You would be forgiven for assuming Dragon Quest Builders is a Minecraft clone or even just a licensed skin. At first glance, that’s exactly what it looks like. While it does share many similarities, it’s the differences that make it a much more fleshed out game. Rather than a never-ending world with no set objective, there’s a tangible path to follow. These restrictions in DQB make it feel like there’s a little less replay value, but in exchange the core game is much more structured — and, in turn, more enjoyable.
There’s plenty of building to be done (the hint is in the title) and most of the construction and demolition works exactly like that money making franchise we all know as Minecraft. You need certain tools of different strengths to break various building materials. The building is simple, just select the thing you want to build in the crafting station and make sure you have the required parts. There are a few more traits that look to be lovingly borrowed from Minecraft — enemies going into your houses at night and wrecking up the place like Richard M. Nixon’s head — but that’s where the similarities stop. From there, DQB establishes itself as a vastly different game.
While there’s definitely a focus on both crafting and survival, at its core DQB is an RPG above all else. In fact, it has more in common with Animal Crossing than Minecraft. Your main goal is to create and maintain towns, fill them with people and keep them happy. The NPCs that fill your ever growing villages will constantly ask you to complete quest for them. These can range from something as simple as building a specific room for them form a blueprint to gathering a certain material. These quest are what drive the game, pushing you to explore and discover new things to build, materials, enemies and locations. The quests are usually short and easy to complete but they give the game a sense of purpose and direction that’s lacking in similar titles.
During your travels you’ll gain teleportals that grant you access to new areas. Its always a good bet these freshly unlocked areas will have something one of your needy townsfolk has been harassing you about so there’s never any question of where to go. This sets the scene for my absolute favourite item in the game, the Colossal Coffer.
Once you build one of these magical chests within the boundaries of your town, life becomes so much easier. No matter where you are you have access to it from the pause menu and if your inventory is full and your still collecting precious materials they’ll automatically be sent to the Colossal Coffer. It solves almost any problem you could possibly have. The only thing it cant do is function as a crafting station. Its the first thing you should be trying to build when moving to a new village.
DQB is divided into chapters, each with its own individual story to tell that will ultimately contribute to the overarching narrative. This is all well and good but it but it makes it necessary for everything you’ve accumulated in the previous chapter to no longer be accessible. The start of each chapter feels like the very beginning of the game. It’s a hell of a shock the first time it happens, but it quickly becomes obvious that it’s best for the longevity of the game.
Each time I lost everything I felt like a husk of my former self but I knew in no time I would be accumulating mostly new weapons armour and building materials. Every new chapter has a completely different setting. They follow a similar structure but the goal in each town is different and you’ll be utilising different techniques to reach those goals. The most challenging part of each chapter is the beginning and the end. At the start you’ll have nothing and by the end you’ll be armed to the teeth but you’ll have to defeat a challenging boss.
The main campaign will take around 30 hours to complete; maybe longer if you take your time and explore everything on offer. After each chapter you’re given a score for how well you performed and you can see if you managed to complete any of the hidden challenges. Once the first chapter is complete you’ll gain access to an area you can build whatever your like in without the threat of loosing all your progress. This space is also where you can send creations to friends and see what the community has made. You’ll gain more resources for this area on completion of each chapter and bonuses for each challenge completed. This is where the replay factor comes in. Its good that there’s an incentive to replay the story but the chapters are huge and even if you know what to do they’re still a bit too big to knock out in one session. You have to be very dedicated to attempt all the challenges and the amount of time you’ll need to invest is enough to scare most people off.
The story is satisfying and plays out in typical Dragon Quest fashion. You’ll have to save the world form some evil jerk who wants to make darkness blah blah etc but the focus is on building rather than being the traditional hero. Its a small twist but it helps to separate DQB from a billion other RPGs. The Dragon Quest franchise is one that uses a lot of the same enemies and items so all the fan favorites are present along with the always fantastic music to accompany them.
Dragon Quest Builders does and exceptional job of implementing a proven formula from a game that sold so well Microsoft decided to buy it, but it doesn’t stop there. DQB improves on that formula and give players a more well rounded, fuller experience. Its a guided experience but its this structure that makes the game both addictive and rewarding.
Dragon Quest Builders was reviewed using a promotional copy on PS4, as provided by the publisher.
Review: Dragon Quest Builders