Tag Archives: Dragon Quest Builders

The Builder Has Left the Building

Sod off! Not going anywhere before fixing that mess on the left…

Even if the Dragon Lord put up a commendable fight, peace has come once again. With challenges and everything, Dragon Quest Builders provided a merry 43-hour adventure that left a most positive aftertaste. Despite the lack of building space and the sense of urgency, the game didn’t go for strike three and I even got surprisingly used to living with its numerous minor flaws. Still, after completing four mini-stories, I’m now so exhausted that the free mode, Terra Incognita, is probably something to be sampled at a later time; even the story mode is comprehensive enough to quench a mild thirst of building stuff.

The game gets extra credit for its wonderful controls. One might think that building and, especially, managing dozens of resources with a joypad would be sheer impossibility. Against all odds, however, everything works just fine. Granted, nothing is as easy and intuitive as it would be with a mouse and a keyboard but the control scheme is still delightful. The player can only carry 15 different resources at a time but as soon as the home base gets a jumbo-sized coffer, it automatically stores everything that gets picked up. That chest is also manageable from anywhere around the world, so all resource hoarding journeys are eventually a matter of simply picking up anything that seems even remotely interesting.

Since this is a third-person view Minecraft, building stuff is slightly awkward and often requires the player to be positioned just right. Still, the outlines of anything to be placed are always visible and give a good idea on what will happen. With a bit of care, accidental placements can be avoided altogether. Then again, if that happens, it only takes a couple of swings from your weapon to return any resource or a constructed item back to your inventory.

When the hometown citizens require something a bit more complex and premeditated, the request is given as a blueprint. It’s a handy way to first determine how much space will be needed. After choosing a spot and putting it down, it only takes a single press of a button to see what the outcome should look like, and what and how many resources or items are needed in the process. Most user-friendly!

The battle mechanics aren’t particularly hot but not entirely hopeless either. It mostly takes time to get used to the pitiful range of melee weaponry. Sword slashes and mallet swings often miss even when you’re pretty certain they should connect. Inch closer, and you easily suffer contact damage. Just wielding wildly isn’t really a strategy here, given how earnest the feisty adversaries are to bring down not just your health, but also the number of your preciously crafted healing items and the durability of your weapons and gear. Instead of mindless button smashing, it’s often better to get used to dodging an attack and then delivering a couple of blows of your own. This makes the fights a bit slow but economical on the long run. In a worst case scenario, the battle is fought at home. This is when the inhabitants of your town join the fray and it usually results in total chaos where it’s hard to pinpoint individual enemies while pretty much every blow breaks apart blocks of previously constructed buildings. After a bout like that, it’s not uncommon to spend the next day just repairing the damages.

The day-night cycle is annoyingly short anyway; maybe 10-15 minutes in real-time. At night, visibility drops dramatically and pestering mage ghosts manifest to fling fireballs at your way. The most obvious plan of action would be to just call it day, go to sleep, and regain all health points in the process. However, if you’re interested in overcoming the (admittedly optional) time challenges, every moment should be utilized as effectively as possible, even if it means stumbling around in the dark with spirits hot on your trail.

In order for Dragon Quest Builders to have been legendary, it should have rolled all of its four chapters into one consistent campaign without any build area restrictions but a constant feeling of revising an existing design into ever-greater heights. Its days should’ve been longer and its nights shorter. It should’ve given players a chance to enjoy it at their own pace without that constantly nagging feeling of time passing by. Such simple (?) adjustments would’ve probably turned it into a genuine JRPG Minecraft, one that would’ve stolen hundreds of meaningful hours from its players. As it stands, it’s just a damn promising baseline that has all the required ingredients, yet makes it needlessly hard to willingly devote one’s every waking hour to the vision. Then again, perhaps it’s better this way.

Let’s Play Home(town)

The wonders of modern fantasy science!

