I originally reviewed Dragon Quest Builders in October 2016 on the PS4. At the time I thought the game was fantastic. Square Enix managed to take a beloved IP such as Dragon Quest and overlay a builder type game, such as Roblox or Minecraft, with RPG questing. I’ve played through the game again on the Switch and I may even be more impressed than I originally was at just how well they managed to interweave those two genres. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel just over the horizon. The game does have a little bit lower resolution than it does on the PS4 version, 720p as opposed to 1080p, yet it runs at 60 FPS docked and 30 in handheld mode. It also manages to shrink the file size down to 811mb. The original review follows with a few tweaks here and there.
If you build it they will come. Dragon Quest Builders could appropriate that Field of Dreams tagline and it would work in this situation. You awaken, this part feels more like Zelda than Minecraft, and learn that you are the legendary builder. The land has been laid siege by the Dragonlord and the people have lost the ability to build anything. The sky suffers from a great overcast and the people wander around aimlessly.
That’s where you come in. As the builder you’ll lay down a claim in each of 5 different chapters and rebuild a city or encampment of legend. As you build out your city villagers will find it. The first chapter will focus on the city of Cantlin. The humor in the game is apparent from the opening minutes. One of the first citizens reminds you that you are not the hero. Which in a way is true. In a lot of facets the town serves as the hero of the story. As you complete quests you’ll be rewarded with items to improve your town. The town will level up but you never will. However your gear and items will get better.
At first blush I had a hard time seeing how Builder would work as a fully functional RPG and a builder but it pulls it off without a hitch. The town levels from “experience” points earned by completing, decorating, and improving rooms. Your character won’t level in a traditional but they will improve. As the town levels up you can create items for your character that increase in power as you progress or become more specialized. You character does get a total hitpoint increase but that is the only personal statistic that raises. Everything else is dependent on the gear your hero wears whether that is a shield, armor, weapons, trinkets, or miscellaneous items.
Builders does a good job of conveying the overall narrative through character dialogue and short cutscenes. A handful of these cutscenes take place in the form of dream sequences the player witnesses as they sleep. Only time will tell if these are visions or actual memories. Other layers of the story will only unfold as you explore the world and find hidden books, signs, and notes scattered throughout the world left by previous denizens. Some of these lore pieces can be found in ruins while others are buried deep in caves off the beaten path.
Square Enix performs a great job of fan service with this title. Fans of Dragon Quest will find familiar elements from the beloved franchise blended with new mechanics but players new to the franchise can easily pick up the game and go.
It would be easy at first look to dismiss Dragon Quest Builders as just another Minecraft clone. After close inspection; however, there is a lot here that makes the game stand firmly on its own. While it does borrow heavily on some systems made famous by the world’s most popular builder it does introduce more than enough to distinguish itself from just another block stacker. Quests and blueprints add a layer of structure that aid players that suffer from decision paralysis in the face of a sandbox that allows them to do virtually anything.
Once you complete the first chapter you’ll open up an additional play mode. Terra Incognita allows you to focus on building and puts the questing and survival mode behind you. You’ll also have access to areas where you can share your creations with others and import other players works into your world. You can choose to bring your friends plots in or make them random. Unfortunately that’s as close as the game gets to multiplayer. There is also an arena Terra Gladiatorial. It’s here that you can take on waves of monsters in a fight for bragging rights.
As Builders progresses through chapters you’ll unlock new and unique biomes filled with assorted colors, materials, and monsters not found in the previous areas. This gating helps keep the game fresh as you progress because even towards the end game you are finding new stuff. Once you complete a chapter you’ll also learn of the challenges you could have competed. There was so much i failed to do on my initial playthrough. One of the challenges is to kill three dragons. I never even saw one dragon much less three. I also had materials for recipes I never learned. It’s clear that even with the amount of time I sunk into each chapter that I only scratched the surface. The game really encourages you to go back and replay a chapter if you want a better result.
Dragon Quest Builders provides fans of the series a new genre to wade into with this entry to the franchise. It also creates a great starting point for players intrigued by the builder genre but hesitant to jump in due to the lack of structure most provide. Dragon Quest Builders provides a lot of the freedom of Minecraft but does guide you enough that you’ll never feel like you don’t have something important to do even if all you want to do is build and that’s okay. You can choose to do that too.
Final Score: 8.5
- Great looking Dragon Quest aesthetics
- Fantastic Score
- Multiple building modes
- Variety of biomes
- No local multiplayer