For Those About To Dragon Quest

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I’m really happy about the Switch version of Dragon Quest 11, because despite the PS4/PC release almost a year ago, this is the first time I’ve seen genuine hype for the game. It’s weird to think of an RPG institution like Dragon Quest as an underdog game that people sleep on, but in this case it really took a Smash Brothers appearance for people to care.

And they should: Dragon Quest 11 is a classical, elegant, and utterly charming JRPG that is well worth the large time investment it calls for. I’ve already finished the PS4 version, and I thought that people considering the Switch version might want a few nudges (but no spoilers) about what they can expect.

First up, I’m going to say “one hundred hours” to you. Dragon Quest XI will take one hundred hours to fully complete. It’s not a game you can rush. There’s a strong story motivation to do *everything*, so you can’t cut corners either.

But the pace is brisk. Like many Dragon Quests and JRPGs in general, you can chop the journey up into story beats and side quests that take an hour or two at the longest to complete. It’s a session game, perfect for the Switch. Sit down with it for an hour, explore, and you’ll definitely take a gratifying step forward. Just accept that you’ll be there for a while. Take it in. Enjoy it. Dragon Quest 11 can be strict, but it’s friendly, fair, and pays off on every bit of effort you give it.

And if you feel burnt out, stop for a while. I took a break of several months before I started the endgame, and came at it completely refreshed, ready to love the game all over again. (This game has built-in reminders, so you’ll never have the RPG “I forgot what to do” problem.)

Friends have asked me how the experience grind was. Dragon Quest 11 has a sliding, natural difficulty curve that depends entirely on how you decide to play it.

If you want Dragon Quest 11 to be easy, you can make it easy. Fight a lot of monsters. Take advantage of the sub-quests. Abuse the casino. Power-level to 99.

But if you want the game to be hard, you can rush it. Random encounters are effectively optional. You can fight a bare minimum of monsters, level up just a little, and fight the boss in hard mode. It’s really up to you.

Just be advised that overall, you’ll be fighting monsters more often than in other RPGs.

There comes a point in the game, far, far in, where it takes off the training wheels. You’ll know when you’re there, because rather than being directly told where to go and what to do, you’ll have to explore, talk to people, and figure everything out yourself. Bosses are significantly stronger and require real strategies to defeat, regardless of your level. And unless you’re at a high level to begin with the bosses will one-hit you, so the game starts to focus on experience grinding and hunting down the best gear for your party.

Unless you’re particularly stubborn, I recommend using guides and Googling the quests if you ever feel the least bit stumped. Many of these quests are deliberately cryptic, with a few being classic examples of “oh, didn’t you buy the strategy guide?” JRPG design. More than once I found I had wasted an hour by guessing wrong and winding up in the wrong place due to cryptic instructions. It sucks to waste an hour in a game a hundred-plus hours long.

Dragon Quest 11 is the “we dare you to finish it!” mega steak of JRPGs; if you attack this game too aggressively you’ll just burn out and get full. I’ve already said it, but take the game nice and easy, and search everything obsessively, and it’ll be good to you. Don’t even think about rushing to the end, because no matter what the story says, you aren’t close to it. Enjoy the beautiful world, the goofy monsters, the warm characters, and the gentle twists and turns of the plot. This stuff is “classical” for a reason. I guarantee you won’t regret those hundred hours.

This story was supported by my Ko-fi patrons. Please consider donating if you enjoy the work.

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David Cabrera

Sooolar wind. Anime/games writer. Sometimes on @polygon? @Kawaiikochans is the sum of my efforts. Serious about stupid.