Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Dragon Quest Builders is the story of The Legendary Builder that will restore the Light to the land from the Evil Dragon Lord. In his cunning, the Dragon Lord tricked the Goddess’ Hero and thus took over the entire world for himself stripping the ability to build from the Humans and has since almost driven them to extinction. Waking up in a cavern to the voice of the Goddess herself, you in the role of The Builder are tasked with restoring the light but are to keep in mind that you are not the Hero. You are The Builder and your power will come from your creations.
Builders is most likely one of the most addictive titles that I’ve played this year. It was clear from sitting down to the Demo of the first chapter that not only was this the tip of the iceberg but also a glance of great things to come. This and more has been the case as the wide open world of the original three Dragon Quest titles is covered in a variety of monsters, building materials, peoples, quests and challenges that awaits your arrival.
Starting off things seemed simple enough. The world is built with blocks that can be destroyed, picked up, used, or put away into storage chests for later use. Items or resources sitting on top of these blocks can be combined with one another in order to make something new. You build up new items in order to progress forward and make it further along your journey. Found Iron or Steel? Make ingots in order to forge a new sword or hammer. Need more defense to take a hit? Make new armor. When looked at it from that point of view, that’s all there really is to it. It could also be said that from this point of view it would have just been another Minecraft.
But this is not just another Minecraft. Builders is a lot of the above but becomes a lot more with the inclusion of people, quests, side quests, and dialog to make it feel like what you are doing something that is worth a damn. You have a goal and it’s not to mine every scrap in sight which itself is not really possible as some grows back which is in your favor. Your goal is to save these people from the Dragon Lord that would cast them right back into the darkness from where they came before seeing your light off in the distance.
Granting you a flag with her divine light, the Goddess lays out a location in order to get you to start building up a new town to replace the ones that have long been destroyed. These plots of land are fairly big for what is needed but can also sometimes can feel somewhat restrictive when you start to get creative because the planted flag is dead set in the middle of this building ground. Furthermore, the flag’s location unfortunately cannot be moved from the bricks that it is placed upon at any point so you’re pretty much stuck with it where the Goddess wanted it. Think of it as Merlin stabbing Excalibur down into a rock after obtaining it from the lady of the lake. Since you’re not the Hero, you’re not moving it.
The reason that things can get restrictive is because while it is possible to build outside of the light, as you can build where you want, the buildings that cross that border won’t count towards the overall town progress which is measured in levels. This is important as not being a Hero apparently meant that experience is something that is reserved for other people so instead of leveling yourself, you’ve got the town to throw experience into. Every finished room, workshop, bath, infirmary, garden, spa, so on and so forth is not only worth a default amount of experience but can also be worth more with the decorations and materials that are used.
Building up the town is important for a few reasons. The first is a wholly aesthetic one as no one wants to see nothing more than a few dirt walls around a shiny flag. Another is that over time more and more people will come to live within your walls and they’ll need places to sleep. Building rooms is easy as it requires two blocks from the ground level, two beds, a light source, and a door. Turning things into stone or a variety of other materials is possible through crafting and floors can be carpeted or made into straw so that your people aren’t just stepping on dirt. This not only makes things nicer, it adds experience towards the town’s meter.
The real reason to go all out is that in order to progress to the end of a chapter it will be necessary at times in order to make improvements from a quest standpoint. If the town was already at the level needed, then the rewards were automatically given and the dialog simply moves along. No time is wasted on updating quest logs that are already complete which is a good thing as honestly? You’ve got better things to do like putting the Dragon Lord’s minions in their place. If you haven’t already made adjustments and decorations, what were you waiting for?
Before even getting to the Dragon Lord’s minions, lots of preparing will be required and to do so, you will have guidance from key NPCs that join you along the way. The first chapter is a woman named Pippa, the second is Nun named Elle who could have been a priestess of battle in a D&D campaign, and the third chapter has a muscled man named Glutimus. Finally before finishing what you started is an old man by the name of Myrlund. Each of these three are the driving forces behind your actions and while a second person comes into play for each, you are generally doing things for them which is beneficial as you learn new things.
Each chapter has a minion of The Dragon Lord that controls the monsters of the land and they will send them towards your town. Some of these are by chance if you are building something and a few show up to destroy the place. Taking them out and upgrading from dirt is important as they will break through the lesser materials fairly easily. While it can take a while stone is a good buffer, obsidian just sits there and laughs at them. Other times however are story specific with an actual assault force that comes in waves. Making sure that the town is secure will be your responsibility as building things, is kind of your thing. Doing… most of the time… nothing is your NPCs responsibility. That’s a lie but it makes it sound like you do more.
