As you've probably heard, Square Enix is releasing Dragon Quest XI in the west. It'll be the first mainline Dragon Quest game to get a western release in well over a decade, meaning the game will be getting some major overhauling before making it overseas.
Part of this is to make it appealing to a western audience, but some of the features were things the development team wanted to add regardless. This means not only is the western release getting English voiceover (which the Japanese release did not have), but also new camera and character controls, a first-person camera view, and a dash to help you move around the world at breakneck speeds.
Okay, so it was more like a quick jog. Point is: dash!
And if all that wasn't enough, Dragon Quest's hard mode, Draconian Quest has also been made even more difficult in this version. When asked for the reasoning on that, the on-site representative for Square Enix commented that the increased difficulty comes by way of additional difficulty options which can be toggled on and off, and thus was just something the development team wanted to add. Not a commentary on difficulty preference in the Western market.
During PAX East, one of the game's community managers flew through early game content for an audience of press only to show off the changes coming to the game. The cutscenes and combat we watched took place about a half hour into the game, and showed the start of our Luminary's journey to meet the King. I'll try to avoid any major spoilers, but there might be a bit of spoilery content below so consider this your warning.
The demo opened with the Luminary leaving his tiny backwater village in search of the capitol, as the King had requested he present himself. So off we went after some slightly teary goodbyes made in nearly cringeworthy Cockney and Irish accents.
On our way to the King, we got to check out some of the game world, which looks pretty fantastic in the 3D-cell shading hybrid art style. The combat is turn-based, but semi-active in that you've got freedom of movement. You can't dodge, but you can move around in the free camera setting. Otherwise, the combat feels pretty familiar. There is also an aggro mechanic where enemies near your level or above will try to fight you, while those well below your level will run away. In addition, the game has a day-night cycle with different monsters about during the day as opposed to the evening. The day-night cycle will also impact NPC behavior.
That said, there will be no random encounters while travelling — all enemies will appear on the map.
And if you want to avoid any of those fights, you can do so with a handy dash on horseback which will knock back the monsters and let you run on by. Granted, you get no XP that way, but it looks hella satisfying.
Once we reached the castle, our hero took care of a quick side quest saving a village girl's cat to show off the game's light platforming. Next, we informed the guards at the castle that we were hoping to see the King. Naturally, that took very little time. The King, however, is not a nice dude, and after some pseudo-intellectual commentary on the nature of heroism and evil, has the hero locked in a dungeon — which is promptly where the demo left off.