I’ve finally finished the first chapter of Dragon Quest Builders. I’ve been playing it a few hours every night since release. When I first saw Builders I presumed it would be a fairly simple cashin on a popular formula with a popular franchise. Turns out I was wrong! I’ve been having a stupid good time with this game and it might be the best game of this genre that I’ve played.
A lot of what I’m going to be saying should be prefaced with the knowledge that I haven’t played Minecraft in years. I originally picked it up when it was a few bucks on the original website eons ago. All it had was a creative mode and very little in the way of blocks or creatures. It was an exciting time and I had fun watching that game grow into the juggernaut it remains today.
Builders starts you off immediately with something of a surprise. This game has a story! It appears that this story is told in 5 parts, each separated into its own world as a chapter. I presume this is partly done because of the limitations of being on the PS4. However it could have just been a style or gameplay decision. The first chapter starts you off with a relatively short tutorial. This is a great mercy that I can’t thank enough. Likely more than anyone you’ll ever meet, I dislike tutorials. Discovery is a critical part of enjoyment for me and it has been one of the most difficult things to find in modern gaming. Developers (and more accurately Publishers) are terrified of alienating anyone which leaves games watered down and over explained.
Amusingly the protagonist appears to be equally annoyed by tutorials. Routinely dozing off whenever the narrator takes too long to explain to me that “Sticks are for hitting things and food is for eating.” Truly profound tidbits that I couldn’t have discovered on my own.
The gameplay is pretty standard for a builder style game. This is not a criticism in my book. If the wheel works perfectly well I see no reason to reinvent it instead of just improving on other facets of the car. The simple one button attack, jump, and plop mechanics allows anyone to quickly get into this game.
Builders reminds me a lot of a mixture between both Starbound and Minecraft. It seems to take most of the best traits from both and add a few of its own. You can build with blocks as you’d do with either game but you can also make specialized rooms. These rooms will be used by the NPCs that you meet and they’ll continually fill up chests with materials that they craft in those rooms. I’ve routinely dropped by the diner that I made to find a fair bit of food for taking on my adventures.
Additionally the game will allow you to build a very helpful chest a bit into the game. This chest gives you access to two full panels of materials that you’ve collected from anywhere in the world. Similarly you can transfer items back and forth between these two places at will. It’s excellent and manages to add a serious boost to quality of life without also reducing the game too far. There is always a risk of killing progression in games like this but I don’t think Builders ever does that.
Combat is simple but satisfying. You can easily kite the mobs (that I’ve fought so far). I don’t heal sometimes and it can be a lot of fun to know there is one hit standing between me and failure. The actual drop rates on items off of monsters is fairly forgiving too without always being a certainty. Like everything else it balances being “just nice enough” to be both fun and engaging.
Visually the game is just stunning. God help me, I will try to get some screenshots off of my PS4 but you can easily check out some shots on Google. This game is going to age really well. I know when I call things “stunning” I get a lot of folks responding elsewhere that they feel like they played a different game. When I say stunning I’m thinking things like Wind Waker, or FF12, or Curse of Monkey Island. Games that look timeless. If we can uh, occasionally ignore ground textures.
Sure Crysis looked really neat when it released but it looked pretty meh within a year of release for me. You could go play Super Mario World today and it’ll look just as good now as it did then, by contrast.
I love building in this game, I love crafting in this game, and I love smacking things about. The writing is great, the jokes are funny, and the storyline is simple but interesting.
Not only does this game have 5 chapters, presuming I didn’t already mention this, it also has a creative mode. So once you are done with the game proper you can also play forever in that. It even allows you to share things you build with other people. On top of all that it also has challenges for the main story to keep things interesting! And, for folks like me, it has trophies.
Honestly this game has a staggering amount of polish and content. Not only for a spin off title but just for a game in general. I really like it and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to have a good time. Presuming this game doesn’t totally crap the bed by chapter 5 I have a feeling that the review will be pretty positive.
Plus I can just point here for the “what is it?” Portion, man, past me is really making life for future me a cakewalk! Good job man, I’ll get you a drink sometime.