I’ve talked about my complicated relationship with the survival genre here at Unwinnable before. I love the mission statement of battling against the environment and your own humanity rather than enemy soldiers; but the repetitive loop of banging rocks and sticks together to make axes and picks that simply help you gather more rocks and sticks has never truly sucked me in.
Even The Solus Project, for as much as I enjoyed it, wasn’t so much a survival game as it was an adventure game with a few survival elements sprinkled on top. Having just played through the demo for Dragon Quest Builders, though, I think I might have found my Minecraft.
For the most part, Dragon Quest Builders looks and plays like most other craft ’em ups.
The world is built out of blocks, destroying those blocks nets you raw materials, combining those materials creates tools and structures – and, well, you know the drill. Where DQB diverges from the countless other Mineclones™ is in the framework it builds around those standard mechanics. There’s a story here, and a surprisingly entertaining one at that.
Following the collapse of the realm of Alefgard, the whole notion of “building” has been forgotten. You alone grasp the idea of combining existing objects to form new ones, and this makes for some delightful exchanges with NPCs.
To them, the simple act of fashioning a torch out of a stick is magic, and their bewildered responses give the world a playful character most Mineclones™ lack.
The most compelling part of DQB’s additions is undoubtedly the base-building. Rather than dumping you in the middle of nowhere and expecting you to draft your own plans for a grand fortress, DQB tasks you with rebuilding an existing town, even providing blueprints for certain rooms to aid in your construction.
The keener builders out there might view this as a limit on their creativity, but for those of us non-architects, it strikes a good balance between guidance and experimentation. You can still build wherever and however you want; the main town simply serves as the beacon for story missions and NPCs.
Those NPCs invigorate DQB’s blocky world, avoiding the loneliness that often plagues other solo craft ’em ups. As you rebuild each area’s town, new NPCs will wander in, bringing infectious enthusiasm along with quests designed to expand your base and prepare you for the tougher enemies that lay in wait.
Though unavailable in the demo, the Forbes review of the Japanese version of the game mentions a boss at the end of each of the four main areas, another nod to the regular Dragon Quest games that I much appreciate. Having a clear long-term goal, even one as simple as defeating another Big Bad, gives me a sense of purpose Minecraft has always lacked.
While to some it might seem neutered, Dragon Quest Builder’s streamlined take on the crafting genre has won me over. Come October, those creepily cheery Slimes won’t know what hit ’em.