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To be honest, I went into another rut this year about caring about video games. I think this time it’s because of the transitional period. Sony and Microsoft are pushing out stronger versions of their consoles, Nintendo is being tight-lipped about their new console, and there is this giant push for VR gaming and 4K gaming, two things that I don’t really care for or want to invest into. It also felt more like 2014 in terms of gaming, where there were good big-budget games, and a bunch of great indie games, but a lot of the tent-pole releases have been underwhelming. Luckily, for as questionable as they have been this year, Square Enix has produced one of my favorite games of 2016, Dragon Quest Builders. This title caught the curious eyes of gamers for being compared to the indie mega hit, Minecraft, in terms of the square-ish world, and how you have to build everything. Personally to me, I think it’s even better than Minecraft, and games that try to be like Minecraft in terms of crafting survival games. Let’s dive in.
This game has a unique setting. Well, in terms of Dragon Quest, it’s pretty unique. It takes place around the same time as the first game, but instead of the hero beating the evil Dragonlord, instead, the villain wins and plunges the world into darkness. Multiple lands go under the rule of large creatures. You play as the Master Builder, and your goal is to rebuild the land, save its people, and take down the baddies that plague the worlds around you. Unlike most crafting survival games, there is an end goal and a story. I know that may sound shocking, but you definitely get the Dragon Quest-style story with lore and a mystery as to what exactly happened in the past.
Dragon Quest Builders is an action RPG with crafting/survival elements. You will be dropped into four different worlds with different situations, from dealing with sick characters to regrouping a bunch of tough guys to get back their female leader. The worlds have their own set landscapes and levels that you must travel to get new items, defeat monsters, and to finish quests. After completing certain quests, you and your townsfolk will need to defend the town from a horde of monsters in a horde-mode-style action sequence, where you must use your weapons and your wits to defeat the monsters. After beating certain monsters in this sequence, you will be able to obtain portals to transport you to different parts of the land you are in, so you can find materials to upgrade your town, yourself, and to fight more iconic Dragon Quest monsters. Since this is a crafting/survival game, you will need to watch out for the durability of your weapons, armor, and your life. You will have a hunger meter by your health meter, and you don’t want that to hit the empty side of things. It will start depleting your health if you don’t take care of it. After beating a certain number of horde mode-style fights, you will then fight the boss of the world. Each boss will have its own attack patterns and weaknesses, like having a super invincible wall for the Golem fight, or a crossbow to take down the giant Hades Condor. After beating all four worlds, you will be able to take your crafting needs and take them to a mode where you can build whatever you want, and share with your friends online. Dragon Quest Builders is less Minecraft and more action RPG.
The game is beautiful. As usual with this franchise, the colors are vibrant, the memorable Akira Toriyama art style makes characters pop out, and the music is mostly tunes from the previous games. The writing is also classic Dragon Quest, with quirky dialogue and puns galore.
Like anything I review, I have some problems with the game. While I think the combat is satisfying, it definitely could have been deeper, with more combos and a dodge button. I also wish it could have done more with the survival aspects. Like, take out the hunger element. It becomes more of a chore when you get into the third world, where the only food thing you can get at the start are monster eggs from tough chimeras, and fishing for sardines, but you have to make the fishing pole by getting materials that are blocked off in an area guarded by a knight. Each time you start in a new area, you are stripped of your items and armor, and begin each area with only a club, a giant hammer, and that’s it. I got rather annoyed and stressed due to how uncommon the monster eggs are, and how they hide off an entire area behind a tough enemy that you need to get by, because there is a material on the other side that you need to make a fishing pole. Even then, some food items need other materials to make happen, and in the end, the game does slightly fall into that trap of feeling like babysitting your lead character. Granted, weapons, armor, and other things don’t break as often as bad survival games make them break, but still. In a way, I would have preferred if this game was just a fun simple action RPG with base-building. Not that I don’t get why they went with elements seen in Minecraft, but since this game does Minecraft better than Minecraft, you want to see it be better, and hopefully we can get a sequel out of this.
In the end, I loved Dragon Quest Builders. Yeah, the game might stress you out at times with the difficulty and survival elements, but it was a blast, and is easily one of my top five favorite games of the year. If you haven’t played this or bought it, and haven’t played it yet, I would highly recommend doing so. Just make sure you have a PlayStation 4, because from what I have heard and seen, the Vita version is obviously inferior to the main console version. If you love games like Minecraft, but have failed to find a game like it, then you should easily plop down asking price for this game. You get a lot of content for your dollars, and it’s a super fun game. I can’t wait to see what they can do with this sequel. Good job, Square Enix, you might have made everyone upset about forcing micro-transactions into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but at least you guys pushed out a great Minecraft clone.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.