Dragon Quest Builders has to be one of my favourite building games in a few years. I reviewed the PS4 version back in 2016 and the Switch version is out in a few days time bringing the experience to a portable console. While there is nothing really new and fantastic about the Switch version, the fact that you can pick up and take your town with you feels as if it was meant to be made for the console all along. Dragon Quest Builders is the sort of game you pick up and play for a few minutes. Build a house here, make a pie for a townfolk there and then you put it down. It never feels like a game that you truly invest dozens of hours in at a time so the Switch's pick-up-and-play approach fits the game perfectly.
For those of you who have never heard of the game before, as the title suggests, the game is set in the acclaimed Dragon Quest universe and you take on the role of a builder who is the only person in the world with the ability to build things. The knowledge of creation has been taken away from the people leaving them with no ability to create houses, food, and even the most basic necessities. You wake up from a slumber in this world and venture off to create villages and towns for these people and bring creation back to the lands. Of course, there is a darkness in the world and all the monsters we know and love from the series act as the creatures you will need to defend your town from as you progress in the game.
Unlike other creation games like Minecraft and Portal Knights, Dragon Quest Builders does not have a dedicated creation hub where you can just make things and progress at the pace you want. Instead, the game takes you across a couple of ten-hour campaigns where you are challenged at creating specific items as you build up each town across different regions with specific ecosystems. It is a nice way to tell the story and I also felt that instead of you trying to figure out what to do next, the game's streamlined progression system keeps you going with quests and tasks given to you by specific people.
Building in the game is easy and takes the same approach as Minecraft where the world is made up of blocks and you build houses, bedrooms, watchtowers and whatever else you need to use, as these blocks made of different materials. When it comes to items the same system comes into play too. You will start the game with nothing and the more you create the more you will discover. Stone axes become iron axes and gravel will slowly teach you how to create wood and then brick. It also all depends on the townspeople and what they need as the game's story dictates the items you can make.
There is, however, a free building mode that lets you create whatever you want and progress through the different creation trees at your own will. This is also where the Nintendo Switch's exclusive content comes in as you will find a Great Sabercat in the game that lets you ride on its back. When you defeat enemies using this animal's attack they will drop exclusive coloured materials and items that let you craft specific “pixel” blocks which you can then use to make cool 16-bit building and decorations. While this is nice, it does not speak volumes when it comes to the exclusive content on the Switch version at all. There is really no reason to go out of your way to find these items but if you have a vision in mind then go wild. The Great Sabercat also helps get around much faster too thanks to its speed.
In terms of the Switch's visuals, the game does have a softer look to it compared to the PS4 version which is probably due to the lower resolution of the game. Dragon Quest Builders runs at native 720p both docked and in handheld mode and I have to say that the game looks fantastic and there were no performance issues at all. My biggest issue with the game is the lack of touchscreen support. It is almost as if the game has been built with the idea in mind thanks to the menu and item selection being on the screen at all times. Unfortunately, you cannot tap on the item you want to make or use. Instead, you need to scroll over to it using the buttons. This is a huge missed opportunity and a sad one at that too as it could have sped up productivity in the game while building things.
Gameplay on the Switch version remains pretty much the same as the PS4 one. Each chapter is filled with a series of quests to complete and a final boss to fight before moving to the next region. When you do leave the current location you lose all your items and knowledge you have gained so you cannot arrive at the new town and build everything you have built right from the get-go. Instead, the story determines what you will learn to build and I was surprised to see that each chapter offered a few different things to learn and master. It would have been bad if they took away your knowledge and forced you to learn the same things again.
After a good sixty hours in Dragon Quest Builders, I mastered the controls again, build thousands of things and dived into the story which is pretty fantastic by the way. The game offers a tremendous amount of creativity even though you are limited by restrictions in the story. My issue with the PS4 version was the lack of multiplayer and this version still has the same problem. I just hope that the upcoming Dragon Quest Builder 2 fixes that as the mechanics and overall gameplay will greatly benefit from having a few players in the game working together to create awesome things.
This review was based on a review copy of the game provided to us by Nintendo
Available On: PS4, Switch | Reviewed On: Switch | Release Date: 9 February 2018 | RRP: R649
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