Dragon Quest Builders Explained: Like Minecraft, But With a Story?

By Keza MacDonald on at

"It's like Minecraft, but with X" is a horribly lazy way to describe any video game, but Dragon Quest Builders does rather bring it upon itself. Even the logo recalls Minecraft, and Square-Enix's marketers would be idiots if they didn't try to encourage the comparison, and the familiarity and aura of success that it bestows.

Really, though, Dragon Quest Builders is more like Terraria: you're building comfy little rooms nestled inside buildings with good protection from the cheerfully non-threatening monsters of the Dragon Quest canon, in order to attract residents who will then build up your village base. It's a crafting-based city-builder with the tropes of a survival game: head out there, poke jumping globules of blue slime with a stick, collect wood and earth and food, make yourself new things from the trinkets that you scavenge. It is very absorbing. I found a couple of hours flew by while I was rebuilding earthen walls and striking out a little further from my ruined settlement in search of something more interesting than dirt and sticks to build with.

The building, though – the familiar rhythm of scavenging, crafting, improving – is only the start, because what Dragon Quest Builders has over its many procedurally generated brethren is that there are actually things to do in this world. You can go out with your crafted tools and have a grand old JRPG adventure, finding a ruined castle to pillage or something scarier than a smiling bat to attack with a sword. It combines the save-the-world spirit of the classic role-playing game with the creativity of self-directed survival games.

A little direction is no bad thing; indeed, if you're used to having to learn systems on your own and flounder around searching for something productive to do in open-world survival games, there's something immensely comforting about being given a little series of quests to keep you on a satisfying track. Residents require particular materials, or demand a room built to a blueprint, giving a sense of purpose to your exploration.

It most reminded me of Rune Factory, actually – the Harvest Moon spin-off games that combined the gentle rhythms of agriculture and farm-improvement with monster-slaying and levelling up. Given that it's also playable on Vita, as well as PS4, I can see it sucking up just as as much of my time.