You need to play the best old-school RPG everyone forgot about ASAP

It's easy to overlook Dragon Quest XI's bonus 2D mode ... but you shouldn't.

Gamers have a thing for immersion.

It is, ultimately, what we want most from our games. We want to escape into a virtual world so wholly and completely that we can forget about our pedestrian lives for a while. Naturally, a lot of studios seek to accomplish this by attempting to craft some hyper-realistic 3D worlds. We love a nice big sandbox of richly textured maps with shaders and ray tracing and particle physics.

But immersion by way of manufactured reality is not the only option.

Consider your favorite novels. Or comic books. Or paintings. Before turn-of-the-century tech allowed us to game in the third dimension, humanity was resting on centuries of two-dimensional immersion across our cultural heritage, including the halcyon days of video games. We’re wholly capable of losing ourselves entirely in worlds that require a touch of imagination. A compelling story, breathtaking visual or transcendent music is all it takes to transport us elsewhere. But what if there was a game that offered the best of both worlds? That allowed the 3D immersion we’re accustomed too while simultaneously celebrating the 2D worlds the gaming industry is built upon?

There is.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is, for lack of a better word, ginormous. A timesink worthy of the most fervent completionists, DQXI offers a triple-digit playtime steeped in the finest traditions the JRPG genre has to offer. It is, by many accounts, a near perfect game. And yet, underneath its flashy cinematic visuals and sprawling open maps is an overlooked feature equal parts ambitious and nostalgic. DQXI has a 2D mode.

Mind you, this is not a sometimes 2D mode or a handful of maps or dungeons. The entire game is playable in 2D mode, all 100+ hours of RPG glory just sitting there ready to be experienced from (literally) a new perspective. It ticks all the boxes you’d expect:

  • High-stakes, fate-of-the-world type drama? Check.
  • Protagonist with mysterious past? Check.
  • Lovable party companions? Check.
  • Epic turn-based battles? Check.
  • Charm? Check and double-check.

What is especially noteworthy about DQXI is that the game understands how to manage an ambitious scope. Let’s face it, a 100+ hour RPG isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the time or attention span to dive into something so taxing, fear not. Dragon Quest XI offers some fantastic quality-of-life improvements that should become standard for the genre, including adjustable combat speed and helpful story recaps whenever you load a save. It eliminates the issue of stepping away from your fantasy land for a while and then returning with no idea why you need to see Valentino in Puerto Valor. It’s easy to pick up and play.

And if you’re the type of gamer that needs to be in on the latest and greatest trends, you have a practical reason to check out DQXI 2D mode: the recently announced remake of Dragon Quest III. It will feature a hybrid 2D/3D mode on the Octopath Traveler game engine and offer many of the same thrills DQXI does. You’ll get to understand why this mode (and this aesthetic) is so wildly popular they’re doing a full release designed to please retro-adjacent fans.

But the most obvious reason you should check out DQXI’s 2D mode is that it’s gaming at its finest. A perfectly executed genre piece from a legendary franchise that is equally accessible to brand new players and lifelong fans. It won’t take long for the pitch-perfect storytelling and engaging combat to draw you in and make you forget that immersive fun can exist in any dimension.

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