Dragon Quest Builders Nintendo Switch Review
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: T
A Review Copy Was Provided by Nintendo of America for the Purpose of Review
While Dragon Quest Builders graced Dragon Quest fans on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita last year, Square Enix’s interesting spin off graces Nintendo’s new hybrid system. How does this mesh of a beloved JRPG series and Minecraft turn out? In today’s review we take a dive into it and see if this game could possibly be one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch.
Dragon Quest Builders is broken up into two modes. Story Mode and Terra Incognita. Terra Incognita allows you to pretty much have full reign of all of the islands and create whatever you want and build your town the way you want it. Story mode acts as a tutorial on how to properly play the game and helps you unlock more things for you to use in Terra Incognita. Once you complete the story you will probably spend most of it not all of your time in Terra Incognita.
The Story Mode is pretty interesting. The events of Dragon Quest Builders take an alternative ending to the original Dragon Quest in which the Dragonlord is victorious and all of humanity forgets their creative spirit and are unable to build or create new things. This leads humanity to be overrun by monsters. Hundreds of years later the Legendary Builder, or in this case the player, is awaken to his or her potential and must go forward and restore the land by rebuilding settlements and bringing the people back together.
The story in it of itself is nothing special. The game is divided into chapters, and in each chapter you learn of new gameplay mechanics to help better your settlements. While I didn’t expect too much out of this game in the storytelling department, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised with the writing. The Dragon Quest writing charm is here in full force when talking to NPCs around the world and during quests. While it would have been nice to get a more fleshed out plot, I honestly felt satisfied playing through the story with what it had to offer.
While the story mode itself may not have a lot to it in terms of rich story building, it definitely has a lot of replayability. After completing each chapter you get a rating, and your rating is dependant on how well you did. These challenges can vary from chapter to chapter, but each time you play you learn a little bit more on how to play the game properly, and you continually do better and unlock new stuff.
Dragon Quest Builders in a sense is almost a “Do it Yourself” JRPG. Anything you would expect to find in a town on a normal JRPG quest you have to build yourself. Want an Inn to stay the night? Gotta build it. Need to get better weapons and armor? Gotta build a smithery to create it. It’s here where the game shines. Everything you build in this game has a purpose to either fulfill a quest you’re on or to satisfy your townspeople.
How do you go about building stuff? First, you need to go out into the world and gather raw materials which you can then use to craft into building supplies, weapons, items, and all that fun stuff. Next you can start building! For a building to count it must be at least two blocks high, have a light source and a door. Once you have a building you can begin to furnish it to create different rooms such as inns, restaurants, and smitheries. Throughout the story, you will get blueprints for special buildings and defenses that you can build to help grow your town. The better the buildings you have, the better benefits your townspeople will provide you. Which comes in handy for defending your settlement.
Dragon Quest Builders isn’t all building, you will have to get your hands dirty and fight. The combat is very simplistic, you use the materials you find to craft better weapons and armor which will in turn help you fight tougher enemies out in the field and that invade your town at night. This system here makes up for the lack of leveling up for your player character, as the stronger weapons and armor you unlock, the stronger you will become. Also when it comes to defending your settlement, you can also craft cool defences for your town that will help drive enemies away as well!
I think another cool thing this game has to offer is that you can get creative. If you don’t want to use pre-existing blueprints, you can just use them as a mere guideline to building your own structures, defenses and more. The pre-exisiting materials the game gives you and the amount of room for creativity leads to a lot of interesting combinations. Sadly this game lacks custom blue pints so you are unable to make your own things and re-use them. Which honestly could have gone a long way.
Going back to the topic of night time though, this game does have a day and night system. During the day, enemies aren’t a real issue and can be easily avoided. Sadly at night you can expect a lot to disturb your work if you do not find a bed to rest in. I think the biggest issue I had was with the weird wizards that would show up everywhere at night. They show up without fail every night and will constantly spawn until morning. While taking on one or two wasn’t an issue, sometimes I would have to fight three or four at once. Doing any work done at night became more of a hassle than what it’s really worth. Thankfully, the day and night cycles aren’t that long so daytime will return before you know it.
What I really enjoy about the story mode is the pacing of the game. If you want to speed through it and just focus on completing it, then by all means do that, if you want to take your sweet time with each chapter and just focus on building your settlement till your hearts content you can do that too. I spent ages on completing the first chapter and never once felt rushed to complete more. In a sense this game became the perfect game to sit down and relax with. The amount of mileage that you can get out of this game will boil down to how you like playing these games, and honestly there is something I really like about that.
Dragon Quest Builders originally launched on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita last year, and the Switch version is truly the best of both worlds. Having the portability aspect of the Vita version, and the graphical fidelity of the PS4 version, you truly have the definitive version of this game. I think the only downside to this games presentation would have to be the OST. While the game does have some good tracks, that are in the spirit of Dragon Quest, it doesn’t have too much variety to them. The same handful of tracks are used for every situation and it kinda makes things a bit dull at times. That said they are good tracks, just wish there was a bit more variety between them.
When it comes to how everything is put together, Dragon Quest Builders feels like it leaves a lot of potential at the door. A lot of the gameplay mechanics, in my opinion, could have been more fleshed out to make a much more vibrant environment. An example would be in encouraging more complex building designs that go beyond single floors, as building multiple floored structures becomes a huge hassle. The game often at times feels as wide as an ocean but as shallow as a puddle at the end of the day. Thankfully Square Enix has confirmed that Dragon Quest Builders 2 will be offering a ton of new content in the gameplay department, so I can’t help but be excited for that.
Dragon Quest Builders is a weird combination. It takes the creative and survival aspects of say Minecraft and then throws on a Dragon Quest theme complete with its own story, characters and quests. Mixed with the portability of the Nintendo Switch, and the addicting gameplay of discovering new materials and expanding settlements, you not only have the definitive version of Dragon Quest Builders, but you potentially have one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch that takes full advantage of the hybrid feeling, build at home or on the go, your adventure awaits you.