Dragon Quest Builders for the Nintendo Switch

Minecraft has dominated the world of creative, construction video games for several years now.  Dragon Quest Builders looks to enter the genre and brings a third person perspective to the table.  2D platformer Terraria, first-person Minecraft and now third person Dragon Quest Builders all provide a great amount of variety and creativity to players.

Like sooo many other recent releases Dragon Quest Builders feels perfectly at home on the Nintendo Switch.  The versatility of the little console add a great deal of additional value to Dragon Quest Builders.  Before we go any further I have to say that if you are looking to pick it up and are considering which version to go for, the Nintendo Switch should be top of your list.

Let’s address this right from the start, yes Dragons Quest Builders is a total rip off of Minecraft, but I think this is why it is so good.  I never really got that into Minecraft.  I could see why others might like it but I found it quickly got boring.  The main reason for this is the lack of any real narrative.  Minecraft allows players so much freedom that it relies upon you creating your own purpose for playing.  Dragons Quest Builders mirrors much of Minecraft’s gameplay but adds to it a story and a great progression system.

Having said this the story is very poorly told.  There is not a word of recorded dialogue in Dragons Quest Builders, every character of story is shared through on screen text.  This doesn’t make the game’s story poor but it certainly lacks some character because of it.  Was does hold the story back is the quality of the writing.  From Dragons Quest Builders art style and gameplay you’d have to presume it is predominantly aiming itself at children.  The dialogue however is certainly not child friendly.  That’s not to say that it’s full of sex scenes or golems using streams of foul language, it simply requires a rather fancy vocabulary to access.

The story very loosely is: The world of man has been destroyed by monsters.  Humans cannot claim their world back as they have forgotten how to create, how to build.  You appear, a Builder of legend and set about reclaiming the world from the monsters.

Dragons Quest Builders feels at times like one loooong tutorial.  I wish it had used the now popular trick of showing us some of the later game constructions and techniques at the start.  Then showing the monsters rising up and destroying man’s creations.  Then having the game start for real.  This is to say the game’s first hour is pretty dull.  Many players are likely to switch off in those first few hours, frustrated at the slow pace and longing for some awesome constructions and action.  This does come, but much, much later.

Unlike Minecraft, Dragons Quest Builders tells you how to build everything.  This is a doubled edged sword.  You never have to place resources in certain positions, endlessly experimenting to find recipes (or use a wiki).  This prevents any real crafting frustration and does mean the story can gradually hand out fresh blueprints begging to be built.  But it does mean progress is fixed to the story.  A story that is not interesting to read or progress through.

As you build up your town more and more individuals will join you.  These folk frequently ask for favours resulting in the majority of the games quest lines.  These in turn unlock fresh crafting opportunities for you to toy around with.  The more you play the bigger the town, the bigger the town the larger the community.  

I also can’t review Dragons Quest Builders without commenting on the controls and camera.  The controls are ok…ish.  There are certainly some off button choices (Circle to jump!?!) but once you get used to these they certainly allow you to get the job done.  

The camera however!  That is an entirely different matter.  Similar to (sorry to once again mention) Minecraft, Dragons Quest Builders sees you exploring a large open landscape, destroying blocks to make use of the resources held within them.  As its name suggests Minecraft involved a lot of time spent underground and the first person perspective made this a doddle.  The third person camera of Dragons Quest Builders makes negotiating any area with a roof an absolute nightmare.  This is one area of the game that feels like could really, really do with some more work and a future patch.  The nature of the game makes internal areas an important area to both explore and build but once you have a roof it is often nigh on impossible to see what you are doing.

Despite all of this I absolutely love it!  Dragons Quest Builders demands you to follow its dull story to create a town that you may struggle to negotiate (if you use roofs) with slow progress and no multiplayer support.  But somehow I just want to keep on playing.  The gradual drip, drip, drip of new items to craft, buildings to design and areas to explore could do with a little va va voom but they are just enough to keep me playing.  Does this prove that it is not as slow and boring as I’ve said it is?  I really could do with a bit of a speed increase and a sight earlier on of what is capable later in the game would do a lot to make players commit.  

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