Best Monster Design
Sometimes, I feel like the star of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age isn’t the actual star of the game.
Which is silly, I know. Within the first twenty minutes of Dragon Quest XI, we learn that our avatar is the reincarnation of the Luminary, a legendary hero who once saved the world from evil and darkness. He is the center of attention throughout the adventure. There are times when he is all that we have.
Yet Dragon Quest XI is a true ensemble piece, one where every person is highlighted and given proper attention throughout the story. As such, playing as a guy who is a constant focal point, but also does a decent enough job of blending into the background, gives us the luxury of enjoying what these other characters are capable of. We get to appreciate their growth and development.
Sometimes, I like to pretend Dragon Quest XI is Erik’s story. Which is easy to imagine, considering he has the sort of spiky hairdo you would expect an Akira Toriyama hero to sport. This is the thief with a heart of gold who takes a chance on the Luminary, helping him bust out of a prison. We see how noble his intentions are, to the point where he willingly sacrifices himself in multiple ways for the sake of the hero and the group’s cause.
Serena is another member of the party who undergoes more development than we might suspect. She starts out as something of a flighty healer who needs the assistance of her twin sister to stay alert and on the right path. I mean, when we first meet her, she has fallen asleep in a dungeon filled with lethal monsters. Through the course of the story, we see her become more capable. We watch her deal with unimaginable hardships. We are by her side as she grieves, then blessed with her presence when she steps up to become one of the most valuable characters in the party.
Sylvando is just as important, but perhaps easily underestimated or dismissed. This performer comes across as something of a jester. The default costume is even reminiscent of one a harlequin might wear. But there are hidden depths and awareness. From the moment we meet in Gallopolis, Sylvando knows what is going on. You will probably come in second after the two of you are pitted against each other in a major race. Situations are set up where you think you know what is happening, but this character is one or two steps ahead. And, once the elaborate backstory is revealed, you know exactly why.
I feel like Jade could have been the star of her own game. There are times when her tale feels even more elaborate than the Luminary’s. She was destined for greatness, but the fall of Dundrasil left her in the same frightening situation and with the same obligations as our avatar. I would dare say she had it even worse, as she spent years living with unimaginable guilt and knowledge an adult shouldn’t have to bear, let alone a growing child. We meet her in the midst of her own journey with Rab, with the crossing paths opening up both characters’ fates.
Everyone matters in Dragon Quest XI. Everyone. That is what helps make it such a beautiful and engrossing game.