I have never played an ounce of Minecraft, and I’ve never had any desire to do so. My eldest son, who’s eight years old, is absolutely obsessed with it. He builds some amazing things, and it really taps into that creative mind he has for architecture and construction. While I completely understand why he loves it so much, it’s never held much appeal for me because I need a story to hold my interest in a sandbox game. Unfortunately for me and my addictive nature, Dragon Quest Builders fills in that gap all too well. It’s Dragon Quest meets Minecraft in perhaps the best way imaginable, in that the only real resemblance to Minecraft is the block-styled world coupled with the ability to build from said blocks. After that, it has a complete life of its own, one that my Minecraft-loving-eight-year-old called “stupid,” because he hates reading and hates going on quests. It’s a good thing he’s not reviewing this title, now isn’t it.
If You Build It, They Will Come
In this reality of Dragon Quest, Alefgard has been completely taken over by the Dragonlord. He’s wiped away all creativity from the surviving humans, forcing them to fend for themselves without the knowledge to build, cook, or even create. Monsters have overrun the land as a result, but there is hope, and that hope lies in the player. The player-created character wakes up in what appears to be a tomb and learns that they are a Builder, the only human alive who knows how to create anything. The Builder doesn’t start off knowing everything under the sun, of course; the Builder only has the capability to create things out of materials.
First step to freeing Alefgard is to start building a village. If you build it, others will come. You don’t have the option to choose where you will build, as you are led to past ruins to revitalize. But how you design the city after that is all up to you. At least it is once you discover new materials. At first, you only have sticks cobbled together to form a club that you’ll use to carve out chunks of earth and build mud huts with straw doors and straw mattresses. As you find new areas to explore and therefore new materials, the Builder will think up new recipes to build from. After you hammer down your first boulder and collect stones, you’ll know how to forge better weapons and armor from the stone materials. Everything builds upon what you find, making each discovery as exciting as the last.
The Builder never has a chance to get bored, either, because as the city flourishes and more inhabitants drop in, the more quests they will pile upon the Builder. They’ll start small, such as asking for a pot decoration and then they’ll ask for room upgrades, private bedrooms, or new materials to be found. Completing these quests will help you level up your city, which is based upon earning various points from room building and decorating. Decorating rooms often do a bit more than give them that extra spark as well, as you may accidentally stumble upon a new room recipe, which adds even more points to the city level total. The only catch to leveling up the city is that your additions have to be within the confines of the pre-set location. You may want to run to the other side of the mountain to build a treasure room, and you certainly can, but it won’t be attributed as part of your city level total.
I did on more than one occasion encounter a weird glitch where either the quest-giver didn’t recognize that I had built a room to their specifications or the game itself didn’t recognize a room had followed a particular recipe. When the former happened, the inhabitant constantly told me to finish the job, even though it was most certainly finished and the game already credited me as upgrading the room. I couldn’t get any other quests from them either, which is rather frustrating to think of what I may have missed. With the latter issue, if the game didn’t recognize that I had followed a room recipe, I simply wouldn’t earn the level points for the city. It didn’t matter if I tore down the room completely and rebuilt it from scratch; I was not going to get credit for building that private bedroom. If I tore it down and built a completely different recipe in that spot, I wouldn’t get credit for that recipe either. I suppose I built in a virtual abyss, even though it happens to be right by that city banner.
Dragon Quest Builders Review - a DQConstruction (PS4)
Of course, the more you level up the city, the more the monsters are attracted to attack it. Some of your inhabitants will help you fight against the swarms of enemies, but you cannot count on them to get you out of every solution. You may be a Builder, but you have to be a warrior too. Thankfully, the game does not slow down to pack in that typical turn-based combat style found in Dragon Quest. It’s all fast-paced action where you will have to keep one eye on your health meter. Some of those leaders pack a wallop.
City Can’t Be Built on Rock and Roll Alone
Now that the legendary Builder is here to get humans things, they won’t leave you be with simply building a city for them to live in. Some will order you to leave the safety of the village to explore distant lands and bring back other people, recipes, materials, and building blueprints. At least while you’re exploring there’s a chance you’ll learn a new fighting technique, find new treasure boxes, discover new materials that you weren’t sent out to find, make new friends, discover new recipes, etc. The list really does go on and on, which is one reason why I have a hard time putting down the controller. It’s not a matter of saying to yourself, “Just one more side quest,” it’s a matter of asking yourself, “Oh hey, what’s that over there?” That’s often followed by wondering what you can make with your new discovery, how can you spiffy up this room now, or what can you harvest now.
If you’re like my son and have zero interest in completing quests, there is a Free Build mode that unlocks after completing the first chapter. The only caveat to immediately jumping in this mode is that players can only bring into the mode what they have discovered. Meaning, if you haven’t visited every area in every chapter, you’ll only go into Free Build with the materials and recipes you’ve unlocked in the story chapters you have completed.
It’s easy to dismiss Dragon Quest Builders as just another Minecraft clone or a Minecraft-lite, but those who do will miss out on a very creative little adventure. I never thought building in the name of saving the world could be this entertaining or keep me up so late at night. I’ve always enjoyed the crafting side of RPGs, but this takes it on to a whole new level. It’s a crafter’s paradise more than it is a builder’s, something you won’t know until you pick it up for yourself. Come for the charming Dragon Quest look and feel and, yes, the Minecraft building; stay for the questing and crafting.
Dragon Quest Builders review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.