Playthrough: Echoes of the Past

Dragon Quest XI Box Art

Hello and welcome to The Starlight Megaphone’s playthrough of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, a classic turn-based JRPG originally released for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS consoles in Japan on 29 July 2017; and then released rest-of-the-worldwide for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows on 4 September 2018.

Scarcely a few weeks have passed since the release of Dragon Quest XI, but the game has already achieved a near-legendary status as perhaps not only the finest Dragon Quest game ever made, but perhaps also the finest JRPG of the past decade. After the recent, less-than-stunning Square Enix release of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, both of which were narratively underwhelming and burdened with in-game-marketing, fans of Square Enix were delighted to hear that Dragon Quest XI had been slated for release on the Switch and PlayStation 4, and that, because of Yuji Horii’s careful gatekeeping of his franchise, the newest DQ game would not disappoint.

Although the rest-of-the-worldwide release does not include the charming 3DS version, which rendered the game as if it were a classic 16-bit JRPG, fans were still willing to give the franchise the benefit of the doubt.

The protagonist and his childhood friend.

As a result of delivering on fan expectations, the game is a smash hit, selling over four million copies in Japan alone, and receiving universal praise from the notoriously difficult-to-please The Starlight Megaphone staff members, from its Japanese launch until the present. Caspius himself has praised it in the highest terms, placing it even above Dragon Quest VIII.

Dragon Quest XI builds upon the gameplay systems of previous Dragon Quest games, although the setting remains a unique entry in the series, as is typical of games of that series (similar to the way in which Final Fantasy games share themes or names, but each rendered in a different form on a per-game basis). The ostensibly beautiful setting is the setup for the protagonist’s difficult beginning: his life is turned upside-down when he discovers that he is no normal village boy: in fact, he is the reincarnation of the Luminary, a hero who is destined to save the world from the forces of darkness.

Beautiful vistas await!

Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, secrets you have uncovered, and what you are getting out of your playthrough. Do you feel that the Dragon Quest series has truly advanced since its origins in the 2D era? Or, do you prefer the aesthetics and gameplay of the classic titles? Has your experience with other Dragon Quest titles affected your perception of the latest game? Do you find the world immersive, or constricting in its linearity? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments, each week, for our podcast discussion.

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in four weeks:
– Week 1: Reach Sniflheim.
– Week 2: Obtain the ability to fly.
– Week 3: See the end credits(!), and then obtain eight total party members.
– Week 4: Finish the main story line in the post-credits game.

Please join in, even if you are behind on the playthrough. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Comment and tell your friends!

Without further adieu, it is our pleasure to invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone’s staff members and readers as we explore the latest quest from Yuji Horii in Echoes of the Past: A Dragon Quest XI Playthrough!


  1. Completing this game in four weeks is a big ask, and I can say right now that with my workload it won’t be possible for me. But I’m still going to play this when I can!

    Right now I’m in my boat, sailing around the world and exploring. I’ve spent a tonne of time trying to do quests that require specific characters to use their pep abilities in groups of three on very specific monsters, and those quests are HORRIBLE. >.<

  2. @Imitanis: This week, tell us about your first week playing the game. Please space out your comments so that we get the sensation of you commenting as you play.

  3. The first thing I noticed after starting the game is how much the characters looked like they were ripped out of Dragonball. Yeah, I know Toriyama worked on both, but it seems like he uses a limited number of hairstyles. When Erik joined the party and pepped up during combat I expected the game to tell me he’d gone Super Saiyan! Must be the blue hair.

  4. I loved the circus in Gallopolis! I love set pieces like this which differentiate one town from another. It kind of reminds me of things like FFIX’s stage play, and FFVI’s opera scene!

    The horse races were also really cool!

  5. GALLOPolis.
    I really wish we could see Seb do the race in Final Fantasy VII.

  6. Also @Imitanis welcome to every single Toriyama art game ever. I think he has about a dozen character designs and he just puts them in different clothes as needed.

  7. @Lusi: to be fair, I think that’d probably true of most manga artists – IMO it’s just Toriyama’s unique style that makes it super obvious.

  8. It’s almost a week into the playthrough, so people should have the ship by now and have met the mermaid. The rhyming quickly got on my nerves as she spoke. I loved the haiku language of Hotto, but I just can’t stand the mer-people.

  9. I have the ship! I have met the mermaid!
    I wish games wouldn’t try to rhyme. There’s a lot more to good poetry than just rhyming. A lot more.

  10. Speaking of Gallopolis, did anyone manage to win the race in their first go? I sure didn’t.

    I’m wondering with the recent success of old school JRPG mechanics and style, if SE will take note and scale back some of the western influences in the next numbered Final Fantasy, and make something more in line with what their customers are enjoying. I’m not gonna hold my breath, seeing how they usually act as if they know better than their audience. Not that I don’t enjoy a change up, nor do I hold it completely against them for trying new things with their flagship franchise. It’d just be nice if their next game was less of a Papa Roach looking road trip simulator.

  11. @Fumunshu: I came in second on my first attempt. The controls whilst turning under drift were a little heavy (like turning an elephant), so by the time I got used to them, the race was over. Reetin had the right idea: he ran a practise race first, and then won the actual race when he got to it. Oops!

    There’s no effect on the storyline regardless.

