I’ll be the first to say that I have a big apprehension when it comes to crafting in games. More than once, I’ve sworn off crafting mechanics when they creep into my favorite franchises (which they keep doing). It’s not that I have anything against crafting, in general, I just want Fallout to be Fallout, not Fallout–Craft. Becoming over-encumbered pisses me off, and I can’t stand crafting missions clogging up my quest log. The other side to this coin is that if a game exists solely as a crafting-driven experience, I’ll give it a shot. I know what I’m getting myself into, and I’m not constantly sidetracked from the bigger picture to make something seemingly useless (Witcher gear, is not useless, by the way). Regardless of this apprehension, I needed to give Dragon Quest Builders a shot, if not for any other reason than the Dragon Quest brand itself. A few days later, my entire household is hopelessly addicted.
Game Name: Dragon Quest Builders
Platform(s): Playstation 4 (reviewed), Playstation Vita, Playstation 3
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Square Enix
Release Date: October 11, 2016 (NA), January 28, 2016 (JP)
Minecraft meets Dragon Quest. Yes, that sounds pretty cliché, but it’s very accurate. The big difference is that there is a constant narrative that requires The Builder, the only person who remembers how to build anything in Alefgard (that’s you), to restore broken down cities to their former glory in order to defeat the Dragonlord. Along the way, you’ll gather resources, collect citizens to populate your town, and adventure across the lands of Alefgard.
The basic stuff of Dragon Quest Builders is collecting resources in order to build bigger and better (and stronger) things. You’ll be doing this in quest-form, so it never really loses its appeal. You can play for hours before you realize it. It always remains fun, because you’re constantly given quests that take you further and further away from the city you’re restoring. Along your journeys to collect treasures and blueprints, and you’ll run into a few side quests, too! Some of them require you to build yet more stuff in order to unlock other recipes, and some even require you to help a school of kung-fu werewolves or slay sleeping dragons.
The first chapter of the game, which sees you rebuilding the famed city of Cantlin, takes a good amount of time to complete. Seriously, I played for days before completing all of the quests, building my city up to snuff, and facing off against the boss (yes, there are bosses). More chapters follow, and while I won’t spoil how many there are, each one is in a completely new part of the world, containing it’s own new spin on what exactly you’re accomplishing by rebuilding the cities. You’ll also unlock new types of items in each chapter, so it’s always fun to see what unique resources are needed to build things in this new part of the land.
While you retain all of your recipes after completing a chapter, you’ll lose all of your items, which is kind of a bummer. It’s not too bad–each new land is full of more stuff to gather–but I found myself a little attached to the wealth of things that filled my ‘Colossal Coffer.’ More than anything, I wish that my forge and furnace could be taken with me, because they let you craft better tools, weapons, and armor, so instead of being the badass builder you were when you conquered the previous chapter, you’re stuck swinging around a puny stick once again, which is lame. I really missed my ‘Warhammer.’
Putting the Quest in Dragon Quest Builders
The one thing that separates Dragon Quest Builders from other sandbox-style crafting games is the quest-based way in which the crafting mechanics evolve. I love the idea of Minecraft and honestly enjoy seeing people creations in that game, but I’ve tried to get into it a couple times and I just can’t. The same goes with Don’t Starve (although it was a little closer to my personal tastes than Minecraft).
As you begin to rebuild the cities, your accomplishments will soon attract the attention of the wandering citizens of Alefgard who need shelter, but they’re no freeloaders. While you’re out questing far away from your base, they’ll spend their time cooking food and making items, throwing them in a spare chest when they’re done so you can collect them at your leisure. The more you build, the more people come, and the more help you get in crafting resources and fighting off random baddies that try to overrun your city. I think the most useful part of this mechanic is collecting food. You’ll need food, both to heal you and to feed your hunger, so the sooner you can build a nice kitchen, the better, because you can just collect some more food every time you return home (hint: there’s a blueprint for a kitchen/tavern buried in a mound somewhere through the first portal).
The quests themselves aren’t exactly exciting–it’s mostly a long series of fetch-quests as you gather resources. You’re never like, “Ooh, this will be fun!” when someone tells you to go collect ore or something. However, I don’t think that it’s a fault of the game, really. I mean, crafting is the goal, and collecting resources is a big part of that, so it’s not really a downer, and regardless of the lack of enthusiasm for the actual goal of the quest, the quest itself was always fun to do.
