For some reason, DQ8 makes me want to explore. dq8.JPGI spent an hour last night just wandering around the countryside. I activated the spell that makes weaker monsters avoid you so it was an hour without fighting. Just Ratch (that’s what I call him – Ratch) walking around, looking at stuff. I found a couple of chests laying around and I opened them. I found a structure of some kind on a steep hill. I can’t figure out how to get to it but I’m certain that I’ll wind up there. I sailed a bit. Mostly I just wanted to see stuff.

And that’s the beautiful thing about this game – there’s lots of stuff to see if you want to. Or you can just follow the main plot and stay focused. Insert Credit’s review sums it up quite well:

Dragon Quest VIII‘s world map is a hero. It is large, and wide, and persistent. It does not let you go. There are paths to take from each town to the next, and there are countless things that catch your eye and pull you off the path and into a little grove where you’re then killed by gorillas with clubs. Sometimes you find a river emptying into the ocean from a continent you can’t access; you sail up the river between a few fjords, and there, carved into the side of the rock, are the letters “C-A-S-I-N-O.” Inside is, well, a casino. Sometimes you might be an hour into a foot-voyage from one town to its neighboring castle, only to encounter a special monster that can be killed for bounty-hunting purposes. You fight him, are significantly weakened in the process, and then continue on, only to find that you can get up the mountainside the way you’d though you could. Eventually, you find an alternate route up, only to be told at the gates that you look suspicious and aren’t welcome. Nearly out of magic points with which to heal yourself, you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. It’s at these helpless moments that the game feels like a brilliant piece of work.

 

The instruction manual warns you, on page one, “Try not to get lost.” It is not chiding you about your poor sense of direction. It is sincerely warning you that this game is staggering in its scope.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s quite clear that the developers lovingly crafted this place to play. One of my favorite things to do the last couple of days is to roam around looking for Infamous Monsters to fight. You never quite know where you’ll find one so you have to go looking for them. When I do see one off in the distance, I’m happy to see him but I’m also happy just exploring and seeing what’s out there.

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