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Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch)

Build your own city! Survive the dangers of the wilderness! When monsters and humans clash once more, it's up to you as The Builder to revive the greatness of civilization. Work together with survivors and build a glorious future with your comrades. Play at home or on the go, as Dragon Quest Builders debuts on Nintendo Switch!

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch)

Introduction

Dragon Quest Builders is an Action-RPG Sandbox developed by Square Enix, released on February 9th 2018 for Nintendo Switch Worldwide. Dragon Quest Builders launched on PS4, PS3 and PSVITA back in 2016, but is now also available on the extensively beloved Nintendo Switch, enabling players to play both at home and on the go. 

Dragon Quest Builders combines elements of RPG's like storytelling, dialogue, exploration and levelling systems with core mechanics reminiscent of Minecraft. Such a unique combination of settling, building and exploration is what Dragon Quest Builders is acknowledged for. 

Dragon Quest Builders is available on the Nintendo eShop for $49,99 (US), £39.99 (UK), or €49.99 (EU). 

Story

Dragon Quest Builders delivers a original, personal experience. The journey ahead of you is distinct, as a dark force takes over a once peaceful land and annihilates it. You, as The Builder, with aid of The Goddess, use your exclusive abilities to mine, craft, and build, all to make a once great settlement great again. While the story is forthcoming and apparent, the way you deal with it is up to you. The name of your character, the construction of your city, the order in which you take quests on and the routes you use to explore the world are entirely up to you. I enjoyed the freedom I had while completing quests and building my town from the ground up. I had the feeling to be able to do what I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it, all while the story advanced. 

The dialogue was utilized heavily to tell the story. While the base speed of dialogue is low, it's adjustable in the options. The conversations you'll have with The Goddess throughout the game, as well as with the NPC's inhabiting your village, were based on textual communication. If you don't like to read, chances are you'll just bypass all dialogues. Even though the dialogues are tedious and repetitive at times, I didn't feel the desire to skip them. Subtle hints and punchlines were often visible in the dialogues. Some lines even managed to crack a smile or to make me laugh. A commonly used tactic to keep dialogues interesting in RPG games, but Dragon Quest Builders managed it very well. 

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch) - Dialogue

Albeit the story is generic and not the selling point of Dragon Quest Builders, the feeling of progress is a focal point. As you advance through quests and story moments (like cutscenes), your town starts filling up with lively NPC's. What they do feels realistic, so when your town's population starts filling up, you'll notice it right away. This made coming back to my town all the more interesting. The characters themselves also stood out. They all had their own typical conversations and movements. Their design fit their types accurately. 

Overall, I'd say the story couldn't impress me on a narrative level, but it facilitated the perception of progress I've felt throughout my gameplay. Funny dialogues from time to time, refreshing quests and memorable characters added to this experience. 

Gameplay

Dragon Quest Builders undoubtedly delivers when it comes to gameplay. A wide arsenal of quests, countless construction possibilities and hundreds of materials to discover and craft. Like Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders relies on the creativity of the player to shine. Its world is densely made off of all sorts of materials, yet every time I'd discover a new material, I would get just as excited as the first time because it opens up numerous new possibilities to craft and build. 

It's hard to say what the main gameplay component of Dragon Quest Builders is. Since the game is about building a city, you would say building is the major gameplay component. But while playing, I find myself exploring and fulfilling quests most of the time. Discovering new places, meeting new characters, mining new materials and fighting enemies all have a huge role in the gameplay. This wide variety of gameplay components feels refreshing and guarantees you'll never feel fatigued from repetitiveness.

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch) - Exploration

The freedom of movement is self-evident from the start of your playthrough. The way you move between objectives is solely up to you. The game allows you to build rooms to sleep in so you can bypass the night (which is recommendable, since the night brings out extra monsters). This freedom allows the player to rush from one objective to the other, or to take it as slow as possible and explore the world inch by inch. What I'd do was heavily influenced by my surroundings. Sometimes, I'd walk through a desert and I'd see plains that didn't look as interesting to me as some ruins of castles or caves did. During my quests, I would dismantle entire sites to collect their materials, build myself a house and continue my quest the next day. 

