Misconception #1: A Solo Run is impossible
This one takes the cake. It’s the most common misconception of them all, and one that will prevent many a player from trying a Solo Run in the first place, or even dare to consider the matter at all. It stems partly from the fact that when you arrive at Stornway and get introduced to the prospect of fighting the resident boss of the area, several NPCs advise you to recruit a party in order to take down that mighty foe. While this may rightfully be interpreted as a way to let you know that the game is becoming too difficult to tackle with a single character, and is indeed often interpreted so, I think that this is really nothing more than a cleverly disguised way of informing you that you now have the possibility to recruit a party if such is your desire, either by using the multiplayer option or by creating it from scratch. If these warnings from the townspeople were indeed a reliable indication that Dragon Quest IX cannot be played solo from the moment you reach Stornway, then the game would find a way to prevent you from going forward on your own, which it does not.
Another point that allows this misconception to arise is the fact that even with a party by your side, the game remains exigent. It often forces you into level grinding, usually before meeting bosses, and those boss fights are challenging in their own right, even with a conveniently leveled-up party. The perfectly logical reasoning here is that if the game is demanding even with the help of a party, then it has to be entirely impossible with a single character. And yet it is not so. How can that be, you may ask? Well, it all boils down to the leveling up system. In Dragon Quest IX, every fight you win will bring you a fixed number of experience points, which will then be divided and dispatched between your party members, and that number of points remains the same no matter how many characters are in your party. This basically means that when you are playing solo, your single character will reap all the experience points, and thus level up faster than they would with party members. This sped-up leveling process will compensate for the absence of a party, and allow you to play as comfortably as if you had party members by your side, if not more. I’ll come back to this later.
Misconception#2: A Solo Run is possible, but it can only take you so far
The idea here is that sooner or later, over the course of the game, you will encounter foes too powerful to be taken down by a single character. There may actually be a glimmer of truth in this statement; however, the point you can reach before being overpowered, if this indeed happens, is much, much further in the game than one would imagine at first.
My own Solo Run took me far beyond the confines of the main game. After having beaten the final boss to a pulp, I successfully took down all the bosses of the downloadable quests, nine of the twelve grotto bosses, and Baramos. After that, I stopped playing Dragon Quest IX and moved on to another game, so I have no idea if I could have progressed further on my own; but that is already an impressive enough journey, going actually much further than most Dragon Quest IX players even care to venture. So, rest assured that there is actually plenty of time to enjoy on a Solo Run, and that you will clock a respectable number of playing hours before being stuck and stranded in a too-weak-to-go-on limbo, if this ever happens.
Misconception#3: A Solo Run is possible, but it makes the game so much harder
Once again, this stems from the notion that if the game is already a tough nut to crack with a full party, then it logically has to be even tougher with a single character. One can easily imagine that more grinding will be needed and that the boss battles will be much more challenging; in fact, I actually did so myself, before I learned better.I had the opportunity to compare the two situations, since my very first playthrough was a fairly classical one, in which I recruited three party members to support my main character. I took that playthrough quite far (up to the point when you’re about to return to your homeland after having recovered the seven Macguffins of the story, for those who've already played the game) and that gave me a pretty good notion of the amount of grinding required to progress in the game. When I engaged into my Solo Run, I virtually noticed no visible difference in that field; that definitely dissipated my fears of having a much harder ride as a lone ranger, and it should also dissipate yours, should you have any. As for the boss battles, they actually tend to be easier, if anything. This is mostly due to the fact that many of the bosses’ attacks are designed to hurt and wipe out the whole party, thus falling flat when dealing with a single character, and making you feel that most bosses are really nothing more than overpowered versions of the basic enemies you meet on the field.
Misconception#4: A Solo Run is possible, but it makes the game so much more boring
Once again, here is one that may contain a tiny weeny bit of truth, depending on what makes you tick. If your biggest source of joy and excitement in a game like Dragon Quest IX is to craft and micromanage a perfectly balanced party of characters with complementary abilities, then yes, you may indeed find the game more boring with a single character, since you can only don one given class at a time. However, there is still plenty of enjoyment to be found in a Solo Run, and the strange and sweet exhilaration of controlling an overpowered character capable of showing off so many different fighting styles and abilities and wielding so many different weapons should be enough to satiate most players. Oh, and let’s not mention the story, the sidequests, the epic fights, the thrill of being the Chosen One who will save the World, and all these other things that make RPG so great, whether they are played solo or with a party.
Misconception#5: A Solo Run is possible, but only with Class X or Y
The last one of my list, this is also the most minor and innocuous of the bunch. Yet, it is still a misconception that may rob potential soloists of a part of their rightly deserved enjoyment by inducing them to stick strictly to a given class, thus neglecting to discover the interesting possibilities offered by others. And that would be a pity, for one of the core joys of a Solo Run is to change classes on the fly and indulge into many different fighting styles. As a matter of fact, there is really no such thing as a mandatory class for a Solo Run in Dragon Quest IX; some classes may make your progression easier, depending on what you’re doing, but no class will make the Solo Run unplayable. It really all boils down to your goals at a given moment, and to the kind of fighting style you favor. I personally switched classes regularly during my Solo Run, either to tackle certain events or just for the sheer pleasure of trying something different. I actually spent a good amount of time as an Armamentalist, a class that possesses no healing spells and focuses mostly on buff and debuff; not the most obvious and clever choice for a Solo Run, obviously. Yet, I did pretty fine and progressed without a hitch, taking down mighty bosses along the way.
Well, that’s all for the misconceptions! Hopefully any reservations about a Solo Run will now be cleared, making way for an eagerness to try the whole thing and see what it has in store. To continue this Dragon Quest feature about the Elusive Solo Run, I will next bring forward a number of good reasons to try out the lone way. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!