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Impressions: Dragon Quest Builders Demo

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Save the world one piece at a time

Last night, I streamed Dragon Quest Builders on Japanator Live, the latest spinoff of  Dragon Quest series that takes a lot of inspiration from the sandbox creation genre (made popular by Minecraft) and infuses it with its own trademark Dragon Quest flavor. When I first heard of Dragon Quest Builders, it caught me by complete surprise with the unorthodox combination but the more I heard about the game, my interest grew every time.

I have poured many hours into Minecraft and I love Japanese RPGs so it's only natural I check this out. So let's take a look at this rather strange spinoff, will it be more Dragon Quest or more Minecraft? Or will it be like the many Minecraft clones that pale in comparison?

Dragon Quest Builders (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 28, 2016 (JP), October 11. 2016 (NA), October 14, 2016 (EU)
MSRP: $59.99 (PlayStation 4)

You may have heard of Dragon Quest before, it's a role-playing game series that had its start in Japan in the late 80's on the Nintendo Family Computer (the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System) and has become pretty much an institution in Japanese culture. Japan loves this series so much, you've probably seen references to Dragon Quest in different Japanese media and you probably might have not noticed. Dragon Quest also part of that popular urban legend of video game stores having to release the game on weekends so schoolkids wouldn't skip class to pick up the latest entry in the series.

There have been many attempts to bring the series to the US, but the timing has always been not quite right. Now, we have a very unlikely Dragon Quest spinoff and it is borrowing elements from one of the biggest games in the last decade: Minecraft. While the series has had many spinoffs in other genres, this attempt of creating a sandbox exploration and creation adventure game actually does a really good job.

Dragon Quest Builders is set in a world that is generations after the first Dragon Quest game, where the hero in original Dragon Quest chooses to rule half the world with the Dragonlord, the final boss in the game. Of course, the Dragonlord being the big bad, betrays the hero and plunges the world into darkness, along with it, robbing humanity the ability build things. So it is now generations later and players will take on the role of the "Builder", who must save the world from the Dragonlord by building stuff and using said stuff to defeat the Dragonlord.

The game has a story, which is not really common in the sandbox-creation-exploration genre, progression is tied to the narrative that also tries to teach you how to do things and keeps you on a track with some freedom in between. This demo covers only very little of the game, so we don't get much of an idea as to how much freedom there is compared to the full game.

The demo is the first hour and a half of the Dragon Quest Builders, teaching you the different mechanics of the game as your progress with the story. You are slowly given bits of the narrative while learning the basics such crafting, resource gathering, combat, and other parts from early in the game.

Base building is also part of the game, players get to build a town (which is more like a base) and this demo shows a little bit of that mechanic. Building up the town attracts people to help build up the town as well as add more ways to item crafting. The other side to base building is also defending it against monsters aligned with the big bad Dragonlord who will attack your town from time to time. Defenses can be built to keep monsters from destroying your base and townsfolk will also help you fight. 

Combat in the demo is basic, only two melee weapons are available, a stick and a club. They do fine against most of the enemies you encounter, except for the dragon which takes a while to fight with such weak weapons. Crafting is easy, all made in a menu at crafting stations, just gather the right items and you can make what is needed.

Dragon Quest Builders just looks really good, the chibi-styled Dragon Quest characters look very faithful to the series, as well the much more recognized monsters such as the Slime monsters, the series' de facto mascot. Monsters act like they do in the recent games they are from, attacks and sound cues as well.

The game shows off more of its Dragon Quest heritage with much of the iconography in the game are ripped straight from the series. Familiar items are abundant, from healing items to even chimera wings, which is a mainstay in the Dragon Quest games and function the same way.

Another way this game shows off its Dragon Quest DNA is through the music. The lovely and soothing orchestral Dragon Quest music is present and just perfect for this new genre where hours fade away. This music is perfect since it was also made for Japanese RPGs that take dozens of hours to complete and it won't drive you crazy from hearing it over and over again.

The game's camera can be finicky at times, it zooms in when you're in tight spaces. When you're running through a forest with plenty of trees, it can be hard to see items and enemies under the foliage and will require you to maneuver the camera low for the best view. There is a transparency effect that lets you see through it but it is only wide enough to see a little bit around your character and can make it hard to be able to see enemies near you.

These problems with the camera are not a big deal and don't really pop up often. The minor problems are only in the cases I mentioned above, most of the environments are open and controlling the camera isn't difficult.

Block placement can be imprecise at times, since the cursor isn't always present and defaults to where your character is facing (which isn't always clearly defined). Placing objects where you don't intend to place them does happen but you don't get penalized for breaking them down (unlike in Minecraft where crafted objects revert to the raw materials) and you only take a very small reduction to the durability of the tool used to break it down. (Update: You can hold L1 & R1 /L & R buttons to be able to precisely stack blocks in front of you.)

The small slice of the world in the demo might seem large at first but once the demo is over, you may find it small and a bit empty. However, those who choose to explore the island in the demo will be in for a bit of a treat. Getting to the other side of the mountain will let you see a bit more of the game. There is a little bit more to see but it's not much, though it gives you a better idea of the scale of this world.

The Dragon Quest Builders demo is short but it left me wanting more places to explore and build, which is what a demo should do. I played for more than two hours of the demo I enjoyed almost every single moment of it. There's a lot of the world to explore and many things to build, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of the game. After looking at people playing the Japanese version, I realized just how little this demo is compared to the vast amount of content in the full game.


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Red Veron
Red VeronContributor   gamer profile

Red likes a lot of things from Japan and wants to share more about it with the world. He even likes the bad anime. Sometimes. As long as it doesn't have big boobs. Maybe. more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #Dragon Quest #feature #Impressions #PS Vita #PS4 #Video games

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