Dragon Quest Builders Review - Read Before You Buy

Dragon Quest Builders Review - Read Before You Buy
What do you get when you mix Minecraft, Terraria, and Square-Enix?

In a world where Building Games are growing ever more popular—being included in even your FPSs, like Fortnite—how can a player tell which game is going to deliver that best-builder-experience? Drawing from my experience playing Actraiser, Dark Cloud, LEGO games, Minecraft, and Terraria . . . I present to you my unbiased comparison, coupled with an educated opinion of where DQ Builders stands with the rest of the Building Game world. Ready your mallet, and get ready to crush it! (Don't worry, there are no Creepers where we're about to go.)


About DQ Builders

With over one-million copies sold worldwide, Square Enix seems to be on to something with DQ Builders. Considering the company rarely ever releases their sales numbers to the public, they obviously feel proud when it comes to their Fantasy RPG/Building Game hybrid.

DQ Builders is an unabashed adaptation of Minecraft that also includes aspects of games like Actraiser and Terraria. Offering both a Story Mode and Free Mode, DQ Builders has something for people simply seeking to be creative, and also provides for those wanting a story: protagonist vs. antagonist in a fallen world!

Having been released in Japan in February of 2016, DQ Builders saw its worldwide release in October of that same year. By November, it reached that aforementioned benchmark of one-million copies sold. Popular publishers in the game industry, like Gamespot and IGN, were scoring the game at an average of 8.5 out of 10. The commentaries that came from the gaming community consistently coined DQ Builders as “an impressive hybridization of Minecraft and Enix's pre-existing fantasy world.”


DQ Builders Story

You begin in the fallen world of Alefgard. Humanity has suffered under the cruel reign of The Dragonlord, and the world has forgotten how to build! This is perhaps the best aspect of DQ Builders in comparison with other games of its type: building is an integral part of the story. Your journey will take you from the ruins of one town to the next, discovering what each individual town needs to thrive. You must explore each locale to gather the ingredients, either by harvesting or crushing enemies for their parts, and then craft the items needed to rebuild the town.

The story itself is driven by the characters you meet in each town. Those characters have needs. When you meet those needs they guide you with information and recipes that will further your quest for restoration. Along the way, your builds will be tested by random monsters, planned raids, and huge boss battles designed to put your construction to the test. DQ Builders' linear story is scaled to grow tougher with each new chapter, both in building and the monsters you will face.

The bigger they are . . . the more debris they make when they explode.

DQ Builders Gameplay

The character creation in DQ Builders might seem somewhat reductionist, as you simply choose between a Male or Female sprite to represent the legendary Builder. This is, however, typical of not only most building games, but of Enix's style of role playing games. The items and armor you acquire throughout your quests help to further define your character.

As you are the legendary Builder, the initial shock your skills have on the people of Alefgard is enticing to watch. After the shock wears off, those NPCs actually begin imitating the legendary Builder! Using various crafting stations, you can craft nearly every object available in the game (save for some powerful artifacts that can only be found by exploring)! You will literally craft rooms from the ground up, using your own creativity or blueprints provided by the NPCs. You will also cook various foods to feed your hungry Builder (another adaptation from Minecraft).

To expand your repertoire of creative crafting, you will discover Portals: opening up new islands and areas to explore, which yield better and better raw materials. You soon learn that even rooms have recipes, changing in function as you add new furniture and decorations. As you progress, the variety of landscapes and materials found continue to expand your crafting lists, allowing for experimentation! There are tons of item and room recipes that require exploration outside the main quests.

To defend yourself and aid in exploration, you will gather precious metals to craft weapons and armor. These metals can be found deep within mountains or near their peaks! Building stairways along the faces of mountains, whilst warding off beasts of the air and fields is not uncommon. You can swing a sword, mash with a mallet, or thrash with thrown weapons, maneuvering along with other created items like the Talaria Sandals (allowing for a double-jump). With combat action similar to Zelda and Dark Cloud, needing to learn your enemy's attacks and tells makes this more than just a simple building game.

The other element that sets DQ Builders apart from games like Minecraft, is the boss element that ends every chapter of the story mode. These massive monsters will gleefully obliterate your town, unless you've made wise decisions in construction while researching the best armor and weapons. Even if you aren't completely successful in defending the town, you are able to rebuild before moving on to the next chapter.

The world of Alefgard is huge, beautiful, and set in stone. Unlike Minecraft and Terraria, DQ Builders has a static system governing its Points of Interest. Granted, some caves, trees, and water sources will change in each playthrough, but the Story aspect of the game limits its ability for randomly generated areas. This doesn't seem to detract from the overall gameplay, as the areas are big enough to keep an avid gamer like me interested. 

Remember when I said that the NPCs begin imitating your builder? This is an exciting feature of DQ Builders. Imagine returning from a lengthy and difficult foray into the mountains, only to discover that one of the townsfolk has crafted a door for you to use, or cooked you a shish kebab to quell your hunger. All it takes to encourage this is to place a chest near your crafting stations. The NPCs take liberties, and it gives these towns you're building a cohesive and rewarding feeling. Your building is accomplishing something more!

In regards to measured progress, you are rewarded points for how you build your towns. These points play into triggering the events and boss battles, and give you a gratifying sense of achievement when the finishing touches are placed on a room. There is a distinctly different feel from other building games. When completing a room—requiring completed walls, a door, a bed, and a light source (like Terraria)—an NPC will typically rush in and congratulate you, in addition to the satisfaction of earning points. DQ Builders has made building an essential and rewarding part of the gameplay.

