How Dragon Quest XI Brought Me Back to Gaming

This is it. This is the one. 

This is the game I’ve longed for without knowing it my whole life. Well, not  my whole life. There was a time when I didn’know videogames at all (because videogames –cough, cough– didn’t exist).  And then there were times — long stretches — when I didn’t play. Deserts. 

Dragon Quest XI is the game that brought me out of the desert. 

Dragon Quest is the franchise whose new releases cause so many Japanese to call in sick to work  that the government braces for a slump in the economy. (Or so I’ve heard. Maybe you’ve heard this too. But can it really be true? Would love if a Japanese person could visit here and clear this one up.) 

Now Eleven wasn’t my first Dragon Quest game. Years ago I played Dragon Quest IV on a DS borrowed from my daughter. Now while Four was good and entertaining, Eleven is brilliant and immersive.

Last spring, just as it was becoming apparent that quarantine was not going to be an easy-breezy two weeks to flatten the curve (y’all remember that one?) but might well last (as my innocent brain thought then) into summer, well just then I up and announced to my kiddos that mamma wanted to play a video game. Just like I always used to.

Just like I always used to when I owned a Super Nintendo. 

So my daughter Traveler (totally her real name, and her middle name is Videogame Matchmaker) said she would do game discovery research for me, and I should wait, not buy, just wait, don’t buy… and then suddenly it was Mother’s Day. And lo! Let the other mothers sport their rigatoni necklaces, let them water their pink carnations and drink from their Best Mom mugs. I got a six-week, all-expenses-paid vacation to beautiful Erdrea! (That’s the DQ11 world, y’all.) 

And Erdrea IS beautiful. And exciting and varied. And it is massive.

Dragon Quest XI is a turn-based fantasy RPG filled to the brim with cozy familiar goodness: you have your hero, your band of fast friends, your world in peril, your interesting dungeons, your confrontation with the forces of evil. 

And I found surprises and mysteries and quests everywhere, and there were backstories and side stories and hidden identities and twists and reversals of fortune, and more, in a story that spanned multiple locations and which unfolded over a hundred and twenty real-world hours. So what I’m trying to say is, this game is B.I.G. 

And the graphics are beautiful. 

And I befriended the best cast of characters I ever have met in any game.

Did I mention crafting? 

I have gushed enough. If you are a fan of classic RPGs, and haven’t played Dragon Quest XI, then I am speaking to you. Get out of your chair, put on some pants, and go buy this game. Or don’t get up, don’t get pants, and just download it directly to your chair. Because unlike when I played last year, the Definitive Edition is now available, you lucky scalawag! 

Now, listen. At the start of the game, you are asked to give a name to your silent hero. I am telling you this so that you go into this thing prepared. Don’t make my mistake. I, naturally wanting to BE the hero, gave the hero my name. I realized my mistake on the way up Cobblestone Tor, while protecting Gemma from the blue slimes, that Trailing Sleeves is a ridiculous name for a hero. So unless you want to restart your game, be ready at the gate with a name you can spend 120 hours with. If you take any advice from me today, let it be this. 

Trailing Sleeves gives this game 10 / 10 bowls of soup.

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