Available formats: PS4, PS3, PS Vita
The comparisons with Minecraft are inevitable. With its blocky, voxel-based landscape and reliance on crafting to make your way in the world, Dragon Quest Builders unashamedly draws on the same driving mechanisms as Mojang’s mega-hit.
And yet, for all Minecraft’s might and popularity, it’s Dragon Quest Builders that has me itching to play more. It begins in much the same way, asking players to dig deep and build their way out of a pit, before constructing a simple two-block-high house out of mud. However, Builders’ foundations go a little deeper, with the focus being on creating communities for its dozens of NPC characters that roam the dark, gloomy land of Alefgard.
It’s a simple addition to Mojang’s tried-and-tested formula, but one that helps give its minute-to-minute crafting a much-needed girder of purpose; it adds a welcome sense of structure to Minecraft’s sometimes terrifying blank canvas. Rather than leaving players to simply fend for themselves and go forth into the unknown, DQ Builders pins its progression on a string of villager mission requests, asking players to build more complex pieces of furniture in order to grow their towns and increase the resident population.
You’ll start small, first building a simple bedroom, before progressing to a workstation, kitchen and additional, decorated rooms. Eventually, though, you’ll progress onto more advanced projects and create further outposts across the world.
Of course, having played only the first three hours of Dragon Quest Builders, it’s hard to tell exactly what lies beyond the game’s rather more prescriptive set of early tutorials. However, the more quests you complete and the bigger your town becomes, the more people will flock to your newly developed digs to ply you with quests, so you should have plenty to keep you entertained over the course of its run-time.
It helps that Dragon Quest Builders keeps things simple, too, as players are automatically notified what they can make (or to use the in-game parlance, “learn new recipes”) as soon as they discover a new material. Of course, some might say this takes the fun out of the experimental nature of crafting, but for me, it only strengthens DQ Builders’ commitment to making the game more accessible. I provides an easy way to keep on top of your ever-growing inventory and spiralling list of objectives.
For starters, there’s less guesswork involved, and it provides an immediate indication of whether you’re on the right track. This enables you to carefully focus your efforts, rather than simply going out and gathering every last mineral you see and hoping for the best. You’ll still need a workstation to see the rest of the necessary ingredients, but it really doesn’t take much to set up shop and get crafting.
The only thing DQ Builders doesn’t quite improve on is Minecraft’s combat. While the cast of creatures draws extensively from Dragon Quest’s lauded bestiary, defeating them and claiming their prized materials still boils down to crudely beating them with sticks – or, eventually, whacking them with a hammer.
It’s entirely lacking in that classic turn-based combat for which the series is known, but then switching to a dedicated battle screen every time you encounter an enemy would severely hamper the game’s overall pace, so I can understand the need to keep battles taking place in real-time. It remains to be seen how Builders handles larger enemies, but for now, it certainly helps make short work of the general rank and file.
There isn’t long to go now before the game’s final release. Coming to PS4, PS3 and the PS Vita on 14 October (all with cross-play compatibility, I might add), Dragon Quest Builders looks like it could finally be a worthy contender to Minecraft’s crown, offering a more mature, structured take on gaming’s unstoppable behemoth.
I’ll have to wait and see how the combat fares later on in the game, but for now, Dragon Quest Builders is definitely one to watch for would-be Minecraft players.