RPGs are filled with people players help or fight as their groups of heroes. As people go on journeys to make the world a better place by possibly defeating some sort of ultimate evil, there are incremental issues that add up along the way. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is the sort of game that does a good job of making people care about these moments that are minor road stops on the way to greater glory. The NPCs we encounter and situations faced are the sort that stick with you, even if they seem rather ordinary initially.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age sets itself up with an introduction that sets up the hero’s destiny, while also forging a connection with his hometown. We accompany Gemma and Sandy to perform a coming of age ceremony. This is a brief event, really more of a tutorial opportunity, but the game makes it feel like so much more. We connect with Gemma and see the established relationship, by watching how the duo relies on each other. She does not fight, but she does support and heal. We watch the hero use one of his Luminary gifts for the first time and realize his destiny. We see the town come together to see him off, giving him a horse that will prove useful for his entire journey. It suggests a childhood friend who could be something more, but does not force the idea early on. Rather, it offers an opportunity. It makes some early memories.
The themes continue once players head out into Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age’s world. After meeting Erik, the hero has to help him with some unfinished business with his former partner, Derk. We come into this introductory quest thinking Derk is a rat who betrayed Erik. An item the two stole is missing. It is easy to assume the worst. But once again, before we even really see the hero head out on his journey, we are surprised again. Meeting Derk reveals exactly why he took and sold the treasure, how he feels about Erik, and what he has been doing the entire time his friend was incarcerated. The quest chain leading up to this was somewhat suggestive, and I felt the outcome was pleasantly surprising.
In pretty much every major location you reach in Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, there is at least one notable person ready to make an impression. In Gondolia, the quest line for the area is a bit more subdued. The son of Doge Rotondo, the big man in town, is suffering from an inexplicable affliction. We do not get to spend much time with the boy or Doge Rotondo at the beginning of the affair. Placido, the boy’s concerned best friend, is the one to plead his case. But aiding these two opens things up. Our hero is painted as a villain by the king of Heliodor and pursued for much of the game. Getting involved in the young boy’s plight both leaves the group prone and opens up an opportunity for the party upon the return to Gondolia.
A common thread with these Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age’s quests is introducing characters who play with possible expectations. Derk is one of them. Another comes up when players reach the town with the inevitable arena quest. Many RPGs have them. Your avatar ends up needing to compete in some sort of tournament to win a prize related to the quest or prove their worth. The Masked Martial Arts meet has us paired up with an NPC, facing lots of other colorful characters, in the hopes of winning a trophy necessary to advance the story. As we compete, we learn that every year, some competitors disappear. The way the quest initially proceeds, it suggests certain characters we have come to know as a result of the tournament could be in danger. The way the truth is handled offers resolution, while also gradually showing that paying attention to what is going on is important.
But the moment that really stuck with me is the Lonalulu storyline. Around the twenty hour mark or so, depending on how much you grind or how many sidequests you take, you will probably find yourself taking to Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age’s ocean for the first time. Instead of immediately heading on your way, a story quest will sidetrack you. A mermaid named Michelle needs your assistance. In addition to helping her being the right thing to do, it introduces you to what I think is one of the most touching memories from the game. We learn about Michelle’s past, as well as the life of a fisherman she met, saved, and loved. We see what life is like in a small town and how the relationship between these people from two different species influenced people’s mindsets. This is one of the more telegraphed storylines, where I suspect most people will see how things are going to play out, but it does not diminish the impact of the events and story being told.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a game that tries to get people to care about the people they meet and memories they make along the way. NPCs may not always be fully dimensional and fleshed out people and some of the scenarios are better than others, but on the whole they present us with events that sometimes can go differently than you would expect, evoke emotions, or bring in people that seem more notable than the usual NPCs found in RPGs. A lot is going on here, and I found myself hoping other people might enjoy and savor these segments as much as I do.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC. It is available on the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. A Nintendo Switch version is in development.