After announcing last year that Dragon Quest XI would get a North American release, Square Enix has finally confirmed which platforms it's coming to. While many stateside fans have been pining for a Switch version, DQ XI has only been announced for PS4 and PC. It appears the company has no plans for the 3DS iteration to come here either, and seeing as the Switch version has yet to debut in Japan, it's unclear if or when we'll eventually see that one. If you're not keen on waiting for the biggest Dragon Quest adventure to date, however, then you'll be happy to know the PS4 and PC versions are coming packed with extras and the release date is merely months away. We recently went hands-on with the game, which, like past entries, includes British voiceovers for the Western release. We got a good look at party member Sylvando and an intense boss battle.
The demo focuses on a desert area, featuring the kingdom of Gallopolis. Gallopolis is known for its horse races and fearless desert knights. The party visits in search of a mysterious branch that can aid them in stopping a dark force from taking over the world. As soon as I enter the vast landscape, I notice the new dash function. This is a nice addition and makes getting around much faster and easier than it was in the original Japanese version.
My main quest is to visit a sultan whose son, Prince Faris, is having his coming-of-age ceremony where he must prove himself in a horse race. The prince says he'll convince his father to give us the branch we need if we do him a favor. He takes us to the circus to discuss it in depth, where I find out he can't ride horses at all, begging our hero to pretend to be him for the big race. At the circus, a cheeky character named Sylvando appears. Sylvando is a jester, and a show-off through and through, spitting fire, juggling knives, and cracking jokes. Later when I take the prince's place in the horse race, Sylvando appears as one of my opponents.
Horse racing is a new minigame for the series. The controls are basic: Hold down a button to gallop, press another to slow for turns, and run through green swirls to gain speed and stamina. Win or lose this race, you prove your skills well enough to the sultan, but Sylvando catches on to the farce. Before much more can be done, a giant, yellow, scorpion-like enemy named The Slayer of the Sands is killing knights left and right. The sultan asks Prince Faris to take care of it, and once again he asks for your help so no one can discover his incompetence.
The turn-based Dragon Quest battle system hasn't changed much since its inception. As this boss battle proves, though, it's not about just choosing an attack. You are challenged to use your abilities, magics, buffs, and debuffs accordingly. To win the battle against this vicious beast, I use a balanced strategy, having two characters focus on healing, buffs, and magic, while the others tap into their special abilities. Special abilities can inflict status ailments such as poison or sleep, or have elemental strength. One of my characters has a spell that automatically deals damage when the enemy attacks, which I make good use of, wearing down the giant scorpion to ensure the prince's success. Sylvando is also along for the battle, but the A.I. controls him. He won't reveal his reasons for coming, which I'm sure is explored later in the game.
I won't spoil what happens with the prince's facade, but I will say there's a cool moment that occurs after the battle. If you're a fan of the series or just itching for a classic RPG, Dragon Quest XI should be on your radar.