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This review contains spoilers

So, what the hell is Act 3?
Dragon Quest XI is full of endlessly endearing characters, constantly pleasurable combat, and a sense of warmth and wonder that few experiences can rival. I'd call it one of my favorite games. But, the thing my thoughts kept returning to for days after finishing it was Act 3. What the hell is it??
After DQXI's antagonist is defeated and the ending credits roll, a lengthy additional scenario for the player begins, generally referred to as the Post-Game or "Act 3." Taking place after the end credits, it's framed as an extra optional adventure, though some story elements from the main game only see their ultimate resolution in Act 3. I decided to play through Act 3 in order to see everything that DQXI had to offer. I loved the main game, after all!
I'd characterize my initial experience with Act 3 with two words: Whiplash and bafflement. Why why why is this game un-sticking its own landing to have me undermine its most emotionally impactful moments?
The scenario of Act 3 is built around using time travel to undo the death of the character and party member Veronica. Her death happens suddenly and silently in the main story; the player won't learn that she is dead until many hours after she sacrificed herself. There are no tearful last words, no encouragement to finish the quest from the dying, the player just gets separated from her at one point, and instead of a reunion, there's her body.
In a game principally concerned with the undiluted joys of love and friendship and the appeal of just spending time with people you care about, Veronica's death is titanic. DQXI semi-frequently punctuates its usually lighthearted fairy tale tone with moments of sadness, loss, and despair to contrast with and underscore the importance of its joyful themes, but Veronica's death is a step beyond. It constitutes a massive, tangible loss for both the principal characters and the player. Veronica stops being a playable character, she can no longer be a piece of any party composition in the dozens of battles to come, she won't be hanging out in camp, she won't have any optional dialogue, she won't feature in any story scenes going forward. These things may seem obvious but in the tens of hours I had been playing up til then, Veronica had become a staple of my experience in the game. She was an integral member of my band of friends and I had expected to return her to the party when I found her after all the characters were scattered at the end of "Act 1." After spending so many great hours with DQXI, her death cast a shadow of sadness over the rest of my experience.
She's survived by her sister Serena, who resolves to continue adventuring with the player and to live for the both of them. She cuts her hair and inherits a piece of Veronica's spirit, and from then on in gameplay Serena possesses the powers and abilities of both herself and her sister. She quietly carries Veronica's memory with her for the rest of the game, and every time the player uses her to cast one of Veronica's spells during combat they are reminded that no one is ever truly gone forever. It's a simple, beautiful way to imbue the basic fabric of a game with emotional resonance. Act 3 is about taking all that away.
That is maybe a bit uncharitable to say, but it is fundamentally true. Act 3 sees the hero traveling back in time to keep Veronica from dying and then saving the day all over again with her in tow. In this reality, Serena never suffers that loss and never resolves to remain strong in the face of grief. The bonds of the party are never strained and strengthened by the loss of their loved one. Similarly, other hard lessons are unlearned as well. Another party member, Erik, has his confrontation and reconciliation with his sister erased and replaced with an altogether more abridged and tidy reunion. Michelle the mermaid never sees her tragic story concluded, Sylvando never finds purpose forming a traveling troupe to bring joy to a despairing world. People all over Dragon Quest XI's world never experience the dark era of strife brought on by the game's antagonist. In the main story the hero fails to stop him at the end of Act 1, and the player is made to live with the cataclysmic consequences while experiencing both struggle and hope in the process of rebuilding. In Act 3's revised history, all this darkness is made squeaky clean by comparison. In a game that previously seemed to be putting forth the importance of hope and perseverance in the face of life's tragedies, Act 3 seems to be saying that hardship is fundamentally inappropriate to a happy life, and that it would be better for those hard lessons to never be learned at all, fantasizing that all the bad in the world can be magically painted over, completely exiting any emotional reality that a player could experience themselves in their own life.
This is roughly the message I got from Act 3 at first blush. However, I want to challenge my own premise here, because after some time and a lot of thought, I've come to view Act 3 in a different way that, while not fully making me love its direction, helps me to appreciate and reconcile it with the overall shape of DQXI as a piece of art.
For me to make peace with Act 3, I first had to accept that it's primarily an exercise in wish-fulfillment. At the end of the main game I had so much affection for those characters that a chance to spend dozens more hours with them was everything I could ask for! Act 3 is wish-fulfillment on a deeper thematic layer too. The main story spends a lot of its focus on imparting its ostensibly light-hearted storybook narrative with a sense of emotional tangibility. It reaches out to the player with moments of irrevocable sadness followed by moments of joy, friendship, and solidarity despite it all, and asks the player to see the value in these things. In reality you can't take back regrets or bring back the people you lose. The purpose of Act 3 is to willfully engage in a fantasy contrary to the rest of the game, though just because it's contrary doesn't mean it doesn't have value.
By doing the impossible and rewriting history in Act 3, the player and the hero perform a service out of love for the people they care about. Their friends will never know the strife that might have been. Given the opportunity, What lengths would you not go to, to protect the ones you love from pain? Given that very opportunity, the hero of Dragon Quest XI changes the entire fabric of the world, because reality is a small price to pay to see a friend smile again. The world is already full to bursting with hurt and sadness, it won't miss the little that you take away.
Act 3 taps into the impulse to wish you could truly save the day and make everything okay for the people that matter to you. In real life, this can be an impossible and even unhelpful idea when pushed too far, and I'm personally more drawn to the world of real emotional consequence presented by the main story, so the real Dragon Quest XI will always sort of end for me at the conclusion of Act 2. But Act 3 lets the player spend time in the fantasy, spend more time with their friends, be the hero they cannot be in real life. It's a videogame, why not take this chance to live inside it as you cannot outside it? As a purely additional coda to a game all about the connections we make, it strikes me as somewhat beautiful that in Act 3, you never have to say goodbye.



This review contains spoilers

Great ambience, story telling, and music.
The gameplay is ok, at times annoying.
I would have liked less unnecessary puzzles.
I liked the humor.
I liked how it mixes between reality and his imagination, and how they complements each other, making the events and details more meaningful.
The controls are a bit confusing and you can easily get lost if you took a break and don´t remember exactly what was happening.
It does a really really good job at transmitting emotions such as nostalgia, sadness, happiness and preoccupation.
One thing I really like about this game is how symbolic it is.

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