Dragon Quest Builders Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: February 9th 2018
Price as of Article: $49.99 USD, £39.99 GBP
You awaken in a dark and lonely crypt. A disembodied voice addresses you, telling you that humans have lost the ability to create and build. The Dragonlord has taken over all of Alefgard, and monsters now rule the lands. You also find out that you have a rare gift. Known as “The Builder”, you are the lone person in this world who still has the ability to craft new objects and materials. Thus begins your quest to rebuild the world, and give humans a place they can call home.
For fans of the first Dragon Quest, this game is set in a parallel universe split off from the original game. Before the final battle, the hero agrees to the Dragonlord’s suggestion that they split the land in two, each ruling half of the kingdom. As you can guess, the evil Dragonlord set that up as a trap, defeating the hero and allowing monsters to take over.
The music in Dragon Quest Builders is an earful of nostalgic delight. Themes for your towns, battles and exploring all come straight from the Dragon Quest series, and it is all as excellent as it has always been. That being said, hearing the same theme music in your town play over and over can get a little grating after a while, but out in the world exploring I never tired of the tracks.
As for the sound, it is all well done and of high quality. Placing blocks has a satisfying sound. Hearing the embers of the fire as you cook food and the whack of hammers as you build new items all feels perfectly fitted to this games style. Swinging weapons and enemy noises are also well designed.
Dragon Quest Builders has a cartoony look to its characters, both humans and monsters. If you have played a Dragon Quest game before, then you know exactly what you will see here. As people who are familiar with the series know, character and creature designs are done by Akira Toriyama. As you would expect from the Dragon Ball creator, his designs are very distinct and expertly crafted.
The environments are where this game differs from other Dragon Quest titles. Being a Minecraft style game, most of the environments are made up of blocks. As such there is quite a contrast between the amazing character designs and the blocky terrain. This is all pulled together though by the art design of the blocks, as well as the trees, branches, rocks and other non block looking environmental objects.
One downfall of the visuals is how it looks in handheld mode. The game is less sharp and slightly blurry when on the go as compared to seeing it on the TV. Handheld is the main way I play all my Switch games, and the visual downgrade wasn’t enough to deter me from playing this game on the go, but it is definitely something noticeable.
As for the performance, the game ran well both docked and handheld. Everything ran smoothly through the countless hours I spent playing. I never encountered any bugs or crashes, nor did the game slow down when battling multiple creatures on screen.
Dragon Quest Builders differs quite drastically from other games in the series. As the name and boxart implies, this is a Minecraft style game. The main thing you will be doing here is building towns, mining blocks, crafting food and materials, and killing monsters. Most of this is fun, but there are areas where I wish the game did better.
Building & Crafting
The majority of the quests in the game revolve around villagers in your town requesting that you build something. Generally this is an item you need to craft or a room they want built. The crafting system is extremely easy to wrap your head around. Basically you get the recipe to build what they want, you collect the items needed, then go to the necessary workstation to craft it. Everything you can build is on a list that also tells you exactly what items you need to craft them.
Building a room is even easier. A room consists of a door, walls that are two blocks tall, and a light source. Villagers will also give you blueprints you need to follow for specific rooms. These may be a bedroom that requires a bed and other furnishings be placed in specific places, or work areas that need a chest and some form of crafting station.
Speaking of the building, the game lets you do whatever you want outside of quests. I lost hours just building up my town, improving eating areas and kitchens, dedicating a room to each villager, eventually branching into multi story buildings and a wall with traps around the whole town for defence. The game encourages this by having a leveling system tied to your towns growth. The bigger your town the more points you have, and the higher your level goes. It’s a smart system that really does nudge you into building up your town in a subtle way.
Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was exploring the world around you. There are many different areas to explore, with their own blocks, plants, fruits and minerals to gather. I found myself often building makeshift houses out in the wilderness whenever I found a good mining spot, and would lose hours just mining the area clean because I was having so much fun.
The environments do change as well, with there being mountainous regions, deserts, forests and a bunch of other unique areas to explore. There are also dilapidated buildings and remnants of towns of old that you can explore, or even restore to their former glory. The environmental storytelling in these areas are surprisingly good as well, something I didn’t expect from a Minecraft like spin off game.
A slight disappointment for me in Dragon Quest Builders was the combat. It is rather shallow, easy, boring and tedious. Crafting weapons and armour is fun, as is going out and collecting the materials needed to craft them, so it is unfortunate that using them isn’t exciting at all.
Essentially combat comes down to waiting for the enemy to attack, dodging, then getting as many hits in as you can until the monster attacks again. You do unlock some special moves, but they do little to vary the combat in any meaningful way. The strategy never really changes, and it is quite a let down overall.
Dragon Quest Builders is just shy of being a full priced triple A game. The amount of content here is well worth the price, and I highly recommend people play this game. That said, this game has been available on other platforms for a very long time, and as such is significantly cheaper on those platforms. Even having it on the go isn’t new, as Builders is also on the PlayStation Vita. Because of this the value seems a little off, even though it is worthy of the amount being asked.
Beautiful visual design
Dragon Quest charm is fully intact
In town song can get repetitive
Handheld mode visuals aren’t spectacular