Dragon Quest Builders, is a sandbox action RPG developed by Square Enix. Unsurprisingly this game is a mix between the beloved Japanese Dragon Quest series, as well as the hugely popular Minecraft. Dragon Quest Builders is a very enjoyable game and I took great joy in playing it.
For the story, the protagonist awakens in a world where humans have lost the ability to build and civilisation has collapsed, yet you alone have retained this ability. The ‘Builder’ as the protagonist is known as, is charged by the Goddess to help rebuild civilisation and restore humanity’s ability to build. However, it isn’t that simple, the world is full of monsters who will attack you and your city throughout the game. But the protagonist isn’t alone, along the way they will meet a number of people who are inspired by their example, and have come together to rebuild what was once lost to them. This gives the game a classic Dragon Quest feel, having to save a ruined world that’s on the brink of destruction, which is incredibly nostalgic and enjoyable.
Much of the game is spent between collecting materials from the wilderness outside your city, and crafting those materials into useable blocks which are used to customise and improve your city as well as its defences. This is done by creating rooms, which are made when certain conditions are met, for example every room must have walls that are two blocks high on every side, as well as a door and a light source. As you progress in the story you will uncover how to make new rooms, such as a dressing room, a blacksmith’s, make individual bedrooms that can be assigned to specific people, and much more.
My experience of this game was played on the PlayStation Vita. The game ran incredibly well, and looked very gorgeous in it’s Minecraft style. However, I did find the controls to be a little fiddly, with no hotkeys you are constantly scrolling between items. The camera is usually top-down, which becomes an issue once you enter a dungeon or start mining, as it tends to maintain that position. It is also difficult to target where precisely you place or destroy blocks.
Dragon Quest Builders combines some of the best qualities of both the Dragon Quest series, and Minecraft. From the Dragon Quest half, you get the humour and artwork that truly makes Dragon Quest great. From Minecraft, everything in the world can be made into something better to aid you in your journey. However, this combination is not without it’s issues. Whilst they do make a nice combination together, they do also lose something from each of their respective games. For example, you are incredibly limited by what you can make at the start of the game, recipes are largely story-based. So whilst you are free to explore and customise your city as much as you desire, depending on how far into the story you can only make so much.
On the other hand, the game tries too hard to be a true Dragon Quest game in some regards. The player has equipment and status screens that are largely redundant, NPC’s join your ‘party’ the first time you meet them and then eternally wander your city once they arrive, making the entire sequence pointless. From the start the protagonist is informed they will never improve their combat abilities, and rather their strength comes from what they create, so how can this truly be considered a Dragon Quest game.
However, regardless of this, the game is so much fun, the story is in true Dragon Quest style, and is incredibly compelling, as it leaves you excited about what you will discover to create with next. The humour is perhaps one of the best aspects, in the few interactions you have with your townsfolk, almost every contains some witty humour. Exploring the world with familiar monsters from the Dragon Quest universe is also a great feeling.