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Monday, October 21, 2019

I'm Extremely Impressed With The Dragon Quest XI S Demo

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Free, high-quality entertainment lasting as long as many whole games.

I admit, with all of the fantastic gaming experiences on the Nintendo Switch lately—with more to come—I can't and don't play everything I write about. That includes some of the not-so fantastic experiences.

That means when I come across something amazing—even belatedly so—I should write about that. Of course, the game I have in mind isn't a secret—and not just because you're fully capable of reading the article title, but also because it's fairly-well publicised.

During October, I played the 10–11 hour Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition demo, which is a ridiculously long title. We've had very advance notice of Dragon Quest XI coming to the Switch, all the way back in 2015 when it was called the Nintendo NX. And in August 2019, Square Enix released an eShop demo, which transfers your save file to the full version, released September 2019.

One of the biggest features the game has to offer is the ability to play the game in 3D, HD graphics... or 2D, 16-bit style. Unfortunately, the demo forces you to play it in 3D, despite trolling you with the 2D option: 

Otherwise, Dragon Quest XI S is a very, very traditional Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) experience, which is absolutely fine by me. Square Enix has taken their decades of experience making turn-based RPGs and has delivered one of the most refined masteries of a genre ever.

The demo defaults you to you directly controlling the protagonist (who you'll recognise as Hero/Luminary from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) and their actions and movement during battle, while party members act based on AI. The movement doesn't actually do anything besides make the battles seem more engaging. I turned it off, as well as assumed direct control over my party members. Full traditional experience. However, there aren't random battles. You can avoid most fights by just not going into contact with enemies in the overworld, and if you ride a mount like horse, you can just trample overworld enemies without battling them.

However, should you choose to engage in battles (and boss fights are mandatory so depriving yourself of all experience points isn't smart), Dragon Quest XI S offers several different paths (represented by a skill tree, with points obtained by leveling up) for each character. Different weapon choices, spell orientation, etc. These have trade-offs and seem fairly balanced. And there's all sorts of equipable items. Plus, you can forge your equipment and weapons to be even more powerful and sometimes have interesting special effects.

What really makes Dragon Quest XI S come together is the attention-to-detail. The scenarios in the demo range from inspiring to upsetting to heartwarming to comical. The cities and villages are packed with interesting lore and locals. Even stuff like there being no fall damage is canonically explained.

Dragon Quest XI S proper looker love blue hair Hotto village
Even more importantly, the villager girls not only think I'M interesting, but even deeply lovable.
Though I wonder how she knows about the player's hair colour.

The character design is impeccable. Everyone who reads KoopaTV should know by now that I'm enamoured by the Slime family. The demo fortunately features plenty of Slime. She-Slime, too.

Dragon Quest XI S Slime monster list monsterpedia description
Slimes are beloved by all, especially me. But that's not all...

No one told me there are cows in Dragon Quest. Not only are there cows, but they're adorable and incredibly smart. And they're into meteorology. (Or as I'd put it, mooteorology.) They're much better than humans are at telling what the weather will be like. If one of the cows told me that there'll be irreversible global warming in the next twelve years, I'd be much, much more likely to believe them than this consensus of loser humans that can't even get the weather right the next day.

Dragon Quest XI S cow weather rain The Manglegrove
(And you can tell by resting until various times of day/night to go through the day/night cycle,
which affects various things like monster appearances.)

The cows can also be pet, which is pretty much when I decided that I'll buy Dragon Quest XI S in a store.

The full version of the game has some customisable soundtracks in case you ever get tired of the overworld field theme, which I wasn't. The music is pretty solid, and I really like the main battle theme. I did find it odd that there's apparently no boss battle music, however. I must note that Square Enix really doesn't want any of the game's music on YouTube or streaming areas, though that's not why I set the music's audio to zero in the above video. That was to hear an uninterrupted “Moo!”

Anyway, very solid game. If you're one of those people that really want super-innovative gameplay in their RPGs, Dragon Quest XI S might not be for you—but you can try it anyway, since the demo is free and lengthy. May I suggest something like Ring Fit Adventure?

It sounds like Ludwig has a number of games to pick up the next time he goes to a gaming retail outlet, since there's no way he wants to get the game digitally. He fully expected to play Rocket Slime as his first Dragon Quest experience instead of a real Dragon Quest game, but it's obvious how well-put together the demo is, so he's absolutely convinced to play the whole thing.

Dragon Quest XI S has now released on non-Nintendo Switch consoles, and the awesome demo along with it.
Those cows are officially called weathercows, and Ludwig has met all of them.

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