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Dragon Quest X: A radical online reinvention?

Putting the the 'mmmm' in MMORPG...

After 300+ hours Dragon Quest IX's world seemed a little... lifeless. Citizens stood on the same spots spouting the same dialogue for weeks on end. A curse of some cruel wizard? No, the sad reality of AI. Imagine that world, with that depth of play, with allies you could never second guess. Where banter flows from USB keyboards and dungeons buzz with human action.

That's the hook of Square Enix's online focused Dragon Quest X: all the depth of a Yuji Horii-honed RPG with a spark of life only a fellow human can bring.

DRINK TO THAT
Think of it as a mash-up of IX's wireless co-op and Monster Hunter Tri. Team-mates are enlisted/ shanghaied in local bars for improved odds in free-roaming fields. Unlike Tri's cramped tavern, Astordia's (the game's location) pubs teem with potential allies. Lazy heroes bark welcomes through preset phrases while able touch-typers weave complex back stories for themselves. Find the least disagreeable among them and you're ready to explore a whopping five continents.

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Outside, a hundred separate adventures unfold without interfering with one another. Only party members can fight alongside you, though you can observe other combat. In a lovely touch, gathering crowds boost player morale with sideline cheers. See a fight going south for a fellow human? Yell some encouragement and he might one day return the favour. Imagine if you could support the other guy. The bad one. The thought has our inner griefer twirling his moustache with glee, but we don't see Square Enix going for it.

To some fans, Square Enix are the griefer twirling his moustache with glee. The online shift has divided the fanbase, with many balking at recent news that only the first few hours re playable offline. Must be a shock to the system to hear that your cherished single-player pastime - Japan's national game, no less - is all but abandoning loners. Worse, it expects them to pay online fees for the privilege. No amount of customisable blouses (sewn in a new stitching minigame) is going to rectify that.

But who's to say the game that single-handedly popularised the JRPG can't pull off a similar online coup? Having set the RPG agenda for 25 years, only a fool bets against Yuji Horii and his army of gelatinous blobs.

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