Dragon Quest Builders Review

Dragon Quest Builders' blocky world

Even as Minecraft tirelessly gets ported to every first microwave capable of rendering three-dimensional cubes, various projects rush to bask in its glory. From nameless survival games in perpetual early access to fully-fledged series, everyone wants to embark on their own interpretation of the unforgettable builder. Not even temptation, if you remember, could resist it. Fallout 4, not to mention the rest.

Dragon Quest Builders is no exception. It is the most natural “Minecraft with a twist”, only this time the twist is truly necessary and desired, albeit simple. To make digging in square mines interesting again, only one detail was needed – a plot.

In another fairy-tale world, everything is bad: its inhabitants have literally forgotten how to create. No one is able to even make a stool, so the beautiful cities of past years lie in ruins, and monsters roam the once sunny meadows without fear of swords. As usual, we are given the responsible mission of the Chosen One, endowed with the gift of construction, with the help of which he will build a new civilization and resist the villainous villain.

In short, a collection of adventure clichés with an architectural theme.

Building the ultimate base

However, there is a fundamental difference between building earthy boxes of fun and the same activity, but for specific purposes. Thanks to the scenario, no matter how simple it may be, standard genre activities like terraforming, block collecting, and crafting in Dragon Quest Builders no longer seem so pointless. After all, you do all this not for yourself, but for the settlers who slowly gather around the village walls to marvel at the miracle of creation.

Through storytelling, the game sets a clear direction, thereby solving the problem of motivation that inevitably arises in pure sandbox games. The same Minecraft relies entirely on the player’s imagination, and if they consider a 5×5 hut to be the pinnacle of their creativity, there is little point in persuading them otherwise. And there’s no need to, since that’s what it’s all about.

Here, the question “What’s next?” always has a couple of answers. What’s that? Oh, the neighbor needs a new wardrobe, but there aren’t enough materials for it – isn’t that a reason to take a walk to the nearest forest? You can also look for something edible for lunch or even venture into caves for ore to finally finish the defensive structure that the local warlord has been talking about for three days. Who knows, maybe some treasure will come along!

The quests in Dragon Quest Builders successfully combine an educational function and the role of a creative guidepost, not allowing you to stop at what you have achieved. It may seem like there is no room for improvement, but here’s a new blueprint, recipe, or portal to a place with some cool blocks. And each time, a fresh dose of content acts as a huge stimulus to move forward.

Interacting with NPCs

The downside of such a structure, however, is that there are no familiar joys like procedural level generation and complete freedom of action here. It can’t be called a linear game, but the path of a novice architect is predetermined slightly more than expected. It is enough that the location of the base and the order of exploring new islands, blocked until a specific plot moment, have already been chosen for you. Such tricks seriously affect replayability.

In a separate mode, Terra Incognita, you are allowed to roam freely, but in the format of the bare-bones builder of Dragon Quest Builders, it is less exciting. In particular, the limitations of the toolkit become obvious, which is inferior to the capabilities of the great and terrible “Minecraft,” and the camera’s shortcomings, which are clearly not adapted to navigating inside buildings. And here I was wondering why all the houses in the screenshots were without roofs…

Dragon Quest Builders' box of treasures

I did it

However, the worst part of Builders is the combat system, consisting of only one attack and its charge variation. You cannot block, dodge, or even lock the camera on the enemy, which reduces every battle to a ridiculous dance around equally limited skeleton opponents in an attempt to find their hitbox. It turns out that swinging a chibi-sword in a way that deals damage without receiving any from a simple touch of the enemy is not so easy.

The most technical method of combat ends up being mindless “tanking” with a full pocket of healing potions to compensate for the accompanying damage. The enjoyment, to say the least, is questionable. And considering that you are constantly forced to fight the local fauna – whether in random encounters, defending settlements, or during scripted boss fights – the fights soon become an annoying obligation that you run away from at the slightest opportunity.

Engaging in combat

The Switch port, by the way, turned out surprisingly fast: the game runs at a relatively smooth 60 FPS at 720p – and this without losing the beauty of the PS4 version! The visual range itself may not be particularly outstanding, but it’s still nice that the resources of the Nintendo console were enough for an impressive draw distance, sharp shadows, reflections, and other graphical details that are usually cut during the porting process.

The frame rate only starts to drop in portable mode, but thanks to the slow pace of the gameplay, you hardly notice the loss of performance. However, on the small screen of the Switch, Builders looks as if it’s better – probably because the “staircase” effect is less noticeable.

Mysterious portals in the game

The impression of Dragon Quest Builders is not the worst. Despite the fact that the ideas of Minecraft are slowly losing their former attractiveness, together with a solid adventure in the style of “Zelda”, they feel quite fresh. At least, it is definitely possible to enjoy digging in the cubic soil for another week.

The only thing missing is some kind of cooperative mode and a more diverse soundtrack. But they say a sequel is on the way, so we’ll wait.

Dragon Quest Builders
PlayStation Vita, PS3, PS4, Switch
Adventure, RPG
Square Enix
Square Enix
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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