As a long-time gamer, my personal tastes shift through favored genres over the years. It may be platformers, or retro arcade action, or fighters, or RPGS. These days, it’s “building” games. Minecraft drew me in, as did Disney Infinity, but I wanted a new title to experience on the Switch. While I do enjoy Minecraft, I’ve been playing that for years, so I wanted something new.
Enter Dragon Quest Builders from Square-Enix.
Dragon Quest Builders actually scratches three of my gaming itches: building, retro gaming, and RPGs. For a short summary of this game, think “Minecraft with specific goals and a plot”.
Speaking of plot, this game has quite an interesting one, harkening back to the NES days with the first Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, as us in the States knew it). The hero of that game was given a choice: Defeat the Dragonlord, or rule half the world by his side. Gamers could never choose the “bad” option (it would freeze the game if you persisted), but this game plays out if the hero could and did. As a result, things don’t go as planned. The Dragonlord kills the hero and plunges Alefgard into a monster-filled darkness, where its inhabitants only know of survival. Not building or creativity.
Obviously, this is where you come in.
As a builder, you don’t gain experience for killing monsters (though fighting is necessary for supplies). You gain experience for building and restoring the kingdom. It’s a simple change, but really reshapes how you play the game. Enemy grinding, a staple of older RPGs, is irrelevant here. Your building skill even changes how you fight and defeat bosses.
Your main focus now is restoring the kingdom through towns. As you build and improve towns, people move in and learn how to make things for themselves, and in turn, offer you quests and items. The dialogue is witty and a little risque at times, leading to a diverse selection of personalities to interact with.
One of the most appealing aspects are the visuals and music. As this is directly based from the events of the first Dragon Quest/Warrior game, all the visuals are directly based from those enemies. No longer pixels, but still smiling just as broadly as their fully rendered bodies try to kill you. Even the music consists of updated themes from the classic NES game. It’s familiar and new all at once, and the whole presentation is laden with nostalgia. The Switch version even allows you to craft a Dragon Quest game pack so you can make custom sprites and tiles to recreate the original look of the first game.
The game controls and plays well, though I like using an actual controller over the Switch tablet. It is, however, easy to get lost in the inventory, as you can literally pick up and craft any ingredient to create more new items. Organization is important here, but only helps so much.
And while I like the music, some of it plays too regularly to the point of repetition.
Overall, Dragon Quest Builders gives that “more” of what was lacking in Minecraft. If you want an attainable goal to reach during all of your building, and a bigger roster of enemies to fight, this is definitely something new to the formula.
There is said to be a sequel on the way. I’ll certainly look forward to that in time, and see what new ideas they present there.