When we talk about the Dragon Quest license, players immediately think of Square Enix’s J-RPG saga. But apart from the canonical series, the Japanese publisher had fun offering a musou with the Dragon Quest Heroes, and another totally original spin-off for the franchise with Dragon Quest Builders. To describe the latter, the game Minecraft comes directly to mind. Released in 2016 on PS4 and PS Vita, the software will be back in two short days on Nintendo Switch.
Does the comparison with Minecraft make sense? Does Nintendo’s hybrid machine manage to run it smoothly?
Build to succeed
The hour is serious, the light has left the world of Alefgard and darkness reigns supreme there. Lordragon, great villain of Dragon Quest, ruler of rulers, is behind this disastrous plan. Humans are torn apart, disappearing, and can no longer rebuild the villages of this universe. Indeed, the power that allowed them to carry out this task has been taken away from them, until the day when a miracle occurs. Rubiss, the spirit of the Earth, summons you to wake up as soon as possible to try to restore Alefgard to its former glory.. Being amnesic, you no longer know who you are, what you look like, or even what your name is. In order to resolve these concerns, you can choose your name, change your appearance (eye color, hair, ___), and you will have to listen to the first advice provided by Rubiss. This reminds you that you are not a hero, but informs you that you have an immeasurable power, that of building to illuminate the lands of Alefgard again..
The best of PS4/PS Vita versions in a single cartridge
Building is the leitmotif of this Dragon Quest Builders. At first glance, we obviously think of Minecraft, and for good reason, it’s the same principle. Yet Square Enix’s game goes much further. After your long sleep, Rubiss, the Earth Goddess, guides you with her voice, telling you what you are capable of. At this precise moment, you discover that you can destroy squares (of different materials), branches or petals, to make a weapon or healing balms. The grip is disconcertingly simple, even with various menus to manage. The arrangement of your equipment and other resources is also very well done. At the bottom, you have a long bar that stores whatever you decide to bring back in your satchel. Then, pressing a button on the controller will open a contextual menu that contains an items, equipment, etc. section. From that side, the teams have tried to offer something really accessible.
Dragon Quest Builders not being a canonical episode, it does not take up the advanced RPG dimension of its cousins either.
A few minutes later, your hero is released in the plains of Cantelin to return to his first base, a key element of your daily life. Your task will be to plant the Banner of Hope on its base, in order to bring light back to the few square meters at your disposal. At the very beginning, this place is almost deserted, but you will very quickly be challenged by a young girl who asks for your help. In this case, she would like you to finish a room for her. But for that, it will be necessary to start by assimilating the prerequisites for the validation of such a room. The foundations must always respect a height of at least two squares. In addition, certain items such as lighting will be essential. To give a concrete example, a simple room can be taken out of the ground by creating a room with a door, a height of two squares, two straw mats and lighting.
If you are afraid of being quickly lost in your new role as an artisan, don’t worry, learning to build is didactic, fun, and takes time to explain to the player. This is precisely the great strength of this Dragon Quest Builders, you are not completely abandoned, which could have had the effect of discouraging the less imaginative. As you will have understood, your main mission will be to revive the world of Alefgard, and this will automatically go through the reconstruction of a base each time. Because yes, as you progress through the different chapters that make up the game, you will always have to start from scratch. Furthermore, the possible fabrications will constantly evolve, you will exchange your makeshift staff for a steel sword (allowing you to destroy other materials such as stone), your simple room for a cheap inn, etc. The list is long and we prefer to leave the discovery to you.
The Minecraft aspect is a real success
With this in mind, you will have to explore the environments to loot your resources which can be transformed later by going to a workbench. About it, your first steps are relatively sluggish since your inventory is very limited, forcing you to return to camp to deposit the surplus goods in a chest. Nevertheless, the situation will improve relatively quickly with a magic trunk that will send your finds directly to your HQ. A relief ! Same observation on the side of laborious movements at the beginning, especially because of the number of round trips necessary, but which become easier once in possession of wings which allow teleportation. Note that the Switch version includes an exclusive bonus on this subject, but we will come back to it.
