Dragon Quest Builders (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 24.10.2016 2

Review for Dragon Quest Builders on PS Vita

Dragon Quest has been a cornerstone of JRPGs for decades, with plenty of fans eagerly awaiting the upcoming, latest numbered iteration, Dragon Quest XI. On top of the main series, however, there have been plenty of tie-ins and spin-offs over the years, most recently the fantastic Musou style games like Dragon Quest Heroes. This time the franchise is trying something brand new, taking on the sandbox open world style of Minecraft. It's bold and original, but will the two styles work together?

Yes. It's like Minecraft. That's the problem when something is such a breakout success that, invariably, anything like it is described as a knock-off or clone, but, saying this is just a Minecraft clone is doing it a disservice. Yes, there's certainly going to be a lot of similarities in Square Enix's pixelated cubic world, but, there are going to be just as many differences.

Set in "Alefguard" from the very first Dragon Quest, this is something of a post-apocalyptic land, where the bad guys have actually managed to win. The evil Dragonlord covered the land in darkness, and now the people around the world have lost the ability to create anything new, living in the abandoned ruins and wilderness, constantly harassed by monsters and minions of the Dragonlord. Enter "The Builder", a recently reincarnated amnesiac hero, and the only person left who can rebuild the world.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders on PS Vita

Rebuilding the world starts with small steps, each introducing the player into the gameplay mechanics. After planting a flag in the ruins of a town, basic needs are what first need to be met. A bedroom to sleep through the night, when monsters and ghosts can attack, or a kitchen to cook food to satiate the hunger which will otherwise drain the health of the Builder. Soon enough, the basic towns will begin to grow and attract more inhabitants, each with needs and requests to be met, which of course produces a bigger and more impressive town, which in turn attracts even more inhabitants!

There are plenty of base materials to dig up in the world and then fashion into a plethora of devices for the restoration work. Trekking into jungles to chop down trees for wooden walls, learning how to make a rake to plant seeds to feed your town, spelunking through mines for copper or iron with the occasional precious metals to build a forge. The simple act of building is massively compulsive, and it's easy to grow attached to the town, especially when monsters attack and end up trashing all your hard work.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders on PS Vita

The game is split into four chapters, each for a different classic Dragon Quest area, like Cantlin, Rimuldar, Kol & Galenholm, and, finally, Tantegel. Each chapter has the same primary objectives - restore a town to its former glory, and bring inhabitants to live there - but, each has its own story to tell, and feels individual compared to the others. The first, Cantlin, is a great introduction, filled with a mixture of verdant lands and great inhabitants (including one eerily similar to Toriyama's Mr. Satan) that teaches the fundamental mechanics of the game.

Next is Rimuldar, a land infected with a deadly "Blight", where the waters are poisoned, the inhabitants are dying from horrendous illnesses and far in the sky a gigantic Condor lurks. This chapter has a focus on saving the people of the land, building an infirmary, rescuing the infected to bring them back for treatment. Next up in "Kol & Galenholm", where the builder has to lead a team of burly Barbarians in a barren wasteland with some huge enemies. Then, finally, is Tantagel, a land that brings all of the elements together in one fantastic finale against the Dragonlord.

The five chapters are standalone stories and anything built up or gathered there gets left behind. The only thing retained is the memory of the Builder, keeping the specifications for the rooms they had built. The chapters easily add up to over 50 hours of playtime, and this can easily be a whole lot more for those who like to explore. Completing each of these chapters gives a score based on numerous factors such as the number of days played and number of deaths, and there are five challenges for each chapter that aren't revealed until its first completion, encouraging revisiting and replaying each area.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders on PS Vita

These challenges can be fairly straightforward like completing within a set amount of time, basic exploration like finding and killing five dragons, or downright puzzling like "Obtain the Crowned Goowels." Because of the naturally addicting gameplay and the push to explore every area, some of these come quite naturally on the first playthrough. Completing these unlocks new things to build in the open-world area of "Terra Incognita".

As if the five story chapters weren't ample enough, there is also a huge sandpit area called "Terra Incognita", this mode allows complete freedom, and also gives the ability for any creations within it to be shared with others online. This has unique items and unique combat abilities, and this is where the game truly feels like Minecraft, giving players complete freedom in their sandbox to build and share whatever they like.

The chibi designs combined with the pixel block style of the world make up for a fantastic looking design, and it all looks great on the Vita. The signature style of legendary Manga scribe Akira Toriyama has become such a quintessential part of Dragon Quest that it would be hard to imagine the series without them, and they look very good here.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

One of the most surprising gems of the year. Every part of Dragon Quest Builders is a real joy, filled with the sort of addictive gameplay that just seems to make the hours disappear. While the hardcore Minecraft fans may consider this as sacrilege, this feels superior in many ways. The Dragon Quest style, the RPG elements, and the entertaining story, all elevate it over its progenitor. Absolutely superb.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Nice review dude

Michael is a freelance writer and camera operator He longs for the day he can finally buy a hover board and is intent on one day finding all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 One day

I had a go of the demo of this on Vita and PS4, overall it was good and seemed like more in-depth kind of Minecraft experience. The music in the first area you build though was so obnoxious and there's no option to turn the music off. It keeps repeating over and over. All I could do was turn it to the lowest setting.

( Edited 25.10.2016 10:54 by Marzy )

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