The Video Games Issue

You need to play the decade's best fantasy RPG for free on Xbox Game Pass ASAP

100+ hours of pure delight.

There's never been a better time to become a legendary hero. The last several years have seen the release of some truly outstanding turn-based RPGs. From Persona 5, Octopath Traveler, and Final Fantasy VII Remake, a genre that seemed to be on its last legs in the early days of PS4 and Xbox One has entered a veritable renaissance in the lead-up to next-gen. If you get a kick out of lengthy, exploration-driven adventures with loads of colorful characters and deep combat strategy, the most recent installment in one of Japan's longest-running franchises is well worth a look.

Better still, as of December 4, it's included in your monthly subscription fee for Xbox Game Pass. With more than 100 hours of gameplay for the main storyline alone, that's a whole lotta bang for very few bucks.

The hero rises to the challenge.Square Enix

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age may have a real mouthful of a title, but don't let that put you off. This charming tale of sword-swinging heroes, dragons, and maidens fair is completely accessible to newcomers. This wholly self-contained story doesn't require you to have played any of the previous Dragon Quest games — though don't be surprised if you come away hungry to explore other entries in the series after playing this one.

Dragon Quest XI puts players in the role of the Luminary, a young man from a humble village on the precipice of a daunting destiny. What follows is an endearingly familiar — though nevertheless ambitious — love letter to the fantasy genre. If you enjoy SNES or PS1-era Japanese role-playing games, you'll find a lot of comfort food here — swatting slimes with your sword, battle arenas, underwater villages, and rooting through the treasure chests of unsuspecting villagers. There's nothing wrong with familiar tropes if they're well done, and they're brilliantly executed here. The game's cozy opening hours might lull you into thinking that the storytelling isn't especially ambitious, but a jaw-dropping mid-game twist will completely dissuade you from that notion.

If you recently played Yakuza: Like a Dragon, everything that hero Ichiban Kasuga loves about Dragon Quest is abundantly in evidence in DQ11. So listen to the man with the silly hair — this series has been around for more than three decades for good reason.

First released for PS4 in the West in 2018, the S-edition of Dragon Quest XI includes a gaggle of updates and enhancements that have previously only been available to owners of the Nintendo Switch port. These include:

  • New character side stories – Get to know your companions more with individual side stories
  • Retro 2D mode
  • 16-bit World of Tickington – Journey to past Dragon Quest worlds full of additional side-quests
  • Japanese audio
  • Fully Orchestrated Soundtrack
  • Photo mode

The 16-bit mode is especially cool — it's easy to toggle from 3D to 2D, consistently delightful to see the intricacy of both artistic styles right alongside one another.

DQ11 is a visually stunning game, but its environments are just as fun to explore through a retro lens.Square Enix

Easily clocking in at more than 100 hours from start to finish, Dragon Quest XI is not a game to be blitzed through in a frenzied week, but one to dawdle over and savor. Unlike the older RPGs that so clearly inspired it, it's easy to pick up where you left off, with story summaries and quest reminders in easy reach. And even if you don't have that much time to invest in a game in the coming weeks, it's worth checking out DQ11 for even a few hours. The game's lush, vibrant art style, gorgeous cities, and endearingly cornball dialogue are irresistibly charming.

If you have even the slightest interest in the JRPG genre, this is one of the best ever made. Period.

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age is available now on Game Pass for Xbox consoles and PC.

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