Games Review: Dragon Quest Builders (Switch, 2018): Portable construction and crunch

Dragon Quest Builders returns for the Nintendo Switch and if you missed it like I did the first few times around, it’s worth a dip in this craft-em-up meets RPG hybrid. Originally released on PS3, PS Vita and then PS4, it has definitely done the rounds, but has developer Division 5 used that time to change or update the game in any way?

If you’ve never played Dragon Quest Builders, let’s start with a little plot and backstory. People of Alefgard have lost their minds. Basically their memories, power of creation and, more dramatically, their will to live are gone. They can no longer build or develop resources themselves. You are the hero (or not a hero, as the game assures you at the beginning), the only one who can rebuild the world that has been destroyed and placed into darkness. You must use your powers to rebuild the city of Cantlin however you see fit so it can return to its former glory.

Yes, ok, it’s a very generic way of saying “Here’s a world, now go build stuff,” but a story is a story nevertheless. Story was something Minecraft had to build an entirely separate game for, don’t forget that. I prefer a bit of an adventure to go along with just having to use my imagination (I need guidance ok?) It’s a block building RPG and I’m happy to say, I am quite addicted to its beautiful simplicity.

But no matter which way they want this game to fly, for the most part,  Dragon Quest Builders is a mining and resource gathering, block building game, that many before them have tried to replicate from that ‘other’ game. Fun fact though, DQB is quite the cup of coffee, bright and bubbly in its execution that places it quite neatly on its own and nearly above the rest, with the inclusion of story and characters, monsters that try to destroy your progress and a lot more immersion in my opinion at being a much better world builder. Why had I not played this before? Why am I only ever hearing about bloody Minecraft when other titles like DQB can be just as outstanding in its execution? That is a mystery I may never solve.

There is only a few downsides to DQB though, at least at launch, we only had access to the offline materials for review purposes and there is only a single player story mode, you have to persist through story based levels to gain any upgrades and resources to your building products, in other words you start our with a mud built house and progress to wood, brick as you gain a higher level for the look of your base, meanwhile talking to characters that give you fetch and grab missions relating to said materials. This isn’t for the fans of Minecraft that just want to skip tutorials and build, build, build! There is a path and you must follow it.

I found myself just wanting to do one more mission, or build one more wall, or mine one more rare material through the portal I had made, it was 2 AM when I had told myself earlier that I had a midnight cut off for work the next day.

Also, as mentioned above, this was released on previous consoles before the Switch launch and we want to talk about it’s port to the Nintendo Switch and how it has carried over. For the 7 hours I have played so far, nothing much seems to have changed from its overall look of the older releases, the one thing I took away from seeing it being played on PlayStation 4 was the loss of sharpness in the overall environment, the draw distance was still there and done extremely well, but the detail was lost the further you looked, purely down to the systems difference in processing power and graphics chips I’m sure.

After playing Mario Odyssey though, it makes me feel like developers are for some reason holding back on what the Switch can produce, for a game that is basically a blocky world, there is no reason in my opinion why this had to look worse than its counterparts, but far from a look that would persuade you not to buy the Switch version. The winning formula here is that I can take my Switch and my creations to work with me, my lunch breaks are no longer long and meaningless (I mean other than eating my food of course). The smaller scaled down version on your switch screen looks a ton better than when it’s docked and even loses the very rare screen tearing I had with my TV when in dock mode.

It comes down to this, if you love crafting and story-based RPG games, you have never picked up a copy of Dragon Quest Builders, then this game is for you, grab it while you can, enjoy it before the even bigger titles of the year drown out this little gem, or at least until we hopefully see a Dragon Quest Builders 2 sometime this year, because Dragon Quest Builders is so much more fun than it has any right to be after copying a winning formula from the big M and making it 5 times better in my opinion.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights:  Excellent pickup and play for short sessions, huge worlds to explore and/or Destroy and rebuild. Cute characters that clap and give you meaning to progress and build bigger and better. Another great game that you can now take with you wherever you go.
Lowlights:  The music can be really grinding after a few hours, No Auto Save, so manually saving is a bitch if you forget about it. A slightly less crisp version of previous ports (Unless played off the dock).
Developer: Square Enix Business Division 5
Publisher:  Square Enix
Available:  February 9th
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (Offline Mode) with retail code provided by the publisher.