Dragon Quest X's Uphill Climb In The West

Dragon Quest X is a game perfectly tailored to bring Japanese players into the world of MMORPGs for the first time. It's part of a big-named series, it's very easy to pick up and play, and it's on a system that 12.5 million Japanese already have sitting in their living rooms. However, it's the very things that make the game such a good fit for Japan that also make it a near certain failure should it ever be released to the rest of the world.

Simply put, Dragon Quest X is incredibly backwards when compared to the big MMORPGs of today. It borrows heavily in design from JRPGs, and while this makes the game familiar to any JRPG player, it is a format largely unsuited to MMO play.

In JRPGs, if you're not strong enough to continue the main story, you are expected to go off and level-up. Dragon Quest X demands the same thing, though with an MMO's pacing so you spend hours grinding for exp. Quests do exist, but they award no exp and are usually just a means of unlocking a new feature or furthering the overall plot.

In most MMOs, even without quests, grinding of this nature would likely net you some impressive rare items which you could potentially use or sell. In the 20 hours I spent with Dragon Quest X, literally the only items I found were crafting ingredients and consumable items. Moreover, there is never any trash loot, rather you get a small bit of gold for each kill — so small it took me eight battles to accumulate enough for the price of an inn.

Indeed, just like in single-player JRPGs, the only ways to heal your HP and MP are by going to an inn or using consumable items. Moreover, both inns and all kinds of items are incredibly over-priced, making the economy for starting players more than a little frustrating.

Other problems arise from the fact that Dragon Quest X is on the Wii instead of the PC. I have already complained about the chat system at length, but it deserves to be mentioned again. It is the most counterintuitive typing system in a video game ever. And while you can solve this by plugging in a USB keyboard, you better hope the Wii's USB ports aren't already filled (with the Wii LAN adaptor alongside the 16 GB USB drive required for play, for example).

Moreover, the Wii is not exactly the most powerful system on the block. Not only does it have severe graphics lag in crowded areas, but also the enemy draw distance is so short in some places that you literally stumble over enemies.

The idea of basing an MMORPG on traditional JRPG gameplay is not without merit. However, Dragon Quest X feels like what would happen if someone tried to reinvent the MMORPG from scratch using JRPGs as a starting point. Of course, this carries the inherent problem that it ignores all the lessons learned as MMOs have evolved and thus DQX includes a myriad of bad design choices that have largely disappeared from MMOs over the last two decades. So while Dragon Quest X may bring MMOs to the mainstream in Japan, it will look painfully backwards to the rest of the world should it ever get an international release.

Dragon Quest X was released on August 2, 2012, for the Nintendo Wii in Japan. There is currently no word on an international release.


    If it stays incredibly grindy I do not see it being a big success here. No matter how much I love the series I hate grinding levels with no quests or something to keep me somewhat occupied.

      I for one would love it to stay grindy, i love the grind, but it has to be the type of grind i can click a mob get up to get a drink then come back, hit a health potion and keep going.

      Grinding games are great if you want something to do while doing something else.

    Dragon Quests have always been extraordinarily grindy. That plus Asian MMO grind sounds absolutely horrible.

    Question: How could a Dragon Quest game ever fail?
    Answer: Square-Enix....enough said.

      Japanese game made by Japanese developers for Japanese players that is doing well in Japan, how is achieveing your goals failing? Does every indie game targetted at a small audience fail too because it doesn't sell 10 mil copies?

      Looks boring to me, happy to have GW2 coming out, but this kind of formula is big in Japan, so while it's a pity, fair enough I guess.

    I'm not sure it's badly designed, it's just different to the usual WoW-style MMO model. Which is a good thing IMO, we've basically gone as far as it's possible to go with that gameplay already.

    Stuff like the crappy chat system and so on are limitations of the Wii, not necessarily deliberate design decisions.

    Additionally while the 'bad design decisions' may have 'largely disappeared from MMOs' in the west, you'll find a lot of them are still around in Japanese-designed MMOs eg FFXI/XIV

      "bad design choices that have largely disappeared from MMOs over the last two decades" really? I mean SWTOR?

        also, I fail to see how FFXI has made bad choices when not only has it recently had its 10th anniversary, but is also getting a new expansion pack (not just a mission pack like "a crystalline prophecy" or an alternate version of existing areas like a good half of "wings of the goddess" and the abyssea series, but a full on new set of areas) some time this year.

    Is it just me or is this pretty much the same article as posted 5 hours ago? O_o

    Any MMO can be fixed via patching. As for the game play style- after playing WoW for a month and dealing with its hideous "real time live action" battle system, I certainly hope at least a variation of the far superior turn based system is put into effect here. There is a reason I hold DQ in higher esteem than any other series, one being the battle system.

    why do they keep trying to make dragon quest all multiplayery. Its like one of the bastions of single player goodness. You don't need to fix what aint broke

    This just reeks of catchup to me. Somewhere at one of the influential companies able to direct Dragon Quest's fate, an ambitious but underinformed high-level manager (read, 50yrs+) has decided DQ is great MMO fodder. The only problem is that he has no idea what an MMO should be like. So in true Japanese fashion he sticks with what works, instead of trying to be at all adventurous, and produces what sounds like the worst possible combination of grinding and pretend multiplayer.

    So I am guessing the game looks nothing like the title pic and looks like those 2 screenies within the article?

    Ever since DQ IX on PS2, I've been waiting for a HD version

      The wii u version will be in HD

    The ignorance in this review and these comments just shows how much the West will never come to appreciate / understand Dragon Quest.
    Let it stay in Japan, and let the West have [insert noun here]craft. You can have Final Fantasy part ten billion too... complete with its dazzling graphics, 2 years worth of movies, and one button controller.

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