Dragon Quest XI is out next week! It’s always an event when a Dragon Quest game comes out in Japan, but never quite so much here. We in the West have long been a gaming culture addicted to innovation and pushing limits, and thus a deliberately oldschool series of RPGs that’s barely changed since the mid-80s has never truly caught on.
Today was the day the embargo was lifted on reviews for Dragon Quest XI, and how the reviewers felt toward the game depended on their individual tastes. Jeffrey Parkin of Polygon was thoroughly bored with it. calling it “limited and fairly shallow” and remarking “its length raises a comparison between quantity and quality. Dragon Quest XI too often extols the virtues of the former at the expense of the latter.”
To that, IGN’s Jared Petty retorts, “Dragon Quest isn’t simple…it’s pure. I’ve been plugging away in Dragon Quest XI’s sprawling environments for well over 65 hours and I just want to keep going.” He called the battle system tense and full of surprises, which is something you don’t normally hear about a series known for playing tropes by the book.
Tim Rogers’ review for Kotaku is on a whole other level. He not only loves the game, he practically worships the game. If it were legal to marry Dragon Quest XI, you get the sense Rogers would do so. He seriously calls it the best game since Super Mario 3 (seriously, that’s what he says) and spends paragraphs cooing over details as minute as teacups. It’s one of the longest-winded, most enthusiastic, most AGGRESSIVELY positive reviews I’ve ever seen in my life.
Of course, Rogers has been a DQ fan since the mid-90s. “I’ve been obsessing over these games for thirty years,” he confesses early in his review. “I’ve played every entry in the series multiple times, seeing all of their possible endings, defeating all of their optional bosses. The games resonate with me on levels ranging from mathematical to sentimental.” Polygon’s Parkin comes across as someone who has only a passing interest in the entire genre, if that, and he admits as much: “It’s been a long time since I played a turn-based JRPG…”
What it all means is that this is the type of game that can’t really be graded in the traditional sense. How you feel about it depends on how you feel about the rest of them. Are you already a fan? You’ll go grape-nuts for it. Are you new to DQ, but enjoy JRPGs in general? You should like it. Are you unimpressed with JRPGs? Avoid. Do you barely know anything about JRPGs? Play a less expensive (but critically praised) game and decide for yourself, then apply those feelings to Dragon Quest XI.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age will be out for PS4 and PC September 4.