As you build up a town, kitchens and workrooms will be built and with these, facilities that you can make new items and food to take out with you into the wild. While you’re gone however these facilities are used by your NPCs and they will put the fruits of their labour into the chest of that establishment. It is possible to come home to having new doors, plenty of food that they’ve made instead of you having to make it, medicine to heal wounds, or simply a bunch of decorations in order to spice things up! The townspeople for the most part are not just useless NPCs sitting around doing nothing. Some are, but let’s be honest, they are regular NPC townspeople in what is essentially an RPG.
It’s these elements that make Dragon Quest Builders feel more alive than simply just a resource collection sandbox. You alongside others build up a town in order to live monster free. As mentioned there will be times in which monsters attack, but if you are properly prepared, then the tower defense episodes will be nothing to worry about. After a while though these become a bit boring as there’s nothing really to it after the first chapter that concentrates heavily on different defensive styles. Monsters appear, you smack them down, and then you continue on your quest of building and exploring.
While regular monster invasions become nothing more than an advancement and nothing to really worry about, what becomes something to worry about is once the “Boss” of the chapter shows up. This is a one on many fight in which there are no town’s people to help you. Being prepared is key as while knowing the mechanics is one thing, implementing your defenses is another.
The Boss fights are fun even if they aren’t very hard. The first few seconds can be a bit of a mad scramble in order to figure things out but once a strategy falls in place then it’s all smooth sailing from there. What is interesting is that once a Boss appears squares worth of walls outside of your flag’s light disappear so any defenses placed there are there no longer. They come back once the fight is over but in the meantime some backup strategies may be needed for the smaller minions that have followed in the Boss’ wake.
Once the Boss fight is over then a portal of light opens up allowing you to move on to the next land. This being said, you don’t have to. Going through that portal is actually entirely up to you as nothing stops you from sticking around and building more or further exploring the land. It is QUITE advisable to save first as once you go through then a chapter recount comes up with the statistics of your adventure and which challenges you have completed. Each chapter comes with five and they are only revealed once the Builder has gone through the portal of light.
This is why saving is important as it gives you the save file to go back to which defaults to the last time you saved before walking through. Loading back up the chapter is easy and allows you to start off from where you left in order to complete the challenges which is both an in game accomplishment and a PSN trophy for your platinumers out there. Thankfully multiple save files can be created and are based per chapter as there are challenges to complete within a specific number of days.
After the completion of the first chapter and the unlocking of the second, another mode is unlocked in which players have a bit more freedom and can create just about whatever they want to share with others. Completing challenges in each chapter can unlock new recipes to be used such as actual roofing tiles. Everyone needs a roof right? May as well make it pretty!
With everything available however there is an area in which Builders falls short and that’s inventory management. I can sum it up mostly with one word. UGH. Our builder has a limited inventory that can be managed with chests that can be created in order to put additional items into. These chests are great as they allow any item to be easily accessible by any crafting station in order to create something new. The sorting of these chests however can only be done with an auto sort and then that’s that. The other thing is that starting off you have to remember what items were in what chests if you were manually looking to take something out. Needless to say this gets annoying if you have more than three or four chests as you will collect a lot of dirt to build up in the beginning.
A bit of an alleviation is that a SUPER CHEST OF AWESOME can be built. Alright it’s not called that but it should be. This larger chest that takes up a massive amount of physical space can not only hold massive amounts, but it can also be accessed from anywhere in the world at any point in time. Picking up any extras will automatically be sent over which is also great but when it comes to managing it, short of the auto sort? You’re out of luck. It would have been nice to have a tab for materials, a tab for items, a tab for food and curative items instead of having them all mashed up together. Once you really start picking things up however that originally seeming “unlimited” space becomes limited especially if you have one of this and two of that. Decorating to get a lot out of your inventory will be a must or smaller chests will need to be placed to hold these. It would have been nice to make expansions to this chest or have tabs for different styles of materials and items.
Inventory management aside, Dragon Quest Builders is an awesome experience and I truly hope that Square Enix makes more of these. They have many more Dragon Quest titles that can use or even just a sequel since this is a parallel world. If they could add one thing other than better inventory management however? It would be coop as this would definitely be better with a partner as Breanna and I have played this side by side for hours at a time and it would have been fun to help one another out instead of simply showing them where other things were or pulling out plans for them to emulate to level up their town faster.Score: 8 / 10