Dragon Quest 11: A Game Lacking Innovation in the Best of Ways. Game Review

written by Robert Drake 

Dragon Quest 11 is a JRPG developed by Square Enix for Playstation 4. While it is the 11th entry in this 30 odd year old franchise it is also known for its variety of spin off games including their Dragon Quest Warrior games and Monster/Joker games. The latest main line game was a beloved hit in Japan and has finally made its way to the rest of the world after a long localization process.  While initial reviews seem extremely positive, it is important to note that outside of a few quality of life changes, the game feels extremely similar to previous entries and even its story in nothing particularly original yet it translates over so beautifully. Why does this game get away with it yet others suffer from their lack of new ideas?

            Innovation is considered one of the most important parts of any game that is moving forward within its own genre. New mechanics or reimagining of old ones allow for games to feel distinctly different despite being similar to another.  For instance, games such as Call of Duty and Overwatch both belong to the genre of First-Person Shooters but the way they play are quite different from how the base mechanics work, the realism attributed to the games themes, and even character design. Overwatch took much of what was already established in the genre and then mixed in element from MOBA games to create a Class based shooter system similar to that of Team Fortress 2.  It then changed how mobile characters could be, what kind of abilities they had comparative to TF2 to make its own distinct sort of experience. By creating an experience that is distinctly its own, Overwatch was able to solidify its self apart from competitors even though the basic mechanic of shooting and doing it from a first person perspective is hardly original.

            Call of Duty, a yearly franchise, is bemoaned by many gamers due ot the fact that each game distinctly the same. While it can be argued that in recent years the franchise has been doing well to change up the titles and how they feel by playing with genre elements and mobility, many gamers found themselves exhausted with the series due to how slow the innovation seemed to be coming considering how often new games were being released.  In other words, innovation is considered important for games that span such a long history. Sadly this makes it even more difficult to understand why Dragon Quest still gets away with this considering the series long history. Well let’s look into it.

Unlike Call of Duty that tried to hide how similar its games are with fresh coats of paint or setting changes, Dragon Quest almost boasts the fact that it is archaic in many of its features such as necessary inventory management between party members that could be streamlined with just making it one large inventory bag like most games, its turn-based battle system which has been a staple for the series since its inception, or even its tired story tropes of the Chosen Hero at birth whom shall save the world as told by an ancient prophecy from a Dark Lord. Dragon Quest takes these archaic or even over used pieces to create an experience that takes you back to times of old where you remember years ago sitting in front of your CRTV playing older titles such as the legendary Dragon Quest VIII.  This is seriously helped by the case that the last console release for a Dragon Quest game was in fact Dragon Quest VIII in 2004 and Dragon Quest IX being a DS release in 2009. Dragon Quest X instead was an MMO.  In essence, the space allotted between these releases allows for these parts of the game to feel fresh when by all means they are tired and mostly done away with by most companies.  

Dragon Quest takes these old and archaic elements and polishes them in such a way that only true master of the craft can.  The creators of this series shows that their practice with such elements and game play loops by making each part of this game far more polished and beautiful than many other AAA titles in recent memory.  This makes the experience one of the smoothest and enjoyable in recent memory which helps cover up so of its less than original story or even its rather standard combat design with so much heart and polish you cannot help but get sucked right into its world. 

            In many ways the game is an HD release of all the best parts of their previous games creating a “greatest hits” experience for old players to bask in and allowing for new players to experience the best pieces of one of gaming’s most legendary series to date. From the music, the characters, the mechanics, the humor, the art from legendary artist Akira Toriyama, it’s all there and it’s all undeniably Dragon Quest in its most pure form. Trust me when I say that after  it being gone for so long, everyone should experience it.

Pictures come from Steam, Andriodcenteral.com,and Eurogamer.com 

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