the second time through and effortlessly holding my attention. With the addition of new side stories focussed on expanding your party member’s stories, the story content at your fingertips has expanded even more, while continuing with the same high quality writing.

More story content means a longer overall playtime, which can make the investment required to see all Dragon Quest XI S has to offer even more daunting. Combating this are new optional faster battle speeds that keep the length of time you’re in combat to a minimum. You can practically fly through battles, and therefore what little requisite grinding is needed for the easy difficulty level of the game, giving you more time to experience the narrative. If you’re a new player to Dragon Quest XI, I highly recommend starting the game with Draconian Mode (a series of optional conditions to alter the difficulty of the game) activated. You can always turn these modifiers off whenever you want, but you’re unable to trigger them after starting the game unless you activated the mode prior to beginning your game. I particularly enjoyed having weaker enemy mods stop giving me experience, which also signals that you’re ready to progress to the next area/boss without any further grinding.

Something I loved about Dragon Quest XI when it originally released was how good the game looked, while staying utterly true to the series’ design roots. While I expected a drop in quality moving to the lower-powered Nintendo Switch, I was surprised at just how good the game looks. Textures and models still look detailed and are of high quality, while the lighting and shadow quality hasn’t particularly dropped. However, faces during cutscenes look a little weird at points. The real difference between versions comes from the game’s resolution, which drops low enough in handheld mode that facial features become hard to make out and lines become especially jagged, causing shimmering. However, a myriad of issues I faced on the PlayStation 4 version are nowhere to be seen in this version. I had the occasional issue with stuttering and frame dips on the original, which haven’t occurred once on Switch, while the loading times have actually improved in this version. Keep in mind that there have been many patches to the original version of the game since I last played it, so some of these issues have potentially been corrected on PlayStation 4 as well.

Something I was particularly keen to check out in Dragon Quest XI S was the new 16-bit 2D mode that was developed specifically for this version of the game. The 16-bit era was where I first began playing console RPGs, so I have a certain nostalgia for anything presented in that style. I initially expected to just see the exact same areas represented in a simpler style than its 3D counterpart, but the 2D mode features completely new and different map designs and gameplay, while remaining recognisable as the same game. Areas are altered to better fit the 2D style, while battles are now randomly encountered and presented in the first-person style of classic Dragon Quest games. The level of work that went into creating this mode is easy to see, but while the promise of swapping between 2D and 3D modes at any times is technically true, its implementation is somewhat frustrating. You’re able to change between modes at any Goddess Statue in the game (the same place you would save your game), however doing so requires that you restart your current chapter/section of the game. While this makes sense given the differences between the two modes, with there being no easy way to know when you have started a new section, it becomes frustrating to restart a section to change between them. Even if your items, levels and gilder (but not your skills) translate between them.

One of the, admittedly few, issues I had with the original release of Dragon Quest XI came in the form of its midi soundtrack. While I love a good bit of synth here and there, the soundtrack eventually wore on me and brought my enjoyment of the game down. With Dragon Quest XI S, this has been rectified with not one, but two orchestral soundtracks at your disposal. A new orchestral arrangement of the original soundtrack is available and it’s amazing to hear the music that became so familiar to me translated over into the new style. Everything is still recognisable from the original midis, which can be swapped to at any time, but you can also hear a new depth in the music through the increased range of instruments that wasn’t there before. Outside of battles you can also make use of Dragon Quest VIII’s orchestral soundtrack, which puts Dragon Quest XI’s field music to shame, giving you some additional variety to make use of.

I would say there are always some worries when an experience is translated from a higher-powered platform to a lower-powered one, but in the case of Dragon quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, those worries are unfounded. The game still looks utterly fantastic, the new orchestral score is a vast improvement on the original’s midi soundtrack and the myriad of content and quality of life additions add even more value into what was already a fantastic game. Whether you haven’t played Dragon Quest XI before or you’re looking to jump into another playthrough, this is the definitive version of the game.

Andrew Cathie

Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.