What makes Dragon Quest so Dragon Quest-y? For some, it may be the deliberate game design choices intentionally made to make a modern PS4 game feel like one on the SNES. For others, it is about the spirit of the tale, where a straightforward and true hero embarks upon their journey to defeat evil, no matter the odds. For me though, it is the monsters that connect the series together.
Having been introduced to the series through Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, while playing Dragon Quest XI what excited me most was the chance to see the monsters in their original context. I am a noob to the series, but the familiar monsters helped ease me into the main series gameplay.
Monsters in Dragon Quest 11 feel like they live in the world, instead of being roadblocks meant to be defeated. There are some that are nocturnal and can only be seen by passing the time, while others are sitting on a perch waiting to peck at any passing Hero. Furthermore, some just mind their own business and don’t react aggressively at all.
Sometimes, monster behaviors even carry over into battle. When fighting against a desert wyverndog during the day, they start off the encounter in slumber. Meanwhile, they can be seen prowling at night, where you don’t have the advantage. One in-game sidequest even forces you to fight it at night.
In dungeons and while traversing the world map from area to area, there are special glowing monsters that, when defeated, grant you the ability to ride them to progress in the dungeon, or explore for extra treasure chests and materials. It was surreal to see the main character becoming a Skullrider himself in order to scale the walls to reach the boss room.
Last of all, it’s just such a happy thing to see the goofiness that I loved about the monsters in Rocket Slime be fully present here. Bosses stand on one leg, for seemingly no reason other than to match up with its concept art. Monsters waddle over to attack you, then slowly waddle back to their original spot. Hoodlums have a defeat animation where they accidentally throw their axe, which hits them on the head to knock them out.
Most importantly though, Slimes are back in full, bouncy, HD glory. They are cute, and all is well with the world.
Dragon Quest XI is available in Japan for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS. The game releases in the West in 2018. A release has yet to be announced for the Nintendo Switch version.