THIS JOURNAL IS SURROUNDED BY SPOILER SHARKS FOR DRAGONQUEST XI: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE. IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE GAME OR DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED, TURN AROUND AND LEAVE.
Hello, Internet. Welcome to Afterthoughts, the journal series where I talk about the current object of my obsession. Before I get into the meat of this entry, I haven't beaten the game just yet. I'm at the Final Boss, Second Round, which is close enough really. This will mostly be talking about certain aspects of the game, rather than the story itself. All I'll say in that regard is that the end of the first act and start of the second will give FF6 players a familiar vibe because Act 1 ends with the sundering of Yggdrasil, which leads to the party getting scattered, and you spend a good majority of Act 2 Putting the Band Back Together. So if we're all buckled in, let's get started.
DragonQuest XI was a game I was excited for when I first saw the trailer. Having played DQ8 multiple times on the PS2 and 3DS over the years, I was excited to explore a whole new world and story with Echoes of an Elusive Age and it did not disappoint. Everything was fresh, colorful, and the cast was top notch. It's a linear game but also has a pseudo-open world feel to it. Erdrea is one of the most interesting worlds I've been to in video games. All the major cities and towns take inspiration from many real-world locations but with a bit of a twist.
Some of the overworld locations have the aesthetic of a particular culture but the main town or city in it will have the aesthetic of another culture entirely. For instance, Gallopolis. It has a Greek-inspired name, Egyptian-inspired architecture, and a Middle Eastern-style government (sultanate). What makes it work is the real-world history and locations of Gallopolis's roots. Greece and Egypt have a history together and the Middle East is a stone's throw away from both of them. The cultural aesthetics weave together in such a way that it never seems out of place. About the only place that bucks this is Phnom Nohn (a play on the word phenomenon) where the town has a Chinese aesthetic but the region outside looks more in-line with Aztec ruins. Places like Puerto Valor, Sniflhiem and Angri-La took inspiration from singular locations in the real world. Puerto Valor is clearly Spain, Sniflheim is Scandinavia/Norway, and Angri-La is Tibet with the name being an obvious take on Shangri-La. Then you have the standard European-looking places like Heliodor and pre-destroyed Dundrasil where I couldn't tell you if we're looking at English or Germanic influences. Odds are the destroyed kingdom of Zwaardrust would've had a Germanic influence since the name looks like it could be German. We never do find out because the Kingdom was already destroyed before the game began. There are windmills in that region so it equally likely to be Dutch as well. Probably both, in the same vein as Gallopolis. Dundrasil is also hard to pinpoint since you only see the castle in its former glory during a flashback sequence.
The modge podge of different cultural influences is unlike anything I had seen before. It seems to turn what I've seen in DQ8 up to eleven and does so in the most natural way possible. Some of the places even used language in a gimmicky way and it helped enhanced an already-impressive world. Hotto's people, for instance, spoke only in haiku. Nautica, an undersea mermaid kingdom, had their residents speaking in rhyme. Puerto Valor threw in a ton of Spanish. For someone like me, this was super exciting.
Now, characters. I love the entire party but I want to talk about my favorite overall. My favorite character in the entire party happens to be Hendrik and he doubles as my Marcello figure, meaning the moment I saw him, I was intrigued much like I was when I saw Marcello for the first time. This dude is awesome. He hits like a fucking tank with many of his Greatsword Abilities and tanks a lot of damage from enemies as well. He's the perfect meatshield. He and his counterpart, Jasper, both invoke the opposing tropes of Dark is Not Evil and Light is Not Good both in mannerisms and armor sets. Hendrik wore black armor and Jasper wore white.
Hendrik starts off as an enemy but you'd have to try really hard to see him as an evil character, black armor notwithstanding. He was definitely characterized as a misguided knight and he carries that vibe all the way through the first act. He only hunts you because he truly believes the words of his king that you, the Luminary, are the Darkspawn. Even when he's opposing you, I never saw anything remotely malicious in anything he did. He just wanted to protect Heliodor, like a true knight. Jasper's a Smug Snake and got progressively worse over the course of the story, ultimately becoming the Dragon to the Big Bad. That said, Jasper's not without a sympathetic reason to be the way he is. He's not evil for evil's sake. He felt overshadowed and outdone by Hendrik, his childhood best friend, and turned bad out of sheer envy. He didn't realize until the end that Hendrik felt like he was the one falling behind Jasper. Their game of opposites even reflects in their heights. Jasper's about the size of the average man while Hendrik easily towers over everyone not named King Carnelian. When it comes to his height and his black armor, he kind of reminds me of Golbez. He's no slouch in the looks department either. I'm a sucker for guys with broad backs.
I have only two dislikes. The first is the Fun-Size Forge. I prefer the Alchemy Pot from DQ8 because all you needed was the ingredients/materials and the recipes to make something and the pot did all the work. If you like to forge things with the mechanics in DQ11, that's good on you. I just like how the pot worked better because I didn't have worry about things like focus and knowing what kind of Bash to use so things I forged turned out good. You find materials all over the place in the overworld so I basically collected things to sell and build up funds to buy my party's weapons and armor. Collect enough things before you sell and you can make bank easily. My current plan before taking on the final boss's second form is to collect materials, make bank, get everyone up to snuff on their weapons and armor that I can buy, and simply level-grind for a while until I feel confident I can outlast him in his second form. It's the same thing I did when dealing with Rhapthorne. The other dislike is that some of the bosses (and lesser enemies in the late game) got to attack three times in a turn. And I thought bosses starting with Dhoulmagus attacking twice in a turn was cheap. Still, it was less a learning curve and more of an annoyance. I lost against a couple bosses because of that but always managed to beat them the second time around after grinding for two or three levels.
All in all, this game is well worth the money. Beautiful game, interesting plot, amazing characters, stunning locales...this game is getting up there with DragonQuest VIII and Skyrim as one of my all-time favorites. And I haven't beaten it yet, much less did any post-game things. I'm still laughing at the fact that the game gives you the means to fly via a flying whale named Cetacea. Well, stranger things have happened in video games.
And with that we're going to wrap up. Catch you all on the flipside and if you played this game, tell me what you thought.