A pleasant surprise was the writing in this game. It is so damn good. There aren’t long moments of dialogue or anything, and you really don’t even spend that much time speaking to the citizens in your town, but when you do have some interaction, it’s actually pretty entertaining. While you surely don’t want to skip through dialogue anyway (you might miss some info about your quest), paying attention solely for the comedy is not a bad idea, because the people you meet often say some hilarious things, and sometimes, they get pretty dark, too. There are many mentions of death, turmoil, suicide, and even suggested mercy-murder (see Elle the nurse in chapter 2).
The Lay of the Land
Dragon Quest Builders has a lot to offer in terms of exploring. More than once, I’ve gotten lost while roaming around looking for resources or treasures, scaling random mountains and crushing blocks. Luckily, you have a handy compass and some quest markers to keep you on track. That’s no reason to stay on the beaten path, though, because you’ll find a lot of cool stuff if you wander around a bit. I’ve found entire sections of the map that I would otherwise never be sent to through quests, and some really impressive structures can be found hiding in a chasm just over a stone mountain. This is where you’ll find a bulk of those side-quests, too, and even some secret monsters to slay.
One thing that I though was pretty cool was that monsters do not attack your city while you’ve gone huntin’. I mean, if you’ve taken the time to build your city walls high enough and line them with stone cladding, they’ll have a tough time penetrating your mighty walls anyway, but it’s nice to know that you won’t come home to a pile of rubble and have to rebuild.This is great because you will often spend a lot of time away from your city when you’re collecting resources or looking for special NPC or item that Rollo sent you off to collect.
While you’re out, you’ll certainly run into a lot of monsters, especially when day turns to night and the ghouls come out. Here’s another pro tip for you: always travel with an extra door, torch, bedroll, and workbench. Everything but the workbench is essential for creating a room, and you’ll need to create a proper room in order to sleep safely through the night. This way, when you’re out adventuring and it starts getting late, you can find a nice little spot, throw some earth blocks down, pop a door in, light your new room with a torch and curl up with your bedroll until morning. The workbench will come in hand for on-the-go crafting. When you wake up, just break everything down again and put them in your inventory until night falls once more.
This works well because when you travel through one of the many portals you received throughout the chapter, you might be there awhile before collecting enough resources to return. The great thing about this is that the terrain never gets old. It’s easily traversed, too. Come up next to a mountain and need to scale it? Just plop down blocks of earth and walk your way up the side of it. Nothing is beyond reach, and since earth blocks are plentiful, you’ll never run out. During the first chapter, after requiring my second portal (you’ll get these periodically), I decided to adventure around aimlessly after completing the quest that brought me there. Much to my surprise, after scaling a few mountains and slaying tons of beasts, I found my village again! The land isn’t intricately intertwined like Dark Souls or something, but it was cool to see that they were connected and that the reason for the portals was often to save time.
Dragon Quest Builders is a great foray into the crafting world for Square Enix. If you’re a fan of the Dragon Quest franchise, you will love this game, and if you’ve always wanted to get into the crafting genre, but need a little more direction, then you should definitely give it a shot. Anyone thinking that a game centered around craft-questing isn’t worth the price point will quickly find out that once you start Dragon Quest Builders, you’re in for the long haul.
If I had to voice any complaints about Dragon Quest Builders, it would be that sometimes the quests that it sometimes feels like you’re doing a lot of fetching, and while it never gets annoying or tedious, sometimes you just wish you had the resources to build what the villagers are asking for without having to trek all the way back to where you can find them. One thing that would make this easier would be if the game gave you the ability to craft custom fast-travel stations, much like the portals you receive throughout the game. I only say this because sometimes you find something cool worth investigating further, but you need to travel back to your base before it gets dark. A quicker way to return would be nice.
In the end, though, there’s really not much to complain about here. The crafting always works well, is very straightforward, and never seems confusing. I never ran into any technical issues while playing either, which I (sadly) find rare these days. The game never crashed, never glitched out while trying to craft something, and always ran smoothly. I highly recommend this game, but good luck, because you might never get out.
*Dragon Quest Builders was provided to us by Square Enix for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Whether you’re a die-hard Dragon Quest fan, or just a gamer looking to break into a crafting game with a healthy side of quests, Dragon Quest Builders offers and in-depth experience with the charming style of the franchise. While the addiction may wear off slightly after the first couple chapters, it never ceases to be a rewarding game. Humor, style, and creative freedom make this a great title.
- Crafting made easy yet plentiful
- Great style, charm, and humor
- Definitely not a shallow experience
- Can be a little “fetchy”
- Combat never feels difficult
- Each new chapter wipes your collected resources
- An addictive venture into the crafting world for newbies and long-term fans of Dragon Quest alike.