Move over, Minecraft – there’s a new building game in town. Square Enix’s Dragon Quest Builders takes the block placing and fortress building gameplay we all know and love, and mixes it with one of JRPGs most popular franchises and its signature roleplaying gameplay elements for a fantastic experience that is both familiar and unique, and most importantly, tons of fun.
Dragon Quest Builders
Developed and published by Square Enix
Available on the PS4 and PS Vita. Reviewed on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Square Enix
In Dragon Quest Builders, the world of Alefgard has been plunged into darkness due to the evil Dragonlord’s terrifying power. Humanity has been scattered and monsters freely roam the countryside, and the world is a shadow of its former self. Players step into the shoes of a mysterious young hero who’s awoken by a goddess, and who is tasked with bringing back the light and defeating the dreadful Dragonlord, first by rebuilding a legendary city, and then taking the fight to the enemy.
For those in the know, Dragon Quest Builders’ plot is set in the same world as that of the first Dragon Quest game, but this time around it’s mixed up with a sandbox building element akin to Minecraft and Terraria. It’s a simple, fantasy-influenced plot that’s neither too heavy or too light, and it draws influence from the original game, from the text-based fantasy dialogue and the hero’s quest-like structure, to familiar characters and enemies you’ll see and face. There’s a lot of fetch quests due to the nature of the game, so it occasionally gets repetitive, but it’s an entertaining story that will keep players busy as they go about rebuilding the world from the ground up and fighting off the forces of evil.
The visuals are also pretty great, mixing Dragon Quest‘s signature cute and expressive Akira Toriyama art with voxel building blocks and environments, creating something that should clash due to the different styles, but mesh together very nicely. The worlds generated are both expansive and full of depth and discovery and variety, and the large cast of NPCs and monsters keep it looking great throughout the whole adventure.
In regards to gameplay, Dragon Quest Builders is more about building than role playing (it’s in the name!), though it has some light RPG elements here and there. As the savior and legendary builder, players can break apart elements in the environment and use them to create all sorts of new things. It plays similarly to other games in the genre, with players having limited inventory space, tools to mine and take apart stronger elements that have limited durability, a stamina meter and food system, some combat, and plenty of block types and items to use in order to build the city of your dreams. The major difference however is that there’s actually a purpose to all the construction, as building helps level up your city as you go along, and gets you closer to facing off against the dreaded Dragonlord.
The controls are simple, and there’s a lot of elements that keep the game manageable and entertaining. Placing blocks and items is as simple as heading to an area and using an outline to see where your item will go, and players get specific requests from NPCs in order to learn the ropes and build new stuff. The intro teaches players how to build rooms, decorate, equip weapons and armor and how to defend themselves, and more, and soon enough they’ll be building tools and getting better at it with each new quest. The game also simplifies the process a lot by including tools that make it all easier, like a chest that auto collects anything that doesn’t fit in the player’s inventory, items that can be used to quickly return to base, and more, so it doesn’t boil down into a boring and repetitive grind.
Combat is entertaining as well, though simplified to hack and slash mechanics that have players wielding swords and giant mallets to take out opponents, all the while moving around to avoid attacks. Players will encounter passive and aggressive enemies in the field, with tougher enemies appearing at night thanks to the game’s night/day cycles or through special boss encounters, as well as face them in invasions back in town were players have to fend off waves of enemies assisted by the town NPCs. It’s mostly repetitive combat, but players will learn some techniques as they progress through quests to round out their arsenal.
The game does have a couple of flaws however that keep it from being perfect. Due to the isometric third-person view, it’s hard to build and enter multileveled buildings as the camera cannot see through walls and you can only see a white outline of your hero, which doesn’t help much when you’re looking to do something specific inside, like access a tool, place new blocks, or more, so it can be quite challenging to build your magnum opus unless you zoom in extremely close up. In combat, there’s also no auto targeting, so players can miss attacks, and dealing with multiple foes can be a bit tricky. Finally, there’s no multiplayer. With Minecraft and Terraria both equipped with the ability for others to take part of the adventure, it’s a shame that others can’t join in on the fun that is Dragon Quest Builders. Couch or online Co-op would have been nice.
All in all, Dragon Quest Builders is a great adventure that nicely combines two types of games for a memorable and satisfying experience. There are some missteps here and there, but overall it’s a must play for fans of good games.