The Dragon Quest franchise is more than just a pedigreed series of RPGs. It’s also a breeder of excellent spin-off titles that fans and newcomers alike enjoy immensely. Dragon Quest Builders is the latest addition to this extensive spin-off library and while it appears to be just another Minecraft clone, that only scratches the surface of this charming title.
Set in an alternate timeline after the first Dragon Quest, the once prosperous world of Alefgard has been plunged into eternal darkness by the evil Dragonlord and his armies of monsters. That is until you, the legendary builder, awake from your deep slumber to defeat the darkness by rebuilding civilization block-by-block. You see, the inhabitants of Alefgard have lost more then just their hope over the years; they’ve lost the ability to build everyday tools and materials entirely. This leaves you as the only one left capable of teaching them this once-common practice.
You start your adventure by learning the basics of gathering resources and end the tutorial by claiming a plot of land with a banner of hope, which attracts villagers to your new town. These townspeople are at the heart of why I enjoyed my time with Builders. Unlike Minecraft, which only has the main goal of surviving or creating, the charmingly written villagers of Builders give the player objectives and requests to enrich their experience. At first, the villagers just want a place to sleep, but soon they will be asking for more elaborate creations, like workshops and kitchens, where they can work and produce materials for you to use. On top of teaching you new crafting recipes, the villagers will also send you out on story quests. These feature predetermined landmarks for you to explore and obtain unique materials from.
I loved that the stories in Dragon Quest Builders felt like something you would experience in a mainline entry. If you don’t want to complete the story, however, and just want to have fun crafting with all the materials in the game, you can mess around in Free Build mode after the first chapter. However, the mode will feel incomplete because you will not have discovered every crafting recipe or land exclusive material. This is also the only mode you can enter into co-op with a friend, which I don’t have much of a problem with considering I don’t like Minecraft-styled multiplayer.
Building or crafting anything in Dragon Quest Builders feels just as quick and efficient as it does in Minecraft. While Builders is controlled purely from a third-person perspective, you can lock your character into a block lane with the shoulder buttons and build precisely without causing mistakes. Shoulder buttons can also be used to place blocks higher or lower then where your character is standing. The only thing that you have to fight with occasionally is the camera. In tight or enclosed spaces, the camera may jump in-and-out on you while you’re messing with the right stick to get a proper angle. It’s a mild annoyance when it happens, especially if monsters are attacking you, but it’s definitely not a game-breaking issue.
really nice feature about Dragon Quest Builders is that as long as you build within the area surrounded by the banner, the game will recognize the differently themed rooms you create. This adds up points to you can use level up your base. The game rewards you for being more creative with your builds, but even struggling beginners get lent a helping hand from the various findable blueprints and recipes. Once the blueprint is laid down on the area you would like to build onto, you can follow the template to a T. After it’s complete, you can build further onto it and add your own flair, which may result in you creating an upgraded version of the original design by mistake. Unfortunately, I found these bannered areas to be pretty confined for space near the end of the chapters I experienced. While I could certainly build new levels to my structures to solve the issue, I still would’ve liked to have a wider area to build in so I could create more dedicated homes for my villagers instead of just a large inn every time.
largest issue that plagues Dragon Quest Builders isn’t one I would normally critique, mainly because it’s out of the devs’ control. However, I feel like I have to mention it – the price isn’t exactly right. While everything I’ve written till now hopefully makes this game feel like a more narrative-oriented Minecraft, I must admit that Dragon Quest Builders is not a full-retail price experience. The graphics are PlayStation 3 quality, the soundtrack consists of remixed classics from the main series, and there’s no real voice acting to be heard. If the Ratchet and Clank remake can be $40 at launch, this certainly can too. Ultimately, play the free demo of Dragon Quest Builders on your PS4 or Vita before taking the plunge on the full release. You will be able to see every one of the main appealing features I highlighted, and create a much better opinion on if this is a title you need immediately.
I never got hooked on Minecraft because I never felt any real satisfaction from building a new mansion or creating a town with friends. Dragon Quest Builders delivered that feeling to me by making me care for villagers and setting me on some great RPG-like quests. It is easily my preferred title in the crafting game genre.