Building for adventure!
I’m not a huge fan of “building games”. It’s not for my lack of creativity, I loved Legos as a child, but when it comes to videogames, I just want a bit more. I’ve attempted to try and get into games that require crafting, yet if the simple goal is to survive and create my own fun alone or with friends, I always find myself losing interesting. This is where Dragon Quest Builders comes into play, and if I can go ahead and say it right now, this is my favorite crafting game ever and for good reason; it’s compelling, additive, charming, and has an ultimate end goal.
Restore peace to the land
Dragon Quest has players taking on the role of the builder and not a hero. A great source of evil has turned the land into a dark place, and it’s going to be up to the builder to restore locations and bring back light and peace to the world. One of the first things not to expect is any sort of leveling system or heroics. That’s not to say players won’t find themselves going on quests, or helping people. That happens a lot actually, but everything that is done in this world revolves around building. Building a better town, armor, weapons, and defenses. Yep, building is going to be the bread and butter of the experience.
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
How long to beat: 40+ hours
The story elements, while not in the player’s face, are dropped via townsfolk in the various quests they send the builder on. Sometimes it’s simply to build something, other times to explore a new area and find new townsfolks. One of my favorite was exploring an old Castle and running into a ghost that wanted me to follow. It’s just enough incentive and story to keep players propelling towards the ultimate goal of restoring the land.
It works surprising well, and the game does a great job of teaching players the mechanics over the course of the adventure, like going out into the land to gain new resources, explore new areas, meet new characters, and of course build new stuff. It’s a gameplay loop that is very addicting, so much that I’d find myself just going out to harvest blocks of sand, ore, branches, and whatever I could find. While at the start, inventory will be limited, eventually the story will enable players to craft a huge chest that allows access to items from anywhere on the map. Too many resources? No problem, they get warped right to the big chest. I didn’t expect this ability or feature to come into play, but after a few hours, low and behold, there it is and it’s a huge saving grace, and it’s little moments like this that are peppered throughout the experience. Elements that come together to not only enhance the gameplay, but make it easier to play, without providing huge hassles of inventory management.
Now, while building is a huge role in the game, combat does have its place. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s suitable enough. Giving off a very old school Zelda like experience, with swiping to attack, or charging up to do even more damage. This ability can also be used when harvesting materials with great effect. Fighting comes when exploring the world, but also the areas built will come under attack. Sometimes at night, other times randomly. Villagers can and will come to the rescue to help, but if the monsters destroy some of the town in the process, it’s up to the builder to fix it. Then there is the boss battles at the end of the chapters, which lead way to some of the most fun elements of combat and strategy.
Building a better world
Dragon Quest builders does a lot of things right. Yet it has some areas that could still use improvement. Combat is simple enough, but almost too much. It mostly boils down to attack, hitting, and running away. It’s not super in depth, it’s suitable, but a bit more variation or skills might have cut down on this feeling. Another huge negative is the camera. It works great outside, which the game mostly takes place in. Go underground or inside an area and expect to finagle with the camera till it gives a closer look, if it’s even possible. There were plenty of times I had to struggle just to see what was on the inside. Even during times where the game is wanting players to go in an area, it happens. This can also cause issue with moments of platforming to climb up higher along with the stunted jump ability. It’s the biggest blemish on this otherwise well done game. Performance overall is solid mostly, though there is some slowdown that occurs at times.
Dragon Quest takes an established franchise and throws in a bit of Minecraft, some elements of Dark Cloud, and even some Legend of Zelda. It takes inspiration from these but manages to create its own unique game in the process. Building is the core component, along with crafting and resource management. Yet it’s done in a wonderful Dragon Quest world that is continually pushing players forward toward the end goal, which will take most players a long time to finish. While the gameplay, levels, and locations are something that everyone will experience by the end game, how players build their towns and help the townsfolk is what will give each person their unique experience.
Favorite moment: Finding new recipes or learning new items to make always brings a smile to my face.
Worst moment: Camera when inside places with a roof or underground is hard to manage.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.