It has been a few years since Minecraft came out and the world decided that building within a game was fun and people wanted more and while many have attempted to create something that could match the wonder of that game, Dragon Quest Builders is perhaps the most refined and in some cases more advanced version of that formula to date.
Here you play as the builder, someone blessed by the Goddess Rubbis, who has the ability to create things and not just according to plan, but to actually discover things as you explore the world. Rubbis explains at the beginning that while there are monsters in the world, you are not the hero, it is not your job to head out, level up and take down the evil that plagues the land of Alefgard, it is your job to build towns, giving the humans of the world a place to call home and live. What the story does set up is that in the past, the evil Dragonlord has conquered the world, defeating the hero of the time and letting monsters take over. While not the most in-depth story it does allow for a reason as to why you are there and doing the things that you do.
Of course, the big part of the game is the actual building, or destruction and gathering, as that is what you will do more than anything. As you start, you will place a flag, provided by the goddess into the stand in the space, which will cleanse a small section of land around it, outside of this area, monsters roam the lands and while you can build there, the villagers won’t like to live there. To start most of your buildings will be made from dirt and straw, but as your progress through the game, you can craft from stone and timber, creating more elaborate buildings and towns. Each material that you can build with has an advantage and a disadvantage, dirt for example is everywhere and easy enough to collect, but can be destroyed be enemy attacks just as easily.
As you build up your town, more people will come to live in there, each with their own reasons for doing so and when they move in, they will start to ask you for things, building a space for them to cook food, or an armory so they can better protect the town, things like that. Once you get a town going, you can start to explore out into other parts of the world, by the use of portals, which you get after fighting off approaching monsters. These portals will take you to new environments that can net you new goodies for your building and creatures to harvest materials, which in turn let you build better items and gear back in your town. Sometimes, you ventures out into the wilds will be at the request of the people there and they will task you with obtaining items, in order to create something else for the town.
The cyclical nature of the games progress is appreciated, however the massive downside to this is that once you get your first town going, your gear is upgraded and you’re ready to take on just about anything, you need to move onto another area, through a special portal. The problem with the portal is it strips from you everything but your clothes and for some reason, you lose the ability to create some items in the next area, so when you obtain wood for example, you will then relearn how to make things. The problem with this is that you can spend a lot of time investing into the construction of your town, moving things about and just refining your town, only to have to start back at square one every time that you move to a new area.
In addition, once you completed the first land, there is the option to create your own town in a free build mode, the only thing that that mode offers outside of the others is the lack of people asking for things. In order to build things, you still need to collect materials, by mining, picking and hunting creatures, the difference is you can build anywhere and share your creations online, as well as download buildings created by others. The lack of a reason to build is great, but also does not really impose a need to play, there is a why not, but nothing ever goes past that. It is fun mode to spend sometime in, but there is not a draw to it like the main mode.
The game strikes a strange balance between the style of Dragon Quest games and Minecraft, with the characters showing the same visual style that the series has been known for, the enemies and plants also stand out, but everything else is made up of the giant blocks, that you build from, be it dirt, stone, coal, silver and more. The blend of styles is not as jarring as you might think, of course the giant blocks are noticeable, no matter where you are, but the overall style of the game keeps both elements from competing against each other. From an audio point of view, the music is really nice and clean, never becoming too and given how much time you can spend just collecting resources, that is a very welcome addition. The sound effects from the game match up with what is expected from the series, with musical tones to indicate set events as well, which tie back to the main games.
Dragon Quest Builders is a game that delivers players an RPG, but it does not bog down with pointless mechanics, it is simple that you can pick it up in a matter of hours. The annoyance of having to start over every time you move to a new location is a pain, but given that you don’t have to move on right away, you can explore each region at your own pace. This is a game that offers more depth than other building games, but keeps things light and fresh, letting players of all ages enjoy the experience.