New characters repeatedly managed to entertain me with unique quests. Their personalities and quest content were frequently in line, so I could help out my best friends first and save my least favorite characters for last.
I loved fighting side to side with them, though. At times, my town was under attack by monsters, and while defending, I had the freedom to decide whether to let my friend characters clean the monsters up for me, or to join them in hand-to-hand combat. Their dialogues while fighting and movements in combat felt realistic and watching them fight was a great alternative to having to fight myself, since I find the combat shallow and by far the least enjoyable part of the game. It feels a lot like a hack-and-slash game, with only a few special moves as a distraction from the mostly tedious combat. Monsters don't move rationally, have very limited moves, lack variety and damage you as soon as they touch you. Never have I felt the urge to fight while on a quest. I tried to avoid combat as much as possible.

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch) - Monsters

Despite being very reminiscent of Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders has a collect-and-craft system that felt both encouraging and rewarding. Whether I had to fill my belly (since starving from hunger erases your HP) or needed some materials for building purposes, every new sort of material I came across was a discovery in its own right. The game inspires you to keep looking for some unique materials that are harder to come by than more common ones. Once you've found the materials you need, you'll have plenty of opportunities to make several crafting stations to enhance your materials. Your newly formed products can be of great help to the construction of your city.

I think that this is the major strength of Dragon Quest Builders. When I played Minecraft, I felt very restricted in what I could do with materials, since almost all crafting combinations were off and pretty much required guides to create something. Dragon Quest Builders makes collecting materials and building awesome decorations and structures for your town both a challenge and accessible to all players. I don't consider myself to be an expert of the genre, but I still pulled off the structures I aimed to build. 

The controls of Dragon Quest Builders are far from pleasant. Like in most Nintendo games, the A button serves as a talk/examine/interact button, but in this game, it also serves as a menu button. Other awkward controls added to this confusion, but nothing beats the camera control. The camera control is absolutely horrendous. At times, I even lost my own character due to the inefficiency of the zooming options. The camera movement is free at most times, but certain dungeons are hard to access due to the complexity of the camera movement alone.

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch) - Awkward Camera

Where Minecraft started simple sandbox building games with loads of variety, replayability and freedom, Dragon Quest Builders has a more streamlined version of gameplay, without hindering your ability to come up with some great ideas for construction. The added NPC's and quests give the game more of a soul, while the fighting regularly feels forced in. While the controls are unpolished, they don't hinder my experience too much. 

VISUALS AND AUDIO

As the first trailers for Dragon Quest Builders showed up, I was immediately impressed by the feel-good scenery and colorful presentation of the game. The characters were well-designed, the monsters looked evil and the function of all textures was very apparent. When I played the game, my opinion changed. While your own city might make you think otherwise, most of the world is almost a copypaste of Minecraft. I really hated this approach, since the characters and monsters show no weaknesses in design choices. The pixelated style of graphics and the simplicty of most visual effects frustrated me at times. They also felt unpolished. I encoutered characters talking inside eachother numerous times. Enemies moved through textures at times as well, making them harder to locate.

Dragon Quest Builders Review (Switch) - Awkward Polish

The soundtrack and sound design are pretty good, as they felt both cheerful and satisfying. All different materials sounded differently, so just running around in my town could entertain me for some time. Sound effects were generally pleasant as well, with crafting certain items at crafting tables and forging weapons still having memorable sounds to me.

Overall, Dragon Quest Builders feels sympathetic and colorful, with satisfying sound effects and enjoyable soundtracks, but the polish in the graphics is lacking to a great extent. This annoyed me severely, since building a city becomes even more rewarding if the end result looks and feels great, too. 

Conclusion

Dragon Quest Builders is an improvement over older sandbox building games like Minecraft. The addition of an Action-RPG in a Sandbox building game works out very well in Dragon Quest Builders. Although the visual aspect of the game is too reminiscent of Minecraft and not as appealing as it could've easily been, you'll always find something to do. The combination of freedom and a driven storyline push you to keep playing this game, which is for the best, since the Dragon Quest Builders port to Nintendo Switch is a succesful one, a game you wouldn't want to miss as an owner of the console. Whether you play at home or on the go, Dragon Quest Builders earns itself a recommendation.

PROSCONS
+ Freedom to build, explore and progress– Unpolished graphics and controls
+ Wide arsenal of materials and building structures– Too reliant on Minecraft's style
+ Interactive NPC's with fun characters
+ A driven story to lead the way
+ Numerous events to mark your progress
8
Great

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