This review may seem a little pointless if you follow the blog as you probably noticed that this game in particular already appeared on the runner ups for the best games we played in 2016 so, as you can guess, I like this game quite a bit.
In any case, if you want to know the details on what made me enjoy this game, you’ll have to keep reading.
Dragon Quest: Builders is the latest entry on this long running franchise of RPGs even though, in this case, this is more of a spin off. Interestingly enough, I must admit that even though I’m a sucker for Japanese RPGs, this series has always been elusive to me. Back in the day I had the chance to purchase DQ VIII and instead I picked a copy of SMT: Digital Devil Saga. It’s not like I regret that choice, I love Megami Tensei’s games but it feels strange that for someone who has played so many games like me, the only Dragon Quest title I’ve ever put my hands on previous this game was Dragon Quest Heroes on the PS4. I’m getting off topic now but I just want you to know that what you’re going to read in this review, my view on the game, comes from someone who isn’t a long time fan of the franchise or anything.
This game doesn’t play like a regular JRPG, not even an action RPG. Your character doesn’t even level up (though he can get his health bar improved by consuming a specific item). Instead, the only element that actually levels up, it’s the city you’ll be building because, as the title of the game suggest, this game is about building.
Call it a Minecraft clone if you want, the similarities are there and they’re obvious. Even if this game won’t be taking place in the same procedurally generated style, it still has some of the open-world survival focused mechanics and gameplay. The developers even went as far as making the land to be composed of cubes like in that other game.
Unlike Minecraft, DQ Builders has a story. It’s not the deepest, most interesting plot and it certainly plays a secondary role in the game, but there’s a story. Here you’ll be playing as a resurrected hero that wakes up in the fantastic world of Alefgard. There, the humanity is in grave danger and it has indeed almost vanished as it seems like all its inhabitants have lost the capacity to build. In each chapter of the game you’ll travel to where there used to be a flourishing city and it’ll be your duty to rebuild it back to glory. As you do so, different NPCs will eventually come and join the city. They’ll help you making use of the facilities you previously built like cooking food or building furniture but mostly, their main role is giving you different missions that will essentially keep the game going forward like making you go explore places to find new materials or indeed giving you blueprints for new stuff to build (and then make you build those).
So, because of that progression, most of the time you’ll feel like everyone’s errand boy rather than the typical hero character from any RPG. However, the game’s lighthearted tone makes sure that you won’t ever get annoyed by the constant requests of the other inhabitants and, in any case, it feels very satisftying watching your city get bigger better and prettier as you keep building for it.
Even on the Vita version, which is the one I played, the game is pretty pleasing to the eye. The design of the characters both human and the monsters is on the cute side and the world is very colorful. On the technical side there’s no negative stuff to highlight either, the game looks crisp and the framerate (as far as my untrained eye can tell) is stable.
On the sound department it should be mentioned that there’s no spoken dialog for any of the characters, only textboxes to read when anyone talks. Apart from that, the music is your classic fantasy RPG style that it’s endearing and catchy at the same time.
Things I liked
- Long: The game has four distinctive chapters and if you’re playing the game leisurely, each one can be longer than 10 hours. Apart from that, there’s also a more “sandboxy” mode to unlock which can be a real time sink. I started playing this game back in november, I’ve been playing it regularly ever since and I still don’t think it’ll be leaving my vita anytime soon.
- Charming: It’s a heap of stuff what evokes this strange sensation that makes you happy inside when you’re playing this game. It’s the cute design of the creatures, the colorful graphics, the lighthearted music, the bits of humour in the dialog… the little details.
- Creative freedom: The game is indeed more restrictive than a game like Minecraft. There’s markers on your compass to guide you to every mission, certain stuff that the game forces you to do before it lets you continue… that being said, it’s very satisfying altering the world, leaving a mark by building a city where there was only ruins and that good sensation is amplified further when there’s freedom in how to do it.
Things I didn’t
- Third-person clumsiness: The most obvious difference between DQ Builders and Minecraft (the one you can already see on any screenshot) is the fact that this game plays in 3rd person. That perspective may be helpful for the platforming but it indeed makes certain aspects of the game feel unnecessarily clumsy. For starters, the camera doesn’t adapt well into closed speces. But then there’s the combat where the reach of each weapon is anything but apparent or the very placing of objects which is indeed quite more tricky than in that other game.
- Playstation TV compatibility: This Vita version of the game can’t be played on a Playstation TV. Since there’s also a PS4 version of the game, clearly the problem isn’t the inability to translate the game’s controls to a Dualshock 4 layout so there’s no excuse. The developers took off that option from this game just because they wanted.
Things that eh…
- Repetitive: Every chapter will make your character arrive to a new city he/she has to rebuild. New items and materials will be introduced as well as different enemy types, receipts and even entire new gameplay mechanics but, essentially, the main objective is the same for every chapter and that might feel repetitive to some. I didn’t mind it though.
Who’d like this?
This isn’t a perfect game and I can’t really recommend it to everyone out there but there must be something very good in a game when it makes me spend so many hours on it and I still want to keep playing it to no end.
It’s specially recommended to those players who enjoy building mechanics a la Minecraft but want some more flavour in the game’s world.
Dragon Quest Builders to me is the perfect time sink and, if you want a title that gives you a ton of gaming hours for your buck, look no further.
<This review was based off the Vita version of this game but a PS4 version is also available>