  12. I got off to a little bit of a late start. I just gained access to the ship, and am happy to be able to sail this gorgeous world and take in its sights to my heart’s content. I’m exploring everywhere as thoroughly as possible and easily spend over an hour looking around and talking to townspeople whenever I reach a new town. There’s just so much to take in!

    I didn’t expect any drastic changes with the battle system, and appreciate that battles are paced well. Maybe I’m just imagining it but it seems like battles proceed a little bit more briskly than other entries. They’re not, say, PSX Suikoden fast, but rarely do they exceed a minute.

    All in all, the game seems like a more robust DQ8, which I am quite happy with. :)

  13. I also came in second place during the story race in Gallopolis (completely missed the pun until reading this thread. XD). Wasn’t too far off the lead but hit the wall a couple times and missed enough boosts to put me a couple horse lengths off of the lead. I’ve gotten a lot better at it while going through the bronze and silver cup though.

  14. @DefChaos: There are times when I get a little tired with random battles (esp. against weak enemies who don’t benefit me at all), but in general they are just snappy enough to keep things moving. This is one area where I think even S’NooB would admit that the FFXIII series excelled: speeding battles up without making them feel frantic. I can’t think of many other turn-based battle systems that feel as fast and as fluid as those games.

    For sticking in the very old-school turn-based category, DQXI does remarkably well, thanks in large part to some minor improvements that affect the ‘feel’ of battle without changing its substance. For example, DQ veterans will know that in DQ games one inputs the entire party’s actions and then both party and enemies face off as those actions are played out on the field. Then another round of input-party-actions takes place and so on. In DQXI, turns still happen in the same order that they would have done if the player were inputting actions party-wide, but instead the actions are entered just prior to the character acting. This saves time (I don’t have to input a whole party’s worth of actions to kill an enemy that will die in one hit), and it also makes battle seem more immediately connected to my actions without sacrificing the menu system (I enter an action and it takes place immediately, rather than some time during the sequence of combat that will follow).

    This combat development move is actually similar to the one which took place between FFIII and FFIV, although FFIV went further in actually doing away with ’rounds’ entirely. DQ keeps the combat rounds, but they are no longer visible to the player, who simply sees individual actions one after another.

  15. I did notice what you mentioned about combatants receiving one action per combat round. For me, turn order has been all over the place, it’s not uncommon for a character to act last in one combat round, then immediately act again by going first in the next one. It discourages me from using any sort of agility buffs or debuffs. In a boss fight, the enemy is still getting the same number of turns as the party, though it could be helpful to have, say, a healer consistently act before the boss does. And short fights don’t last long enough to really be concerned with agility. I have always found oomph and sap to be much more devastating in these games.

    The changing of command entry from whole party to each character was a good idea imo, and is probably mostly responsible for what I perceive to be the increased battle speed. I didn’t consider that, nor did I remember that being how it had been previously until now. Now I’m having visions of playing DW 3 when I was younger and having party members attack thin air rather than another monster if a fellow party member had just landed the killing blow on a mutual target. Thanks a lot! :D

  16. Oh, and I’m glad that this isn’t a thing anymore:

    Slime x 2
    Slime x 2

    Thanks for letting me just blast all 5 of them with one spell or crack of the whip, rather than dedicating two extra attacks unnecessarily.

  17. Hey, it’s week 3! I liked the riding on the flying whale-thing. After walking around the world map you don’t really expect to see floating land masses, even if the tree was floating. Nobody seems to talk about it.

  18. @DefChaos: Yes! I’m so glad that ALL enemies of the same are now grouped together in a single group. I never understood the “3 of X, 2 of X, and 2 more of X all attack you,” thing, and getting rid of that was an excellent decision.

  19. I am behind on our playthrough, but still enjoying the game! I’ve passed the point where Hendrik experiences a change of heart, and I’ve got three party members now: a new one and an old one.

  20. I cleared the events in Dundrasil and am out on the open ocean. Have to say, the scenes at the grave and the altar in Dundrasil were pretty touching. Wasn’t really expecting it!

  21. @DefChaos: They are good–but wait until the end of Act I…!

    With that said I have one complaint to level: the game has no problem presenting the Hero, in the past, as more than a blank slate: he can speak, he has emotions, and so on. But the Hero in the present, the one the player is controlling, is an empty automaton, capable of nothing more than a look of faint shock more suitable for “Fr. Brown dropped his scone!” instead of “they’re murdering the whole village!”

    I understand that the purpose is to allow the character to inhabit the Hero so that the Hero’s onscreen emotions never override how the player feels, but it actually has the opposite effect. Instead of immersing me more in the character, the jarringly bland response of the Hero takes me out of the game, and diminishes my emotional response. After all, if the guy himself can’t even be bothered to muster more than a faintly pained look (ouch! I bumped my knee) then why should I?


    Have YOU reached the end credits yet? Let us know in your comments, below!

  23. I just got passed Kamoshida’s Palace for the second time so I’m still not near my first attempt. I’m surprised there are so many Personas in this Dragon Quest game??!?

  24. We’ll be closing out our playthrough with a MASSIVE farewell-to-Reetin stream on Friday evening’s livestream. Stay tuned for MANY HOURS of Dragon Quest XI live on stream with some Caspiusean co-commentary!

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