I have always been a fan of anything that required me to use my imagination to create something. Saying that, I never got into Minecraft, probably due to its lack of direction and overall complexity. Sure I love a challenge as much as the next person, but by the time I tried the game, I found it hard to catch up with my friends and their elaborate worlds.
Well, Dragon Quest Builders has came along swept me off my feet. The game is no doubt a Minecraft clone, but it has so much more personality and direction, that it can stand on its own two feet. Set in the highly acclaimed Dragon Quest universe, the game sees you take on the role of the last builder. You have awoken in a world banished by darkness, and all the knowledge of creation has been lost. You, however, have the ability to create objects out of materials, so you set forth to restore the lost villages across the various ecosystems.
As much as the plot sounds simple, it is very charming, as the characters you meet, and enemies you face in the game are all quite memorable. The narrative also pieces well together as you advance through the game’s story in its chapter-based layout. You will go from meeting paranoid townsfolk who can only gossip about each other, to bonding with a nun, who’s main objective is to cure all the people who are terribly sick. These quirky AI character tidbits complemented the main character development and added even more flavour to a game that was already extremely fun and captivating.
The world of Dragon Quest Builders is made of blocks, and just like Minecraft, these blocks are all broken, picked up, crafted into something new, and placed down again. With various weapons that you learn to make from the quests the townsfolk give, you will slowly climb the crafting hierarchy as you discover more things to make from the new objects you discover in the vast world around you. This is the best part of the game, as I was given my land to build on, and I could go wild with creating any building I wanted, as high as I wanted too.
The only problem I had with the towns in each chapter, was that they were limited to a specific area, and that area was not very big. In the later chapters, I would build as much as I could, only to find that my townsfolk needed specific buildings. I then had to demolish everything to make space for these requests. However, there was a solution – I just started building up, with my town starting to look like a massive treehouse.
The amount of time I spent in my town became ridiculous. I would see myself spending hours on end creating the best looking town and city I could. Adding chairs, I crafted from branches I picked up, and ruby light fittings from glass I made from sand, and rubies I mined for. It became a complete addiction, and everything needed to be perfect.
While I was obsessing over the placement of my flower pots, the game’s quest line and story sees you actually doing things for a purpose. As you get new people to join your town, more quests will unlock, and more crafting opportunities will be revealed. The townsfolk are pretty demanding, and you would try knock these requests out all at once. Many of these are simple, like crafting a medical herb, or making a burger, but they never feel too tedious, as the time between you messing around for fun, and actually doing the game’s quests, are far and few between. A typical scenario saw me completing some quests for the people, fighting some Blue Slime for their goo, teleporting to another island to pick up some mushrooms, and then use a Chimera Wing to go back home.
There is always something to do, and the game’s building mechanics are so well-defined, that they work amazingly well. I seldom found myself messing up block placements, because after a few hours with the game, you will be a master at creating a castle of your dreams. The RPG side of the game sees you crafting weapons and armour sets to protect you from all those foul Dragon Quest monsters which threaten you every day. These too increase in power as you learn new recipes. Copper sword, to broadsword, and feather garment, to iron garment. Cooking food it also vital to your hunger levels, and making healing items will keep your health in order. It is all a well-oiled machine, that keeps the game interesting at all times.
Each chapter does come to an end however, and that is probably the biggest gripe I have with the game. When you end a chapter, you will need to leave everything you have built behind as you step through the portal to the next area.
It is not a nice feeling leaving your creation behind, but it means that there is a whole new ecosystem and new everything to create on the other side of the portal. In one way I can understand this move, as the game’s story progresses, and you see the protagonist grow as you play the game. It is also important to note that each chapter kept me busy for a good seven hours, so it is not like you are in a chapter for a short amount of time.
What Dragon Quest achieves that Minecraft has not, is that sense of completion. The people around me in the town, and the progression of my character, made me believe I was actually growing. The boss fights at the end of each chapter, gave me something to work towards, and reinforce my town to the best of my abilities. The quests and main plot gave me a reason to keep going back every day. This is what I loved about the game the most, and the Dragon Quest theme, is more than just a skin, as it breathes personality and life into the genre. The only thing missing, is the co-op, as the game lacks any sort of multiplayer. You will only find a mode where you can create and share your objects with the world.
After hours of creating, and days of building, I cannot find fault in Dragon Quest Builders. It is fantastic, and now that I am done with the main game, I am going to head into free roam mode, build the biggest city I have ever created, and share it with the world.