With a game packed full of so many creative options, it's hard to complain about anything. The only quirk that I and other players have observed is the behaviors of the follow-cam. When slipping into tight spots underground or in caves, the follow-cam can misbehave, shifting to odd angles or gliding behind obstructive walls. This can create some interesting moments of wrestling with the cam-stick to find an optimal position. It seemed that, sometimes, just breaking out more space for the follow-cam to fit in the room was the only real option.

Despite the static method of map generation, DQ Builders offers a high degree of replay value. Rebuilding the towns, even with blueprints, still presents quite a bit of variety. The Free Play Mode (Terra Incognita) is delightfully constructed, with three specific areas to aid in creation. A Home Area for your building, an area for Harvesting that progresses and broadens as you complete chapters in Story Mode, and an Arena—of sorts—where you can fight monsters repeatedly. I've spent hours exploring both of these Modes, and I know I have even more hours ahead of me!


DQ Builders Multiplayer

There is no true multiplayer format for DQ Builders (though DQ Builders 2, for the Switch, is rumored to have multiplayer in mind). In Free Play Mode (Terra Incognita), you can design Plots that are shared online. These plots will randomly show up in other players' Free Play Modes, as well as in your own. It presents an opportunity to share your DQ Builder Art and is interactive, but a true Multiplayer aspect is where DQ Builders is lacking.

The closest DQ Builders comes, is its NPC recruitment aspect. When going on quests or exploring, you can ask NPCs to join you. They gain bonuses based on your town build, and can be both a help or hindrance, depending. They will follow your Builder and attack any enemies that draw near. This is an extremely beneficial aspect of the game NPCs, especially when your town is under duress by a swarm of enemies! Even without recruitment, they will rush to your aid in defending the town walls.


DQ Builders Quest/Mission System

The quest system found in the Story Mode is satisfying, as it provides a progressive challenge within the storyline: where your legendary Builder is teaching the world how to rebuild. The NPCs are entertaining and informative, providing clear guidelines for gaining points to level up your town's build. After questing to craft Hela's Hammer Sign, you can place it in your Bodybuilder's Bath (a steamy sauna). This transforms it into Hela Hot Baths, which grants your recruited friends magic weapons! This system of quest, gather, build, and rewards keeps the game exciting, even when grinding for ingredients.

You can find several side-quests hiding throughout the realm of Alefgard. Whether it's building bridges to islands in the middle of scorching lava, or following signs to a hidden chest . . . DQ Builders delivers in a way similar to Zelda's hard-to-find side-quest system.

If you ever find yourself facing off with an enemy that seems difficult to impossible, you can always backtrack in DQ Builders. Perhaps you missed an important ingredient to make the next best shield? Travel back through the portals to previous chapters, and further scour the land in search for that rare Daffodaisy Bud. Though linear in story, the DQ Builder world remains accessible to ensure you don't miss anything important (even when you do)!


DQ Builders Graphics

The charming anime-style of the Dragon Quest series is expressed beautifully in Dragon Quest Builders. It may not be Final Fantasy XV, but the graphic style Enix has chosen not only compliments the building genre: it raises the bar. Considering the graphic quality of Minecraft, or the Retro-2D style of Terraria, DQ Builders' full-dimension world rendering is gorgeous to behold from any mountain top. Even while keeping with its predecessors graphic style (Dragon Quest series), Enix presents us with seamless animations in a landscape that—even while reminiscent of Minecraft's blocky terrain—boasts of soft edges, lush plant-life, waters stretching to a distant horizon, and enticing caves and ruins just visible in the fading light.

What a beautiful view . . . except the dragons.

DQ Builders Developer

With titles like theFinal Fantasy series, Kingdom Hearts II and III,The Secret of Mana, Octopath Traveler, and credits on other popular RPGs . . . it's safe to say that Square Enix doesn't have a lot of competition in the realm of Action Fantasy games. Some would say they wrote the book, pioneering games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy for Nintendo, all those years ago.

DQ Builders follows their history of greatness, while adding a unique title to the budding genre of building games. Square Enix has provided a seamless and near flawless building experience, expertly meshed with all the desirable aspects of an Action RPG. Square Enix continually delivers for its fans, and has restrained itself from abusing the DLC system that so many other developers take advantage of. Which leads to . . .


DQ Builders Price

DQ Builders is available for PS4, PS3, PSVita, and the Nintendo Switch. The unit price in the digital stores is still $60, but you can find it on Amazon for as low as $17! I paid $30 for my copy at the local Gamestop. With a legitimate copy of Minecraft going for $27, and Terraria going for $10 (digital copy only), DQ Builders has a decently competitive pricing for the gameplay experience it delivers.


Final Verdict: 8.7 / 10

I can honestly say I've never had a poor experience playing any of Square Enix's games, and DQ Builders is no exception. A tick off for the lack of a Multiplayer (which I love about games like Terraria and Minecraft), and a minor tick for the camera bug.


The Pros

  • A building game that actually makes Building a meaningful part of the story and game mechanics.
  • Artfully adapting an Action RPG, filled with a vast list of craft-ables, and secrets.
  • A challenge suitable for avid gamers, while doubling as an outlet for the creative soul.


The Cons

  • An occasionally buggy camera.
  • Devoid of any true Multiplayer mode.
  • Perhaps a too simplistic 'character creation' for a game rife with creativity.
Joshua is a King among nerds (or at least a Lord): Dungeon Master, Magic card wielding thug, and a romantic poet, his pen has saved or scarred players for decades.
Gamer Since: 1985
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Witcher 3
Top 3 Favorite Games:Megaman Legacy Collection, Baldur's Gate, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn