It’s been a while since I last played this, hasn’t it?
I know it, you know it, and luckily for all of us Dragon Quest X knows it too, which is why the game considerately offered to show me a quick recap of my current questline when I finally logged back in. It means a heck of a lot when an MMO, a vast genre that can in certain hands make you feel like you’re obliged to put in daily/weekly work just to stand somewhere near wherever they’ve moved the goalposts this month, reaches out to say “Hey, nice to see you again. This is what you were doing, and this is where you need to go.”
Some of Dragon Quest X’s welcoming attitude is surely down to fear. This game – successful as it is – will forever be the black sheep of the series, the one of these things that is not like the others. It needs to be as minimally “MMO” as possible to appease the millions of Dragon Quest fans who have literally grown up with the resolutely traditional RPG series. But some of it’s got to be down to care too. The development team see the value in their story and they want you to enjoy it for its own sake, not view it as an obstacle standing between you and the latest content. “You’re not here to covet someone else’s shiny hat and grind out a Legendary Heroic Ultra Sword +1,” says Dragon Quest X “You’re here to play through a story.”
The main thing is I’m back, even if it is at some fuzzy point before six o’clock in the morning and I’m not quite sure where I am in relation to where I need to be (I suppose I could check the map…). There’s only one thing for it – it’s time to drag out my handy Zoom Stone, which will surely teleport me instantly to somewhere more useful and better connected than wherever I am now.
Dear Dragon Quest X Diary reader, I was wrong. Very wrong. Pre-Zoom I was about as close as you could get to the village I needed to visit, and now I’m a whole area away and have a long trek back to where I just was to do. Still, it’s a beautiful view, don’t you think?
There! Finally, after a stupid idea, one kidnapping, a thrilling boss battle, and far more time between those events and now than I should have let pass, the loved-up Weddie couple finally have their wedding (Ha! A Weddie wedding), and for once I don’t have to do anything but sit back and relax as another beautiful cutscene plays out before my eyes.
Afterwards I get a literal in-my-face reminder that I’m a soul from another land walking around in what is technically a corpse thanks to a magical mirror held up by the (very sweet) wise old village elder, an exciting little aside that kicks the story back into gear – Kiel and Arsic’s celebrations may be over, but my adventure’s only just begun! To make sure I set off on the right foot I’m also given a good chunk of XP, 3000G, a train pass to allow me to travel between all five continents, and a pre-made party of three NPCs to fight by my side until further notice. My head swirling with tales of destiny and a specific nearby town to head for there’s only one thing a fledgling hero can do:
I’ve gone from being able to afford a few bits from the village shop if I’m lucky to cleaning them out of all their best gear and still having gold to spare – fantastic! It’s not amazing gear by any means, but it’s nice to set off into the unknown as prepared as I can possibly be.
I take a deep breath and step out into the world ready for bold new adventures in strange new lands… OK I say “strange new lands” but I guess I mean “the next town over” – and I’m struck by how far away from the wooden shacks and rustic fantasy living RPGs tend to go for this is – it’s beautiful. The artists have cleverly integrated shrimplike tails into the domes of the houses (the roofs clad in slates shaped like fish scales) and given the place a lovely “fishpeople living by the sea” theme without covering everything in seaweed and fishing nets. It looks like somewhere people live in comfort, and somewhere I want to spend my time.
Now a new town in an MMORPG can mean only one thing, and that’s a new quest! And sure as anything, Dragon Quest X delivers. This time I’ve got ruins to investigate and catpeople – the natural enemy of our lovely Weddie fishpeople – to watch out for, and I’ve got to sort all of this out (with a little help) because nobody’s better suited to saving everyone than the first random stranger who showed up at the town gates five minutes ago (I’m teasing – I love this sort of thing).
But wait! Before I got off and be all heroic there’s something very important I need to do!
Yes I know I already went shopping not so long ago but, well, it’s just sensible, isn’t it? You can’t not check out the armourer when they’re right there, can you? And as luck would have it I had two new sets to choose from, both within my budget and both better than what I was already wearing, even though I’d only just bought it. Which one do I pick..? Ah, of course! I choose the equipment I think looks the best rather than the one that offers the most protection, telling myself that I’m not being stupid, it’s role play.
Dress-up over, and it’s time I headed off to the little port I’m actually supposed to visit on beautiful Muse Coast… but not before I make a quick detour to pick a fight with a pair of Tonbreros – an amusing portmanteau of “Ton” – that’s “Pig” – and “Sombrero” (the name was brilliantly reimagined in English as “Ham Shamwitch”) – just because they’re my favourite enemy design ever. Look! A tiny pig! In a big hat! Honestly I love it and I’m going to make you look at them, even though you’ve probably already seen them for yourself in Dragon Quest XI.
See? Genius stuff. Slightly more seriously this is also my first real taste of Dragon Quest X’s neat twist on the usual Tank/Healer/DPS MMO triangle in however many years it’s been since my last playthrough. From time to time enemies bring up little speech bubbles saying exactly who they’re angriest with – who’d be top of the aggro table in a similar game made by another team – and here tanks can do something fun: they get to physically push the enemy away from their desired target, literally putting some distance between the two of them. It’s a fun idea that’s instantly understandable even if you’ve never been anywhere near the genre before in your life, and it’s something I hope makes the transition to the offline version of the game when that finally comes out – ideally I’d like to see it in more MMOs too, or at least something like it. Better still my AI team have no problem sorting all of this out themselves without any cajoling from me – the tank stays at the front, the magic users keep to the rear, and everyone plays their role perfectly while I try to whack things with my big stick.
Be-hatted boars bravely beaten, I head off to the ruins by boa-oh. The paddle broke and they’ll take some time to fix. But that’s OK because adorable little girl Somya from the town has just been spotted somewhere she shouldn’t be, and if that doesn’t smell like adventure than I’m a monkey’s uncle.
But she’s not doing anything at all, honest! Definitely no cat noises coming from here (cat noises that confused one of my own real cats, who looked at me and then went searching the room for this mysterious new feline. Yes, she does have fluff for brains). Remember how I said earlier that the catpeople are causing trouble for the fishpeople? Well, how about this for a plot twist?
Yep, that’s a baby catperson being fed in secret by a young fishperson. I won’t tell anyone, will I? Please…
Of course not! I want to fight monsters, not act like one. But this is also a great time to put the game down for the day, so let’s leave what happens next for another time.
FASHIONABLE PERSON OF THE DAY:
And he knows it too.