The long-running Dragon Quest series and relatively recent hit Minecraft have more in common than you think. Both popularized pixelated visuals for mainstream audiences and both franchises quickly went from small projects to selling millions of copies. October’s Dragon Quest Builders makes the connection even closer with a massive adventure about rebuilding a fantasy world, one brick at a time. It’s a colossal task, but one that grabs you much faster than expected, as I learned after playing an hour of the soon-to-release title.
What If the Bad Guy Wins?
Dragon Quest Builders story couldn’t be better timed than for the series’ 30th anniversary. For those who don’t know the lore, 1986’s Dragon Quest ended with the hero given the choice to destroy the evil Dragonlord or team up with him and rule the kingdom of Alefgard together. That type of choice in a story was ahead of its time, and Dragon Quest Builders begins in the noncanonical world where the hero went evil.
The evil duo destroyed the world, and now, many years later, it’s up to the hero of Dragon Quest Builders to rebuild society. The game begins with the adorable little worker Bildrick awakening in what appears to be a tomb. He’s told by a friendly, otherworldly voice that everyone has forgotten how to build things (seriously, they can’t even make doors). Meanwhile, Bildrick can make virtually anything with his considerable construction talent. So he sets out into the world as the only hero who can finally get humanity back to where it once was.
Over the first hour, Dragon Quest Builders gradually introduces you to the simple concepts first seen in Minecraft, though with Dragon Quest’s cute, Akira Toriyama art style. You take bits of the earth to create the modular blocks that form just about every structure in this world. Then you break a stick and craft it into a rod that can break down other items or battle the many iconic Dragon Quest monsters you’ll see out in the wild.
Your inventory quickly grows from there with dry leaves, petals, and more sticks that you’ll quickly craft into (respectively) a mattress, healing potion, and a torch. And you place all those things down into the first city you’re slowly working to rebuild. Sure, you’ve got only one resident so far, but as you fulfill her requests for a home and bed, you see the rewards quickly. You soon see the cycle of learning to build something, completing it, then getting a new item so you can get to build something else.
That cycle isn’t particularly fast in Dragon Quest Builders, but the series is known for epic stories told over dozens of hours. And just like when I play more traditional Dragon Quest titles, Dragon Quest Builders makes time fly by. The cycle of building and exploration was so engrossing during my demo that an hour went by in what felt like an instant.
Dragon Quest Builders will be coming to both the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita Oct. 16. After years of missing out on multiple Dragon Quest titles, it’s exciting enough that western audiences will be getting any DQ titles, let alone one as inventive and fresh as this one feels.