The moment you have a look at a screenshots, you’re going to compare Dragon Quest Builders with Minecraft. And while you would not be to far off the mark, it would be an unfair comparison, regardless of what you think of Minecraft. Dragon Quest Builders combines the building freedom of Minecraft, the adventure aspect and exploration of a Zelda game and the incredibly endearing world of Dragon Quest.
From the very first moments in Dragon Quest Builder, you are told that you are not the hero. You are the Legendary builder. Called upon to rebuild the world in order to safe it from the darkness. The overall story, while not amazing, does get the job done to keep you interested.
More interesting than the main story, are the short stories the people you meet along your journey will provide you with. While everybody is interested in restoring the sky to it’s natural blue colour, many of them have motives of their own.
Rise Builder.. you are not the hero..
After a short tutorial you will be tasked to rebuild a small city on the Cantlin Plains. After planting your flag in the designated area, a small square of the map will be lit and you are off to start the work of the legendary Builder. While the building area seems a bit small at first, it offers a unique way to focus all your efforts on the small place you have. This makes your town feel like your very own piece of the world.
Not long after you brought the light back to a small piece of the Cantlin Fields, people will start coming into your town, drawn by the light. These characters are all part of the story and serve as both villagers, workers and quest givers in your town. The number never grows much further than 8 or so people though. This too, ensures that you know and care about many of them and they all get to shine their unique characters on your story.
To build the world, one block at a time..
The way you interact with the building aspect of Dragon Quest Builders is straight-up the same as Minecraft. The placing of the blocks is somewhat different (and I would say better) than it source material and the camera shifted to a third person view.
However, building your town is actually more building a collection of rooms. Rooms are to be build for specific purposes. You build a kitchen for food, an armoury for weapons and an inn for your towns people to go to sleep. While we’re not going to spoil all the possibilities, the further you get in the story, the more options you get and the more interesting your town becomes.
Different Chapters, different towns
Each chapter asks you to take care of a new region with new challenges. Depending on how much in a hurry you are with the main story, and how build-happy you are, each chapter takes about 8-10 hours.
After the main story in a chapter ends, you go to the next region, foregoing everything you learned and leaving behind everything you gathered, gained and crafted. While some may find this highly discouraging, essentially resetting the game for every new chapter, we found it rather refreshing. While most of the basics remain the same, each chapter has many different items and focusses. Resetting your abilities makes it so that each and every chapter feels like a game on itself, making you earn all you gain all over again.
Minecraft, Zelda and Dragon Quest!
The meat of the game is threefold; Building, Exploration and Combat. The main story gives you plenty of all of these aspects. Where some quests ask to retrieve a person or item from an enemy stronghold, others ask you to build a room to their (specific) likings. To be able to do all this, a healthy dose of exploration is needed. All these quests are part of the greater narrative and with flavour texts worthy of a Dragon Quest game, it all adds to an adventure worth remembering!
PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita
We reviewed Dragon Quest Builders on the PlayStation 4. The game runs extremely smooth, has little to no load times and looks gorgeous. Sadly, we did not get a change to test out the PlayStation Vita (or PC) version of the game. Some research taught us that the handheld takes a bit longer to load. The resolution is reduced and the draw distance significantly lower. None of this however deducts from the enjoyment. Adding the ability to take the game everywhere however is amazing! Making the Vita port a great option for gamers who prefer to build on the go!
For ever and ever!
While the main story takes about 30-40-ish hours to complete (again, depending on your focus), there is much more to keep you entertained well after that. After completing the first chapter, you unlock the free mode Terra Incognita. No longer are you bound by a specific area and your resources are limitless. (You do still have to gather them yourself though, this is NOT Minecraft creative mode)
Playing the main story slowly unlocks more and more items and options in the Terra Incognita. There are also specific challenges in each chapter making them well worth another playthrough. Especially the challenge to finish a chapter within a set number of days is a journey worth taking. These challenges again unlock more content for the Terra Incognita giving you even more incentive to complete them.
Rounding out Terra Incognita is a gladiatorial arena where you can hone you combat prowess. With many different level challenges, yet another small addition worth putting your time in.
Happy to do it all over again
All in all, we found Dragon Quest Builders to be an extremely refreshing take on the Minecraft formula. Building is fun, questing in great and combat entertaining. The freedom is nearly limitless and only slightly narrowed to provide a focussed story. After well over 50 hours of play we’re still very happy to go back to Dragon Quest Builders to enjoy many of the options mentioned above. We found Dragon Quest Builder to be one of the more interesting and refreshing games of the current generation well worthy of both your time and your money.