Eat to survive
Construction will punctuate your days, it’s a fact, but it’s never really off-putting. Be careful, weariness may be present, but let’s say it manages to be discreet because you are not left without a mission to accomplish. As your village takes shape, more and more inhabitants come to seek refuge there, and they will always have a special need. Want a hostel, a cloakroom, a unique room to be calm, or even a feast to satiate. Main or side missions literally carry your adventure. Thanks to them, your curiosity will continue to grow, and you might not see the hours pass. But a day’s work sucks. This is why you will absolutely have to sustain yourself in order to avoid death. The survival component is at least as important as the construction part. You will have to take care of yourself of course, but also of your allies, as well as your habitat.
Everything is conducive to reminding us that we are indeed in the universe of Dragon Quest
Indeed, Dragon Quest Builders features a day/night cycle that adds a Tower Defense feel when darkness descends on your home. From then on, hordes of monsters will try to break through the walls of the camp, in an attempt to neutralize its occupants. If the Minecraft aspect is a real success, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the clashes. The vast majority of the time, combat is all about hitting a button and waiting for your enemy’s life to drop to zero… The very definition of boredom.. The only real interest is that your weapons can wear out, and therefore break during an encounter, which will force you to react by pulling out another blade (or hammer, stick, etc.). Dragon Quest Builders not being a canonical episode, nor does it take up the advanced RPG dimension of its cousins. Your character will be able to receive more robust accessories, but cannot improve them. Ditto for your clothes that serve to protect you. On the other hand, your base will level up according to the progress of your buildings.
A universe known to all
The advantage of this separate component is that it is based on a universe known to JRPG fans. Quality or burden? We opt instead for the first option. This choice allows you to immerse yourself very quickly, and to feel at home. Whether in the character design, the environments, the characters or the music, everything is conducive to reminding us that we are indeed in the universe of Dragon Quest. And if it’s not a burden, it’s simply because the whole thing is well done. There is not this impression of “tightening the rope too much”. Despite the graphic bias, Builders is close to its illustrious by its cel-shading. However, it fades a little (especially if you zoom in on the protagonist), when your Nintendo Switch is placed on its dock. Its upcoming arrival on February 9 on Nintendo’s latest console is precisely the reason why we are returning to the game today. From a technical point of view, the hybrid version has not eliminated the few framerate drops that could happen back then on PS4. However, it is overall, and logically, closer to this version than the one on PS Vita. In truth, Dragon Quest Builders brings together the best of both worlds to form the ultimate version. As the title does not put everything on the graphics, the differences in the image of the lower resolution are less visible.
You might not see the hours pass
In the content department,Big N’s hybrid machine brings with it all of the original software, including the free build mode that unlocks after completing Chapter 1. In this one, there are no rules, only the pleasure of building. A kind of game within the game that will extend the already impressive lifespan (more than 40 hours for the campaign). As a reward for this wait, the Switch receives three bonuses: a speed boost for your character, special materials (in Big N colors), and the “Smilodon” mount. This tamed tiger can be used in the free construction mode, and will therefore greatly improve your movements.
- – The successful construction aspect
- – A real story mode that allows you to adhere to the concept
- – Easy handling
- – We always discover something
- – Watch his base build over the hours
- – Excellent lifespan
- – The best of PS4/PS Vita versions in a single cartridge
- – The Dragon Quest world and its music
- – Unmanageable camera in small places (tunnels, closed shelters)
- – Really uninteresting fights
- – Alone in free build mode
- – Maybe a feeling of going back and forth too much, sometimes unrewarded
- – Villagers who can get in your way
- – The game may seem repetitive despite the coating that erases this feeling
- – Illogical mechanics at times (the sign of a house inside)
Dragon Quest Builders manages to take up the construction aspect of Minecraft, but without delivering a pale copy, by integrating it perfectly into the universe of this J-RPG saga. With a solid lifespan, over 40 hours just for the story mode, the game will keep you coming back to discover more and more. On the other hand, the observation is less brilliant when it comes to fighting, passages that rhyme rather with boredom. As for the Switch version, it is closer to the PS4 version (being lower), but manages to compile the best of what was offered in 2016 on PS4 and PS Vita.