Today, Dragon Quest Builders was released on the Nintendo Switch. Who would have thought this favourite of mine would be released to a new console? I played the game on my Vita, and was so engrossed by it that I played months on end. Of course, I downloaded the demo on the Switch as well, and found it to play quite similar.
That’s why I thought it a good idea to re-publish my review of the Vita game. Minecraft really set a standard back then, when the first game was released, didn’t it? More and more games take the building aspect and incorporate it in their gameplay. Dragon Quest Builders does so too: Square Enix have combined RPG with a building and crafting aspect. A very potent combination, as I will discuss in this review.
So, what’s the story?
The goddess Rubiss, the deity that created Alefgard, rudely awakens the hero who was slumbering peacefully. This hero has a history that’s pretty standard. You know, evil dominion over the planet and she is the only one who can lift the curse that has befallen the land. Sounds familiar, right? My own little hero, who obviously is called YvoCaro, is by no means a saint though, as she is pretty reluctant at times to take on the role of saviour. Still, she comes through and saves island after island.
I started out with nothing much. The goddess gave me a banner and directed me to Cantlin, the ruins of a once grand city. With just the recipes to make healing cream, a torch and a straw mattress it’s not easy at first. Making a basic room to sleep in ensures that you can survive the night, when the enemies attack frequently. Pretty soon the story is well underway, with other people joining in to rebuild the town. Exploration is a great part of the game, never knowing what’s behind the next mountain range. You find remains of human habitation dotted around, little clues for new recipes and new materials that prompt YvoCaro to spontaneously remember a recipe for building.
The building can be a bit fiddly, the camera doesn’t always do what I want it to do. And although the Vita screen is amazing in that it’s so vivid and detailed, it’s sometimes a bit small for me. Even using my reading glasses it can make the building difficult in the beginning. Should be a bit better when played on the Switch, as its handheld screen is a bit bigger. After getting used to it though navigating and building gets easier.
Exploration isn’t always easy
I guess it would depend on your experience in gaming, but don’t expect an easy ride. Finding ingredients for healing cream and medicine bags can be a chore, as you don’t exactly stumble over them. You don’t build any experience, as extra HP can only be added when you get a Seed of Life. You get them for tasks done, but sometimes you’ll find them in treasure chests too, tucked away in a cave in some of the mountain ranges.
The fighting is not turn based, which for me, makes for frantic gaming. It’s okay though, by the time you can upgrade your weapons the enemies fall like flies. Able to explore further away, I did find the enemies get stronger too. It annoys me a lot that you lose a little HP every time you touch an enemy, which you will no doubt do while you’re mashing about. The Chimera Wing in my pocket is my friend though, it can whisk me back to base in the blink of an eye.
Because it’s no easy sojourn in Cantlin, and the lands that follow, I died multiple times while working for my town. To me, it’s a nice feature is that when your health deteriorates to zero, you die, only to be brought back to base by the goddess Rubiss. Mildly annoying that a lot of stuff falls from your pockets when you die though. The good thing though is that no one pinches it: it’s still there when you retrace your steps.
Cantlin is saved, what’s next?
By the time I’d saved Cantlin I was in for a treat. The second land, Rimuldar, opens up, but Cantlin still exists in a different save file. Plus, you have to start all over, with pretty much nothing. So if you want a more relaxing experience, you can just go back to beautify the city.
On top of that, your whole world opens up. The game gives you access to Terra Incognita. It feels like Minecraft’s Creative mode, and I like the way you can begin to share your creations with the community. Plus you can pull other people’s places into your own world via Sharing Stones.
The place is pretty much a blank space, you only have access to recipes and realms you’ve already unlocked with your gameplay. Plus, here you will find the pre-order DLC you got if you bought the game early on. Creativeness seems to be everything in this Terra Incognita.
I’m no where near to being finished with the game, even after I’ve put some 55 gaming hours into it. I’m in the Kol & Galenholm island, the third chapter. This is one difficult game to put down, even though this third island poses some challenges in basic items needed, like wood. I play it so intensely, that my shoulders ache from playing too much. Being attacked constantly makes me want to play frantically, trying to survive.
Still, I’m having such an amazing time with this game! Never before did the thought cross my mind to go out and buy a PS4 to see everything and every little detail on a bigger screen. This game did that for me though. I even contemplated to buy the game again on the Switch, that would make it possible to look at the bigger picture. But then I’d have to start all over.
Square Enix really got the mix right in building, exploring and fighting. On top of that, they added some pretty funny dialogue. For me, this game hits all the right spots. If there’s one negative I’d name, then it’s the frantic gaming that I have to do to survive. At times it would be so soothing to just explore and build.