Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition (PS4) Review – Return of The Luminary
Dragon Quest XI S Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive EditionDecember 4th, 2020
If you're having deja moo overseeing the same weather-predicting cows from two years ago, you aren't alone. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is very much that same JRPG classic that was among my favorite RPG's back in 2018. Since then, Yuji Horii's signature JRPG entry has seen releases on PC along with an enhanced version on Nintendo Switch. It's all come full circle like the Wheel of Harma as those enhancements have returned to the Playstation 4 (and the first release on Xbox One) with the Definitive Edition of Dragon Quest XI S.
Calling Square-Enix's latest release by Dragon Quest XI S feels a bit strange, as this entry certainly isn't on the Nintendo Switch any longer. Instead, what players will be able to enjoy is a release that was first ported from PlayStation to Nintendo Switch, gussied up with some novel enhancements including the 2D mode from the yet-to-be-localized Nintendo 3DS release, a bit more story and accoutrements, and performance tweaks to help this Unreal Engine 4 port run on Nintendo's hybrid hardware.
To achieve the same level of performance on Nintendo Switch as on PlayStation 4, some concessions had to be made with Dragon Quest XI S. You're still getting the same solid 30 FPS framerates across all platforms but at the cost of reduced image quality and aliasing. Every head of hair or slime you come across is so jagged you could sharpen a Fizzle Foil. Draw distances are also massively reduced to the point where sometimes larger enemies might only pop in when you're moments away from charging into them while on horseback. It's strange to see the Definitive Edition of Dragon Quest XI S perform worse than the original PlayStation 4 release, but I was willing to concede to the graphical fidelity in exchange for the various quality of life changes.
Among the most obvious of changes come in the battle and crafting systems. Players can no change up the speed of the battle and fast forward through the standard routine of combat (you'll still watch actions play out, but it will skip most of the dialogue) and even speed up some of these actions, quite handy if you're grinding for metal slimes and don't want to sit through the same animations of Erik throwing his boomerangs around over and over.
As for crafting, the changes here are massive improvements in terms of convenience that otherwise plagued the Fun-Size Forge. Not only can players pop a squat and bust out their Forge at any time, but they won't have to venture very far to pick up more crafting materials. Now, players can pick up nearly every purchasable material while still in the crafting interface without having to run out to whatever merchant stocks pale pearls or gold bars. You'll still have to farm those crimsonite and cumulonimbough by hand, and other items like chronocrystals, which *are* purchasable from one of the final shops in the adventure, can't be bought from the crafting screen, but for all of the mundane materials that you'll burn through in the course of making everyone a sufficient number of status-resistant accessories, the convenience of being able to purchase it all from the same page you craft at is a wonderful quality of life change.
First introduced as a toggleable mode on Nintendo 3DS, players can experience the entirety of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is not only the standard 3D mode but also in a retro 2D mode from beginning to end. Some of the major cutscenes won't be acted out in 2D, instead of playing the prerendered CGI scenes at key moments (albeit without voice acting). There are a few strange oddities to playing the game in 2D mode, however. The player loses the ability to target individual enemies in a group during combat, and some side diversions aren't available to be discovered when playing in the retro mode. Weather-telling cows, some mini medals, and other minor collectibles (none of which are required in their entirety to unlock the platinum trophy) simply don't exist in 2D. Critical story moments also play out at a much faster clip, losing some of the nuances and subtle buildups that I found were paced wonderfully in the original 3D version.
Any time that you wish to swap from 2D to 3D and vice versa, the player must make a trip to any of the many churches throughout the land and pray for a change in perspective. That isn't without its own quirks, unfortunately. Rather than allowing the player to freely jump back and forth whenever they want, the player must first make a save and then choose a story moment to resume progress from. If you've already played through the opening of Cobblestone Tor in 3D and want to continue the adventure in 2D, unfortunately, you'll have to play through those opening minutes again.
Beat by story beat, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is 98% the same tale of the Luminary that you're already familiar with if you played the original PS4 release back in 2018. It wasn't until the game's first act came to a close roughly forty hours in that I saw something brand new in the narrative. To help bridge the gap in time and explain away some of the stranger plot points (such as just how Sylvando came to lead a troupe known as the Soldiers of Smile. These brief story vignettes let players take control of four of the Luminary's party members in their bite-sized adventures and helps to flesh out the gaps in the main story that were rather glaring plotholes in the original release. Sylvando's was the longest of the four vignettes due to being somewhat open-ended early on, but even that was roughly an hour-plus in length. The remaining three were more streamlined around about half an hour apiece. After all four are finished, the Hero is dropped back into play, with the story picking up in Nautica, just as in the original release.
Beyond the side stories added into this Definitive Edition, the other major addition is a brand new area known as Tockington. This 2D-only region of the world is home to the Tockles, the small ephemeral beings that show up throughout the story, typically to either wander around aimlessly or cause some sort of light hijinx. By discovering two dozen of these Tockles scattered throughout the world, players can learn passwords from them that unlock glimpses into previous Dragon Quest titles. Deep within the shrines of Tockington are ten tomes, one for each mainline Dragon Quest title, that offer short quests where the Luminary and his party can undertake quests to help out the villagers of those places and times. It's a very neat addition to XI S (it was previously in the 3DS release of Dragon Quest XI that was never localized, mind you) that helps bring together the Luminary's tale with the other heroes that have come before to save the world countless times. Some quests require the player to jump around between multiple timelines and tomes to complete, which adds in another layer of continuity throughout the Dragon Quest series.
For those trophy and achievement hunters out there, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is quite a bit harder than the original release. You'll still have to make it through all of the Disciple's Trials and Wheel of Harma battles, but the Tockington quests make it a bit more challenging. On top of that, Dragon Quest XI S features one of the hardest super bosses in the series' long-running challenge, and you'll need to overcome it to unlock the final costume piece for Jade. Even when rushing through Dragon Quest XI S for my second playthrough, I broke the seventy-hour mark and still spent another five to ten hours just grinding and preparing my party for this super boss fight. Was the reward worth it? Well, you decide for yourself.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is certainly the best way to play the Luminary's tale if you haven't picked it up before, with the numerous quality of life changes and the return of the 3DS' 2D adventure mode both great bits of refreshing the existing content. However, I couldn't find a reason to pick up the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One versions if you already picked up the same Definitive Edition last year on Nintendo Switch (unless you want to get the adventure for free on Xbox Game Pass). There's no bit of new content between the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 versions that might convince a player that waiting for this release was worth the wait.
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The quality of life changes, the return of an orchestral soundtrack, the new side stories and Tockington challenges all add up to make Dragon Quest XI S the best way to play this JRPG classic (as long as you mind the graphical downgrades), but with no new content that wasn't already added to last year's Nintendo Switch release, it's a tough sell for players that have already enjoyed the Luminary's adventure once or twice already.
- Refined and nostalgic turn-based RPG combat
- New side quests that will challenge the heartiest of DQ veterans
- Plenty of new costumes (and you don't have to wear the actual armor for the looks!)
- Play through the entire adventure in classic 2D or the modern 3D graphics
- Crafting is significantly streamlined with changes to the Fun-Size Forge
- Not a seamless transition between 3D and 2D modes
- No new content that wasn't already added to Nintendo Switch release of DQXI S
- One of the hardest superbosses in DQ history will gatekeep many players from 100% achievements
- CG cutscenes remove voice acting if playing in 2D mode