Square Enix’s new latest Dragon Quest Builder seems more like a combination of open world sandbox promise, Minecraft and traditional Dragon Quest. It is its own unique game that is a blend of the two equally different and unique styles. Dragon Quest Builders does entail a lot of material collecting and constructing, but still manages to feel like an actual Dragon Quest game. It’s easy to dismiss Dragon Quest Builders as just another Minecraft clone or a Minecraft-lite, but those who do will miss out on a very creative little adventure. Adventure is vital to the Dragon Quest experience and Dragon Quest Builders is no exception, though it handles it a little differently than in the past. While coming 30 years, after the original release, Dragon Quest Builders actually takes direct inspiration from the past by being set in Alefgard, which is the setting of the very first game. Luckily, Dragon Quest Builders, by its very nature as a sandbox game with only enough interest in its narrative to advance the depth of the player’s ability to build, isn’t hindered by its basic storytelling and forgettable characters. There’s enough tongue-in-cheek humor in both the gameplay and the writing to indicate Dragon Quest Builders only takes itself seriously when it comes to the player’s gameplay experience, and the title is much better off for it.
There is a tutorial at the beginning to help players who might be unfamiliar with the open world construction gaming genre, though the building controls end up becoming rather intuitive, pretty quickly. The game controls are pretty much the same as one would expect from a 3D action game with the only significant deviation of, the use of the directional pad to select weapons and building materials. The building controls designed to make construction as smooth of a process as possible for even the most architecturally noob player: just select the building material and place it in the desired location.
The world lies in ruins; you are the only one who can restore it to its former glory. It’s a cliche, and being one, it’s one that Dragon Quest has reveled in since the series’ beginning. Dragon Quest Builders wanted to do something a bit different, though. Rather than moving from city to city consuming items and destroying monsters, builders actually wants you to create, to use your own two hands to craft your tools, rebuild towns, and cleanse the world of evil through the magic of building. It creates a bonding between you and town, making you proud for your accomplishment. The comparison between Minecraft and Dragon Quest Builders is an easy one to make. But what makes Dragon Quest Builders stand out is its direction. Unlike Minecraft where you are thrown into a world to do whatever you want, builders directs you and gives you a purpose.
Rolling the ball, your hero character will appear in a town that is completely run down, where you will also be introduced to the first NPC in your group named Pippa. She will introduce the game’s quest system, which has various characters asking many different tasks of you throughout the game. You must fulfill the requirements of these quests, and then return to them to complete the quest and receive a reward in return. This is how you push the story forward, with plenty of side quests popping up as well.
It’s a fantastic convergence of structure and creativity, where the quests provide both impetus to explore and inspiration for building. There’s always something you’re required to do at a given time, and actually completing the tasks required, you are provided with tangible rewards you can use to improve the quality of your town. Those who want to explore Builders’ creative depths are encouraged to do so, as you’re given a wide variety of construction materials and decorations to really make each location your own. Or you can opt to make a purely utilitarian town with the bare minimum of essentials and focus solely on questing; Dragon Quest Builders is cool and down with that too. Occasionally, your town will come under attack by roving monsters, but for the most part, you’re allowed to approach Dragon Quest Builders on your own terms, as it caters to multiple styles of play without judgement. Its boundaries are more noticeably inflexible than games like Minecraft, but there’s still a lot of opportunity to make each location your own within its limitations.
I never thought building in the name of saving the world could be this entertaining or keep me up so late at night. I’ve always enjoyed the crafting side of RPGs, but this takes it on to a whole new level. It’s a crafter’s paradise more than it is a builder’s, something you won’t know until you pick it up for yourself. Come for the charming Dragon Quest: look, quest and feel, and Minecraft building: stay for the crafting.That being said, there are elements of the game that truly shine as a result of its stubbornness in remaining an action-based RPG – every boss fight, save the first one, and others are exceptionally fun and feature level design that emphasizes the new things players were able to build in a given level. One fight in particular, which makes heavy use of a rocket car and a Mario kart battle mode style layout, is an absolute blast, and it’s regrettable Square wasn’t able to capture that entertainment value in the mundane world map fights that make up most of the game’s combat.
The game’s story is likely to bore some, but its execution on its main premise will enthrall most, and there are many hours of entertainment waiting within Dragon Quest Builders for those who embrace its weird, hybrid, and utterly compelling experience.
Dragon Quest Builders is a game that I was a bit uncertain of prior to playing. To put my enjoyment in perspective, I am a huge Dragon Quest fan, and while I appreciate what Minecraft is and what it does, it never held my interest for long as a game. I couldn’t stop playing Dragon Quest Builders and it is one of those experiences that I look forward to continue playing. On the surface, Dragon Quest Builders’ premise may sound a little familiar, but it is far from being a Minecraft clone. Constructing the town is both easy and enjoyable and the sky is the limit for people who are into creating things. If you just care about advancing the story, the town can be built up quickly to advance to the next objective, but if you want to spend the majority of the time creating a massive city, the freedom and means are available to do so. Dragon Quest Builders is easy to recommend. It may not be as deep as its genre contemporaries, but its mash-up of crafting, survival elements, and RPG questing set in the colorful, cartoony world of Dragon Quest is rewarding and breezy fun for players of all levels of creative ability. Combining an action RPG with a building game is an unusual combination, but great care was done to ensure that fans of both can be satisfied by this and the freedom to play the game in a way most compatible to the individual player’s preference only makes it better.Dragon Quest Builders serves as not only a love letter to the long running series, but also as an excellent introduction for newcomers to this wonderful franchise that is Dragon Quest.