Dragon Quest Builders Review
Breathe it in: the fresh crisp air in the open world, the grassy plains and hills as far as the eye can see, alone with your imagination in a world where everything fits into neatly cubed spaces as you destroy and rebuild to your heart’s content. It may be a familiar sight, but as soon as that first blue slime starts hopping aggressively towards you with its unblinking smile you remember you aren’t in just any old sandbox survival world. Welcome to Dragon Quest Builders.
The latest spin off in the long standing Dragon Quest series, developer and publisher Square Enix has taken its well established roots in the Dragon Quest realm and blended it with the likes of Minecraft or Terraria to create something both new and familiar. The nameless protagonist (referred to simply as the Builder) awakens in a cave with no memory of his past. An omniscient voice gives him the typical instructions about a world-ending enemy, in this case known as the Dragonlord, and how it is the Builders duty to stop him. Right out of the gate this game is peppered with tongue-in-cheek and amusing dialogue, despite the fact the Builder remains entirely silent throughout. At one point early on as the voice explains the Builders destiny he simply falls asleep because he doesn’t care, he’s hungry and the grand scheme of things means nothing to him. A few hours later I was tasked with learning to build a mallet carried by the hammerhood enemy to which – when I asked him if I could see his ‘tool’ – he became very shy and confused until he realized I was talking about his hammer, yikes!
“Square Enix has taken its well established roots in the Dragon Quest realm and blended it with the likes of Minecraft or Terraria to create something both new and familiar.”
The game does a great job of giving you a basic tutorial although I did find a few things to be more tedious than they needed to be. When a room is created your settlement gains a point bonus, accrue enough points and the settlement levels up and offers more options. This is great, except if you accidentally put a hole in the wall the game must pause, tell you the room was dismantled, display a graphic, and deduct points from your score because you slipped and accidentally made a hole that would take a half a second to fill.
Collecting materials and crafting is fast and fun. With each new object you discover, the Builder will automatically learn what he can build with it. Shortly into the quest line you will even craft a coffer that is accessible while traveling great distances to swap items in and out, letting you stray far away from base camp to find better materials. It’s also nice to just come home and add a few rooms or leave a few new decorations to increase the settlements value. All of the materials are easy to find and crafting will even take items out of your treasure chests so you aren’t fumbling with your somewhat limited inventory (you can carry 15 useable items or crafting materials at a time) when you want a new door. Speaking of chests and doors, placing a crafted item or furniture in the wrong spot is easy enough to fix by smashing it and picking it back up. It will automatically return to your inventory to be placed again at no expense to you.
As mentioned, Dragon Quest is the latest spin off in the series, and if this series is known for anything it’s maintaining its nostalgia. I played Dragon Warrior 4 back in the early 90’s and I couldn’t help but feel like a kid again to not only see familiar monsters but to experience familiar menu screens, sound effects, and even music that has remained classic and seemingly untouched over the years. It’s this faithfulness to its history that really makes it feel unique, despite its similarities to other world-building games.
Being a title where the world is constantly moving – time passes from day to night, the Builder gets hungry and must be fed, combat takes place in real time rather than turn based battles – it was necessary for the controls to be functional on the fly. Movement, combat, and mining are all quick and easy to handle. Using items and scrolling through the inventory is as simple as tapping left and right on the D pad, however, the drop down menu can feel a bit complex at times, as well as crafting the necessary materials to build certain objects: craft the mallet to break down the tree, collect the lumber to craft wood, and use the wood for crafting. This takes a few menu’s to get through and your inventory will fill up quickly until you get the hang of which essentials you need to carry and still leave room for rare items you find. It’s not that this is an overly difficult system to work with, but being a game rated E 10+ I can’t help but wonder if 10 year olds have the patience for it.
Dragon Quest Builders builds off of the popularity of mainstay series such as Minecraft and Terraria and mixes in a healthy dose of nostalgia for fans of the Dragon Quest series. The controls are simple and soon become second nature as you mine, create, and battle your way around a lush yet simplistic world. The freedom of creation is both fun and challenging as you try to build a settlement that can support other humans but still fend off against attacks by monsters. The nostalgic sound effects and music will be both appreciated by older fans and enjoyed as well-suited additions to this series that merges both delightful art styles of characters and items with the blocky world that contains it.
***A PS4 review copy was provided by the publisher***
- Visual and Audio Nostalgia
- Simple Controls
- Freedom To Create
- Delightfully Witty
- Frequent Menus
- No Combat Locking