Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition is a re-release of Dragon Quest XI that’s based on the Switch version. It brings with it all the new content that was missing in the original Dragon Quest XI for PS4 and PC. This includes additional stories for the main characters, a 2D gameplay mode, new side content, the addition of Japanese voiceovers, an orchestrated soundtrack as well as a photo mode.
Regardless of the version, Dragon Quest XI is a great game that no JRPG fan ought to miss. The story takes plenty of interesting turns and the characters are well developed over the course of the adventure. The only real shortcoming is the combat system, which hasn’t evolved in a meaningful way over the game’s predecessors. Those who aren’t fans of turn-based combat may struggle with the battle system here. That said, it isn’t a complete deal-breaker, as the combat can be entertaining in its own right.
The Dragon Quest series has historically been about staying true to traditions, and it shows in every aspect of the game. Character progression is reminiscent of old-school JRPGs, with a comprehensive skill tree and a new Forge system that one can spend hours on. Even if the idea of playing a more traditional JRPG sounds overwhelming, Dragon Quest XI’s mechanics are intuitive and relatively simple to grasp.
Not surprisingly, Dragon Quest XI is a fairly lengthy game that can easily take over 60 hours minimum to complete, and even more so if you delve into the side content. Despite that, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s an undeniable charm here that keeps you hooked. The added option to double the speed of battles helps considerably as well.
Dragon Quest XI S included plenty of quality of life improvements that made it a more satisfying adventure overall. They’ve all carried over to the Definitive Edition, making it the version to play for newcomers. The expanded content gives the characters more fleshed out backstories and adds some further depth to the storyline. While the original did a somewhat decent job in this regard, Dragon Quest XI S improves things considerably.
The ability to switch between the modern-looking 3D environments to a classic 2D top-down view is nothing short of incredible. No stone is left unturned here, as even the turn-based combat sections retain the distinct static planes from the classic 2D Dragon Quest game. Though, it’d have been nicer if it were possible to switch between the two on-the-fly. Regardless, it still feels really nostalgic to be able to experience the game this way. Series purists will likely find themselves doing full playthroughs both in 3D and 2D modes. Newcomers too would find it interesting to see what the game would’ve been like had it been released in the 16-bit era.
It’s pure fan service at the end of the day, but one that serves to further highlight a missed opportunity – the battle systems between both 2D and 3D modes could’ve been made more distinct, had the developer opted for a more real-time approach for the latter. It certainly would’ve been a game-changer. As it stands, however, the new additions are great on their own and it’s nice to see them available on platforms besides the Switch, but they aren’t enough to warrant another purchase, given that there’s no upgrade path for owners of the original.
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By far the biggest shortcoming of the Definitive Edition is that it comes with a slight graphical downgrade that made it possible to run Dragon Quest XI S on the Switch. It’s a quick port job, and it shows. Visual details such as higher-quality assets and lighting that made the original Dragon Quest XI stand out are now replaced with their watered-down counterparts. Foliage is less dense, environments are less detailed all around, and the use of dynamic lighting has been pared back. This would likely not affect those who never played the original, but it’s odd for this version to retain the Switch version’s graphical compromises.
While the visual quality has been reduced, the performance is a step up from the original release. It runs at a near-locked 60 FPS on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X now, which is a pretty good result. Initially, it might be disappointing to see how pared back the game’s visuals are but once the player is immersed in the game itself, which offers an exceptional quality that is never-before-seen in a traditional JRPG, it is easy to ignore the visual shortcomings for a better experience.
In terms of content and quality of life improvements, Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition is by far the best version of the game. The 2D gameplay mode is pure nostalgia and a joy to experience, and the new story content does a great job of fleshing out the backstories of the main characters. However, it can’t be overlooked that this is a graphically downgraded version of the original.