Going into Dragon Quest Builders for the first time, I had very little knowledge on the Dragon Quest franchise. I’ve never played any games in the long running series which first debuted in 1986, and to make matters worse I’ve never played Minecraft, nor do I particularly like the sandbox building game genre. So it’s very safe to say I went into Dragon Quest Builders with very low expectations, already writing the game off as something I wouldn’t enjoy before I even had a chance to boot the game up. To my utmost surprise Dragon Quest Builders’ charm, creativity, addictive gameplay, and great sense of accomplishment taught me to never judge a book (well, game in this case) by its cover.
Set in the world of Alefgard which is the same world of the original Dragon Quest game, we are introduced to the hero and savior of the game, “The Builder”, a legendary figure of great status and past former glories that’s been written about in the history books of Alefgard forever. Centuries ago the realm of Alefgard was plunged into eternal darkness by the evil mastermind Dragonlord who tricked and eliminated the hero so he could rule Alefgard for himself. Now “The Builder” has been reborn anew from being in a long slumber due to those tragic past events, and it’s now up to your to save the realm, return Alefgard back to its glory days, and overthrow the evil Dragonlord once and for all.
Now, the story isn’t bad, but it’s not anything amazing that we haven’t seen before, just something you would come to expect with these kinds of building games. It’s just a basic premise to give the game a little bit of direction and meaning with something of an end goal to work towards. More seasoned gamers won’t really pay much attention to what’s on offer here and will spend most of their time skipping dialogue in order to get back to the addictive gameplay, whilst younger audiences will find much more joy with the story as they become invested in saving the realm and building whatever comes to their imagination.
Dragon Quest Builders fails to nail down the story aspect of the game, but let’s be honest, you shouldn’t be playing this for the story. It’s the gameplay that counts, and thankfully DQB hits the spot that in every way possible and more. Even as a non-fan of the genre I couldn’t help but to quickly become infatuated with the game, learning the very basics of the game and growling in confidence at the creativity and trying new things.
When it comes down to it, the gameplay is the highlight of Dragon Quest Builders. It’s very simplistic and accessible to all audiences by being straightforward to learn whilst having a lot of depth that will have you coming back for more. Crafting involves you scavenging the land of Alefgard for various resources needed to craft and rebuild your small piece of ruined land into a village you would be proud to call home. You can create things anytime and anywhere, but to do so you will need to find the correct raw materials, and these are obtained by harvesting plants and flowers that can be used to craft medicine for health, mining for iron, coal, etc. to be smelt down into metal ingots to create weapons and armour, and hacking down trees for wood to craft furniture.
Combat also plays a large part in the game. You will encounter enemies that can be killed for items, and during some quests your community and town will get attacked by hordes of evil minions that could destroy everything you’ve built given the chance. But again, combat takes a back seat to the game’s other main features, being very simple and far too easy. It offers little to no challenge at all, and even if the hordes destroy part of your village, it doesn’t take too long to pick up the items off the floor and place them back where they belong. With over twenty hours put into the game, I’ve only died once from falling off a very tall mountain. It’s a real shame the game doesn’t offer any challenge or have any real survival aspects. If you do happen to die, you don’t even get penalized, you just continue as normal.
I’m surprised at just how good Dragon Quest Builders is. While the game is simplistic and the story is nothing but a basic premise for the game, everything comes together and works because it’s fun and rewarding with a great sense of achievement. A few things are missing that could have been added that would have increased my enjoyment of the game, but this is a fantastic entry that I’m so glad I played, and it could very well open up the door for other big franchises to do their own Minecraft-style spin-off game.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, PS3, PSVita
Release Date: 14th October 2016