As I have said in another article on this site, the videogame Minecraft has probably done more to renew the spirit of Lego than any actual Lego video game. Minecraft is so in tune with Lego that it eventually became an officially licensed Lego product.
Usually when a particular game does something new and popular, it doesn’t take a long time for a slew of clones to flow out of the marketplace. Yet, when it comes to Minecraft there have been effectively no pretenders to the crown. Lego’s own Lego World was a noble attempt, but didn’t have much staying power, although in my review of Lego World I boldly say it’s the first “true” Lego game. That is, a game by Lego which allows for total free sandbox building.
As such, I feel that any fan of Lego and video games should own a copy of both these games, but there is a third option – Dragon Quest Builders.
If you aren’t already a fan of Japanese RPGs, then the name “Dragon Quest” may not mean much to you. However, it is one of the biggest franchises, along with brands like Final Fantasy and Pokemon. The Dragon Quest games caught on in the West a little later than some, but are well-established today.
They are a series of charming JRPGs, beloved for the sense of adventure and exploration. Dragon Quest Builders takes the charm of this JRPG series and fuses it with the core gameplay of Minecraft. On paper it may sound like a formula that should not work; in practice it’s something really special.
What’s the Story?
Yes, being half RPG, Builders has a central plot. It’s a an alternate sequel to the original Dragon Quest game, where the hero loses and the world is destroyed. In this game you play the builder, who has the job of restoring the world, undoing the destruction wrought by the evil lord.
It might sound like a rather thin premise, but the world is filled with NPCs and story content. So this is not a pure toy and certainly has a lot more meat to it than Minecraft’s perfunctory lore.
How to be a Builder
The gameplay is therefore much, much more structured than Minecraft. There are goals, quests and a system of progression.
The main game mechanic of building stuff out of bricks is used to accomplish many of these goals. Villagers need a village, so you build them one. Then they need more stuff, so you build that too. In addition, you may have to solve puzzles using your building powers, many of which require lateral thinking.
The game has combat as well, but just like Minecraft it’s pretty basic. This is about having an adventure as a heroic block builder, not a swordsman.
There’s also plenty of variety in the world of Dragon Quest Builders. While Minecraft has one default look (with infinite modding potential!) here you get four different worlds to play and progress through.
A Better Minecraft?
One of the biggest complaints anyone can have about Minecraft is that it isn’t really a game in the true sense. It’s a digital toy, which creative players can turn into a game by making their own rules and objectives.
Minecraft is a brilliant piece of software and gives Lego fans something that Lego itself has yet to master. If you have friends or are tackling a particular project in the free-building mode of Minecraft, the game can keep you busy for hours. If, however, you want a single-player experience that also includes Minecraft-like building, then Dragon Quest Builders is the only game in town. There’s also a free building mode too, so it’s win-win.
The game is available on PS4, PS3, Vita, and the Nintendo Switch. Personally, if you can swing it, the Switch version is the best.