I’ve played Dragon Quest XI for about twelve hours now - or XII hours, in Dragon Questese - which is only a fraction of the whole thing, but a fraction is enough to offer some first impressions. That said, a first impression of Dragon Quest XI is rather like meeting a new member of a family you’re already well acquainted with. It may be the first mainline game on PC, but there’s X of the things on other platforms and the founding fathers of the series have made it their mission to change as little as possible; a point of both admiration and criticism.
That said, and as expected, it's a beauty of a JRPG where, aside from a free camera mode in battle and horse riding, not much has changed at all. Which is totally fine by me. In the words of A Pop Band, At Some Point, Probably: ‘I love you Dragon Quest XI, just the way you are.’
Its open world is a gentle one, where moseying about is kind of mandatory. Quests don’t so much push you towards the next goal but kindly motion in its general direction with a smile and some adorable little observation. The difficulty curve is so gentle it’s more of a difficulty plane, and the lightest of roleplay elements, like crafting at the fun-size forge or tinkering in the character builder, make for a very pleasant time.
Visiting Erdrea, Slimes, Bunnicorns and all, is like a charming vacation. And Lordy, is the destination pretty. I’m talking, can’t take my eyes of the screen, “AROOGA”, pretty. But more than the environmental designs, which are pretty fun (one town is a bizarre mix of Italy and Egypt), it is the colour palette that continues to blow my mind. Everything falls closer to the gummy sweet end of the color spectrum, where the strawberry laces and E Numbers live, and so everything pops from the screen until your eyes are sick on the stuff. But, y’know, in a good way...
You could even gobble up the characters, they are so adorable (and resemble the kinds of squishy toys you’d get in a Japanese vending machine).
Games too often fuss about with realism, which pretty much boils down to mud physics, grime, and general unhappiness - and in open worlds, too. I'm looking at you Fallout. It’s rare to see scale used to bring something this broad, vibrant and inviting to life, and it’s a refreshing change. From Volcanic Steam Baths to Race Tracks, little humdrum towns and wide open fields, Erdrea is a place I’m already excited to revisit (and will be, every spare minute I have this week).
I’ll be playing much more of this game over the next few days so expect a comprehensive video soon. Until then why don’t you feast your eyes on my recent playthrough for the RPS YouTube channel, below!