The Dragon Quest series of games launched 35 years ago on the Famicom system (the Japanese name for the original Nintendo Entertainment System). Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age launched in 2018 for Playstation 4 and Nintendo 3DS, but if you have a Gamepass subscription through either Windows or Xbox, the game was released as a free download in December 2020. If you don't have a Gamepass subscription, it is still available for purchase for all systems. The definitive edition adds some options that enhance replay ability.
You play as the Luminary, a reincarnation of a famous hero of Erdrea. On your 16th birthday you are tasked to set out on a quest to free the world from a coming darkness. Along the way, you'll meet various characters who will join your party. Each character has a distinctive look and personality and no two are the same.
You can build up your heroes by assigning skill points you get when leveling up. Each character has a skill tree where you can customize their abilities and spells. At the beginning, you'll want to focus on one particular skill, whether that be weapons or magic, and then build out as the game progresses. There is also a neat "mini-game", called the Fun-Sized Forge, where you can craft your own weapons and armor using various supplies you find in the world and recipe books you come across in your journeys.
The game is a traditional RPG and the storyline is laid out in a linear fashion, with plenty of side quests to keep you immersed in the world. Combat is turn-based and harkens back to the original RPGs that came out for the NES in the 80's. Combat can get repetitive, but there is a way to set it up so that the computer takes over and does the combat for you, otherwise there is a lot of button mashing to get through combat. I found myself letting the computer control for routine fights but then reestablished control for boss fights.
One nice thing about combat in this game is that you can avoid it, as you can see the enemies as you travel throughout Erdrea. This gives you the option to either engage them or avoid them, unlike a traditional RPG where you run into enemies at random.
A nice feature is that when you come back to the game, the game gives you a brief recap of your progress in the current chapter of the story so that you can refresh your memory as to what the heck you were doing the last time you played.
Even after you finish the main story, you can continue playing as there is more story to go. This also gives you an opportunity to go back and complete any side quests you skipped as you were working your way through the main story. The side quests flesh out the world of Erdrea and its many cultures, many of which are styled around actual Earth cultures.
The game's graphics and sound are superb, but the orchestral score can get repetitive. However, it works well enough that you often don't notice it. The voice acting is top-notch. It is easy to get so immersed in the story that you actually feel for the characters. There is even the ability to switch on a 2D mode that harkens back to the original style of 16-bit RPG graphics should you want to relive your childhood.
My take is that this game alone is worth the monthly Gamepass subscription and well worth the download. With options available to increase the difficulty or add new "flavor" to the game, this makes replay ability a high mark for this game.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is available for checkout on Playstation 4.