Since I’m fashionably late to most games, it wasn’t until now that I got enthralled by Dragon Quest Builders. This Square Enix’s jovial Minecraft for (Japanese) role-playing fans has been providing constructive entertainment for 30 or so hours, and despite a multitude of problems, it’s absolutely endearing. Especially for us imaginatively challenged, its best feature is a story. It’s not much of a story but it’s still something that counts. The evil Dragonlord rules the world with his army of monsters, and mankind has regressed into nothing but dolts, incapable of constructing anything at all. Thankfully there’s a pure in heart hero (or heroine) who is given a holy task to step up to the powers of darkness. So, it’s time to erect a Banner of Hope at the ruins of a nearby town and build it back to its glory. The first recipes are handed out by a lone girl wandering in, and you pretty much have nothing but dirt, branches and leaves to work with. Still, small feats go a long way and as the population of your new home slowly rises, so does the variety of ingredients at your disposal. After only a few hours, it’s already all about cooking stations, rock walls, watchtowers, ramparts, steel broadswords, and more!

The simplest of recipes is a room, which is essentially just a space surrounded by walls two cubes high, a door, and a source of light. With suitable interior design these rooms turn into, say, an inn, a restaurant, or a workshop. Unfortunately the Banner of Hope only provides enough radiance for an area that is barely big enough to house maybe half a dozen structures, or so. Still, time sure flies by when fine-tuning even those. There’s never a dull moment, given that new residents always provide something new to investigate or construct. Every now and then you also have to defend your base from the Dragonlord’s minions.

Just when the whole town building and material gathering trips are at their finest, Dragon Quest Builders suffers its first strike. A big and awfully mean boss appears, likely laying waste to most of your accomplishments. After it has been bested and the damages perhaps repaired, a teleport appears in the horizon. It whisks you off to the next chapter, and while the scenery changes and there are plenty of new materials to gather, you’re effectively bumped back to square one. Not fun. Granted, completing the first chapter also unlocks Terra Incognita, a vast free area dedicated to nothing but constructing, but sadly it lacks the story aspect. As much as starting from the scratch can be vexing, it doesn’t take long for things to get obsessive again, and so the last moments of every chapter are just as rewarding as in the first one. The game has four such scenarios, and I’m now done with the first three. Then again, they all come with five optional challenges that aren’t revealed until the chapter has been completed, so replay value is high. This even more so, as completing those challenges will add content to the Terra Incognita mode.

The second strike comes from said challenges. One of them is always a speedrun, which requires you to complete the chapter swiftly. If it was already a bummer that you have to leave everything behind, it’s even more stressful to do it all over again within a rather strict time limit. I haven’t played Minecraft but it’s (supposedly) relaxed building of stuff that can eventually reach epic proportions. The story mode of Dragon Quest Builders seems like an antithesis of sorts; limited, fleeting, and even something to be optimized in a hurry. It’s almost like a tutorial that lasts for dozens of hours until Terra Incognita can be enjoyed to its fullest. Do I have the energy to appreciate that after a lengthy playthrough? Well, the game is still addictive as hell, so onward to the final chapter!

Space!

Has space. Is happy.

Ha! Yesterday, PlayStation 4 firmware upgraded itself to version 4.50. I usually couldn’t care less of any such release on any device, but 4.50 added support for external hard drives. The timing couldn’t have been better, as just last month I finally ran out of storage space. I got my PS4 two and a half years ago and the very first thing I did was to replace its 500GB hard drive with a 2TB one. It has served me well for all this time but just like with every console that supports upgradeable storage space, no amount is ever enough. Sure, I could just delete games of the past but as anyone belonging to the species Gamius Sapiens, that’s something you do only to subconsciously regret it five minutes later. Since storage space is cheap, I preferred to spend less than a hundred bucks on a cute little Seagate 2TB USB3 drive. The new firmware instantly recognized it, formatted it as extended storage for PS4, and it now looks like I can spend another 2-3 years without storage woes. Yay!

Either in this life or the next one…

It’s a pity that acquiring more time isn’t as straightforward as acquiring more space. While I’m still head over heels in Yakuza 0, backlog just keeps on growing. I picked up the highly acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn mostly to support a totally new big budget IP but as for everything else, I’m just being an annoying trash panda going through bargain bins for my kicks. The Evil Within, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, Watch Dogs 2, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, and Dragon Quest Builders are all games that struck me as semi-interesting but way too expensive to grab at full price. Thankfully we live in such a hectic world that by the time the mainstream rushes off to devour the next Big Thing, the prices of past such experiences plummet. So, those are games that might be covered in this blog. Eventually.