Dragon Quest Builders is what happens when a bunch of JRPG developers play too much Minecraft, get addicted, and then remake it.
That’s a bit harsh. but Dragon Quest Builders — which we recently had time with at PAX West — is very much like Minecraft and all the other games in the open-world survival genre. You gather materials. You build stuff. You fight enemies. You learn recipes.
What Dragon Quest Builders does differently is twofold. First, there’s a much bigger emphasis on building towns, rather than just building whatever you feel like. You must claim particular points, help build rooms and buildings for NPCs to live in, and defend your settlement from the encroaching forces of darkness. Once you have rebuilt a settlement to the game’s satisfaction, you move on to a different zone.
This settlement management is simple, to be sure. This is no Dwarf Fortress. But it does do some engaging things, such as making tenants your quest givers, and the game rates you based on the quality of the rooms you build. As such, you feel less like a bold adventurer creating a cabin in the woods, and more like the town handyman who is just willing to solve everybody’s problems.
The other difference between Dragon Quest Builders and other survival crafting games is that it’s actually kind of charming. The main character is an amnesiac, but doesn’t really seem to care. The omniscient tutorial voice gets exasperated with how disinterested you are in hearing him talk. People magically forgot how to gather raw materials or use them to craft things, so everybody is amazed when you place a block of dirt or make a bed of grass. It’s funny, but it’s not aggressively funny; you won’t laugh, but you’ll definitely smile. It’s a quiet sort of humor.
Those two things may be enough to characterize Dragon Quest Builders apart from all the other titles in what is now a burgeoning and overcrowded market. They certainly piqued my interest.
Dragon Quest Builders releases October 11th, 2016.