Dragon Quest is one of those franchises I had a peripheral awareness of, but never indulged. While the colorful art style is gorgeous, for whatever reason, I somehow decided that the game wasn't designed for me. Perhaps years of grey and grimdark western RPGs shaped my idea of what games meant for me should look like. Thanks to the advent of Xbox Game Pass, though, I've discovered an entire gaming universe and community that I otherwise might've never experienced.
Dragon Quest XI is the first in the franchise to hit the Xbox platform, available as part of Xbox Game Pass. Additionally, it's on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, making it accessible through mobile devices thanks to xCloud cloud streaming. It was ultimately thanks to the cloud portion of Xbox Game Pass that I decided to give it a try, and it made me realize the true potential that this service has as a discovery tool.
JRPG gaming on the go
$40Classic JRPGs on this sort of scale have become scarce in the modern landscape, particularly on Xbox, which makes Dragon Quest a rare gem. Dozens of hours of turn-based fun, wrapped in a fun plot with colorful visuals, available with Xbox Game Pass.
What is Dragon Quest XI?
We already have a full review of Dragon Quest XI on Xbox, but here's a quick crash course on exactly what it is.
Dragon Quest is one of the oldest and most legendary JRPG franchises in history. The original launched in 1986, and is widely credited as being the first console RPG. Practically all subsequent RPGs draw some influence down from Dragon Quest, and the franchise has remained at the forefront of the genre for the past 35 years.
While some of Dragon Quest's contemporaries like Final Fantasy began exploring other genres, Dragon Quest stayed true to the classic turn-based formula that made JRPGs popular.
Dragon Quest XI continues the tradition with confidence, delivering a fun and light-hearted experience sprinkled with anime tropes, heaps of nostalgia, and elevated with some stunning and unmistakable design work from Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame.
Dragon Quest XI has proven itself to be a satisfying experience thus far, with fun combat and progression, set in a huge and varied world with a well-paced story. While Dragon Quest XI itself is a relatively familiar experience for anyone who has ever played a classic JRPG, what surprised me was how bloody well it worked as a title on Xbox Game Pass' cloud platform.
Why it works so well on Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming
Dragon Quest XI has tons of interesting and fun features and mechanics, but at its core, it remains a turn-based JRPG with gameplay that has largely been unaltered for decades. Despite its emphasis on old-school design paradigms, it fits the cutting edge of cloud gaming like a glove (or a gauntlet, in this case).
Practically everything in Dragon Quest XI is turn-based, which eliminates many, many issues associated with cloud gaming, and frankly mobile gaming in general. Often when gaming on a phone or another mobile device, interruptions and distractions are pretty common. Notifications may pop up, demanding your attention. If you're on your phone, you might be commuting or in public too, having to put your phone down at a moment's notice. In a fast-paced shooter like Halo, playing in a distraction-frequent setting is probably not going to give you a great gameplay experience. Dragon Quest XI is perfectly designed for the multi-tasker.
Not only is the combat turn-based, but the dialogue and cutscenes are too. Most action moments take place over a few seconds, before the game pauses on a dialogue box allowing you to catch up. It helps you keep up with the story even if you're not able to give it your full attention for a few moments, or forced to put your phone away for a second or two. The turn-based nature also offsets issues that could arise with dips in latency quality. You won't get killed due to lag in Dragon Quest, or any other turn-based game for that matter. It also recaps the previous story events when you load up a previous save, to remind you of the events that most recently transpired.
Dragon Quest XI also has touch controls on Xbox Game Pass, complete with custom button placements rather than the default software gamepad. While it can be irritating to play with the touch UI, which can sometimes obscure text boxes and other UI elements, it's still completely usable. It liberates you from having to carry around a controller. Most Xbox Game Pass cloud titles require a controller to be present, which defeats the point of the platform to some degree, in my opinion. Although, there are a lot of great phone clips for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming if you prefer tactile controls (shameless plug).
It was using the touch UI in bed that ultimately saw me get sucked into this universe. No barrier to entry. No download commitment. Didn't have to make any sort of purchase decision. Didn't have to pair a controller or use a phone clip mount. You literally open the app and press play. This is Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming at its absolute best.
JRPGs on Xbox could boom with Game Pass
I'm not sure I would have ever tried Dragon Quest XI if it wasn't so incredibly easy to just pull it up and give it a try on my phone. I'm somewhat astonished that this ideal game for me was just sitting there, practically for decades, and it was only now that I'd given it a try. I now believe it to be not only one of the best JRPGs on Xbox, but easily among the best Xbox games in general.
I loved my time with Dragon Quest XI so much that I went and purchased the game using the Xbox Game Pass discount, and even invested in an iconic metal slime plushie off Amazon. I realized that I'd become the statistic Microsoft talks about to its investors and developers, about how Xbox Game Pass actually drives sales of games, rather than detracts from them.
Xbox Game Pass' cloud gaming is still technically in beta, with more powerful Xbox Series X-level server blades planned to roll out throughout the remainder of the year and into 2022. Xbox Series X blades will eliminate the technology delta that exists between Xbox Game Pass and some of the other nascent streaming services out there.
I think even when the latency is fixed, JRPGs like Dragon Quest will remain the absolute best examples of what Xbox games work best on a phone. I love how Dragon Quest XI offers the player the opportunity to move cutscenes and combat forward manually. I love how it recaps prior story events after periods away from the game too, which due to work and adult life, could be a fairly large amount of time.
And sure, it's not perfect yet by any means. The text doesn't scale very well on a small display, and the touch UI does overlay with the in-game UI, obscuring text boxes. Despite some teething problems, Dragon Quest XI really exemplifies how at home JRPGs feel in the cloud and on a smartphone, made all the sweeter with progress syncing between your mobile and your actual Xbox. Microsoft may even agree, given that we now also have Octopath Traveler and others on the platform as well.
If others are experiencing the greatness of classic-style JRPGs thanks to Xbox Game Pass as I am, hopefully, other franchises long-absent from Xbox will see that there's an opportunity to be had. It could help plug the notorious JRPG gap Xbox has long suffered, and who knows, maybe even get us a sequel to Lost Odyssey. One can dream, right?
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!