Dragon Quest X is a game I’ve been following for a long time, ever since it’s Japan only release on the Wii in 2012. DQX is an MMORPG, which gave us western fans little to no hope that it would ever leave Japan, considering releasing an online game with a subscription in an already niche series would basically be asking to go bankrupt. After Dragon Quest XI’s surprise success worldwide, however, now is the perfect time to capitalize on that newfound popularity, if not with the full game than with the offline adaptation.
First off, you may be asking yourself, how does a Dragon Quest MMO even work? Aren’t those all turn based? I have two answers to that, yes and you can actually go try it for yourself for free right now! SquareEnix removed the IP blocker a few years back, which prevented fans outside of Japan from playing the game (without a VPN, at least). Since then, I’ve played through the entire base game twice, and the first expansion (which was added to the free trial) once. With the release of a fan translation of most of the main story, I’m now doing yet another playthrough, all without spending a dime (yen?). And I say this as someone who still can’t bring themselves to finish A Realm Reborn’s patches on a second character in Final Fantasy XIV, my go to MMO.
If you want to jump in right now, go here for directions on how to do so. While it’s downloading, let’s talk about the narrative a bit. Starting the game, you’re asked to create two characters: your protagonist and their sibling. There are four body types to choose from: girl, woman, man, and boy. Each has their own customization options and animations, all in Akira Toryiama’s distinct art style.
It’ll be a while before you get to the online world proper, and the first hour or so takes place on an isolated island. Here, humans live in ignorance of the outside, in a fairly primitive village presided over by a turtle god and the elder who interprets him. After getting acquainted with things (and receiving a silly hat from your aspiring alchemist sibling), the elder Abba reveals the latest prophecy to the village: everyone will die in an attack by the Netherlord. However, there is one way to change this fate, by acquiring the special Tens flowers. Abba sends you, your sibling, and her grandson, Shini, to the northern cave to find them.
Once you find the flowers a minion of the Netherlord shows up to burn all the flowers, saying that humans have a “power over time” which is the only thing that could stop his master. After the boss fight, you find a single flower remaining and return to the village being destroyed. Turns out the flower did change your fate, but with a twist! Only one person survives: your sibling, who is thrown through time. You perish along with the rest of the village.
But wait! The gods have deemed you too important to die yet, and you’re asked to create one more character, this time as one of the five non-human races. These are the Ogres, Weddie, Elves, Dwarves, and Puklipo. The character you create has conveniently died just now, leaving your soul room to hop on in, discover why you were chosen to reincarnate, and defeat the Netherlord.
Each race has a different starting quest, with different plot hooks, like the Weddie character being an orphan who wanted to find their birth parents, but eventually your goal will become receiving a key emblem from each nation across the world. You also choose a class to start as, like Warrior or Mage, but you can change this later when you hit level 20. It’s all very Dragon Quest, with each town having its own self contained story that eventually contributes to the larger narrative.
Just like Final Fantasy XIV is a Final Fantasy game first and an MMO second, you can completely ignore the MMO aspects of Dragon Quest X and just play the main story like a single player game. In fact that’s what I recommend if you’re not fluent in Japanese, as parts of the player base don’t take kindly to foreigners and will report you. Some people are nice though, and I did an entire dungeon with someone only communicating through jumping. The game expects you to fill out a full four person party, but you can do that by recruiting NPC versions of player characters – and the actual player gains some EXP and gold as their facsimile adventures with you.
So let’s finally get into combat. If you’ve played a Dragon Quest game before, you’ll feel right at home here because it’s essentially the same, with two big differences. Rather than a turn order, DQX uses an invisible ATB system, and once your turn comes around you can select an action from the menu. Don’t worry about rushing to pick, though, as your next turn will still build up in the background as you browse. The other big difference is positioning. Battles take place on the overworld within a large circle, and you can freely move around or leave the circle to run away. If your character has a high enough Weight stat, you can even push enemies around to keep them away from more fragile members of your party, but enemies can do the same to you. This adds a fascinating amount of strategy to each encounter. For example, if an enemy is trying to physically attack your Priest, as a Warrior you can continually push them to prevent them from getting in range and their turn will be missed. Of course, the same thing can happen to you if a foe is blocking your path, so be mindful of the path the automatic movement will take. Overall, the system is a lot of fun, and keeps even random battles engaging.
It would be a massive investment, but I do think because of this strong foundation and the success of XI that X can still succeed outside of Japan, especially as a buy-to-play game. The Dragon Quest brand still isn’t strong enough to convince enough people to pony up a subscription fee every month, but as a one time purchase, people will be hooked. Of course, games are also unfortunately a business, so Square would still need some way to monetize the game additionally – servers aren’t cheap. FFXIV’s optional cash shop does pretty well, and I think the same could apply here. Since DQX already has a few expansions under its belt, staggering their localization could spread out the cost and keep players coming back. Look, I’m not a business person or financial guru, I barely understand money as it is, but I fully believe that this game could do well for SquareEnix here.
Still, localizing and maintaining a full MMO is a big prospect, which is why I’m still baffled that there has been no word of localization for Dragon Quest X Offline. As the name implies, this is an offline adaptation of the MMO, with a chibi, pixelated style and more traditional turn-based combat (sans the ATB and movement, with story characters joining your party). You can also try this for free on Switch, PlayStation, and even Steam provided you have a Japanese account for each (Switch is easiest to set up). It even has the first expansion as DLC already. Sure there’s some advertising for the MMO version buried in the game’s menus, but take those out and there’s absolutely nothing stopping Square from localizing it. Sure it may not do as well as XI because of the top down perspective and chibi art style, but I’ve seen the company make worse financial decisions. After all these years of being virtually ignored, I think Western Dragon Quest fans deserve to be thrown a bone.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.