Dragon Quest Builders Review: Evolving the Minecraft Foundation
Featuring a voxel aesthetic, building and gathering mechanics it feels the obvious choice to compare Dragon Quest Builders to Microsoft’s Minecraft, but it is also necessary due to the overwhelming similarities. Explore the land, refine the earth’s elements to your will and survive the harsh night. Although they seem so similar it is the differences between Dragon Quest Builders and Minecraft where the game gets the most interesting. Dragon Quest Builders takes the successful and creative elements from Minecraft and goes that extra step, taking a story to the template and creating something special.
Based around the parallel ending of the original Dragon Quest, just before the end battle, Dragon Quest Builders is built around the idea of how the world would have turned out if the hero of Dragon Quest had accepted the Dragonlord’s tempting offer to rule half of the world each. This offer however was a trap and the hero killed. With the original hero gone the evil Dragonlord is able to take over the world and dominate his territory with his monsters. Years later Dragon Quest Builders begins with a new hero awakening to a desolate world and a foreboding destiny. While the game revives you as the ‘chosen one’ of this story it is also quick to dispel the idea of being a ‘hero’. Even though the main purpose of Dragon Quest Builders may feel centered on building and bringing life back to the land there is still a lengthy amount of fighting. This is where the game starts to flail around itself. Having focused so much on the main mechanic and drawing point of the game the combat has unfortunately suffered. Dragon Quest Builders falls into the irritating category of games that seem to think walking into or touching a monster should cause damage. This becomes increasingly annoying as combat consists of just mashing the triangle button and hoping that you are just in range of hitting them, but not too close that they touch you and hurt you. With no targeting system or the ability to move while attacking this becomes very difficult, especially as the game goes on and rises in difficulty.
The boss fights are the cruellest thing I have ever experienced. Without spoiling anything for the story it is important to know that the game has been split into four main chapters, each with its own individual boss fight and town. . After spending a few hours building up and decorating your town just right the final boss fight will then destroy all of your hard work. Each boss appears around the border of your town and is designed to break your spirit by taking away every brick you worked so hard to make. In each chapter the game will repeat the same offence, causing immense agony to the player as they are forced to either rebuild their carefully constructed town or just bugger off to the next chapter.
The NPCs are a big aspect and add an extreme amount of personality and character to what could have been as bland a game as Minecraft can be. The main storyline of Dragon Quest Builders has to be dragged over four chapters and a whole bundle of NPC’s to repeat it back over in case you didn’t get it the first time. They are cute and well-designed but often dumb. According to the plot all the creativity and imagination has been taken from the world, causing the human race to lose the ability to create and build. They lose their minds every time a project is completed or a room improved, dropping everything to rush over and applaud your brilliance. This is much appreciated when you go to the extra hour’s effort to mine out every rare resource to cover the entire town in the richest minerals you can.
On a worse note the music is repetitive; with only two main tracks for each area, a safe music for the town area and a tune for the outside world that signalled danger the music can easily become grating. Taking into consideration that each chapter will take a few hours to finish the lack of change in the music is exceedingly irritating and disappointing from a company such as Square Enix who have been responsible for some of the most magnificent pieces of video game music in history.
Dragon Quest Builders is a lot of fun, easily a game to get sucked into with hours of content in just the main storyline alone. The multiplayer aspect is also a blackhole of time where the outside world no longer matters and meals are forgotten. With satisfying gameplay I can only wish there was more diversity in the chapters instead of repeating the same patterns until the final chapter changing up the gameplay. If it had been done earlier, or perhaps if the previous towns were still on the same map/world and played a part in each chapter it would feel more worthwhile to have put in the effort instead of never seeing those towns again.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, PS3, PS VITA
Review copy provided by publisher.