Dragon Quest Builders , one of my favorite games of 2016, recently received a re-release on the Nintendo Switch.
Take the original game's highly addictive building-fighting-exploration loop, add some portability to that bad boy, and what do you have? You have a Nadia with a re-ignited obsession.
I'm not the only one who's lost hours to rebuilding the ravaged realm of Alefgard: Critical response to the game is highly positive. Still, there's a not-small crowd of people poking at Dragon Quest Builders with a stick and saying, "What is this? It's just Minecraft for the Switch, right?"
No, my sons and daughters of Rubiss. No. That statement is incorrect for several reasons.
First and foremost: Minecraft is already on the Switch. It arrived shortly after the system launched, and it's a good port.
Second, Dragon Quest Builders is certainly inspired by Minecraft, but outside of the game's free-building Terra Incognita mode (which is best enjoyed after completing the game's story), aimless building won't get you far. Dragon Quest Builders is much more focused than Minecraft. There's a story for you to follow, and there are goals for you to meet.
That's not a slight against Minecraft, which I enjoy; it's just to say Dragon Quest Builders' gameplay isn't nearly as open and free as Mojang's sandbox phenomenon. And if playing Minecraft makes you say, "What the heck am I supposed to do, here? What's the end goal?" then Dragon Quest Builders may be exactly what you need.
Dragon Quest Builders tells you what to build, and when, but how you go about doing so is largely up to you. A character might say, "Build me a bedroom," and outside of equipping a secure room with a bed, you can make the chamber as plain or as fancy as you like.
As you complete characters' requests and meet certain goals, you gradually reach your final mission: To put an end to the nefarious Dragonlord who's shrouded the world in darkness and robbed humanity of its intelligence.
By comparison, there's no real end to Minecraft unless you set goals for yourself. Even if you challenge and defeat the game's ultimate boss, the Ender Dragon, you just go back to your humble (or not-so-humble) abode and continue to build it up and cultivate the land.
Ironically, Minecraft's brand of open-ended gameplay can be stressful for adults with limited time for games ("How do I know when I'm 'done?' Am I just wasting my time?").
Additional ways in which Dragon Quest Builders differs from Minecraft include (let me push my glasses up the bridge of my nose, here):
Dragon Quest Builders' gameplay is heavily chapter-based
This is a game about re-building a land that's been laid to ruin by the evil Dragonlord. You travel from town-to-town and raise each one from its ashes by restoring its houses, shops, and unique facilities. Inevitably, your efforts to rebuild attract the attention of the Dragonlord's top minions, who you need to take down in climactic boss fights. Once the chapter's boss is defeated, you move on and restart the cycle in the next town—but you're not allowed to take anything with you, not even the clothes on your back in some instances. It's back to "GO," i.e. punching dirt for basic building materials.
Dragon Quest Builders doesn't give you access to every type of building material across the game
Minecraft limits your access to harder / rarer materials until a little later in the game, but Dragon Quest Builders is a much stricter gatekeeper. For example, the first chapter gradually gives you the materials you need to rebuild Cantlin, a castle town made of iron and brick. But you don't carry that knowledge into the next chapter, which takes place in a tropical region. Instead, you're taught to make materials out of fabric and wood.
There is much more emphasis on fighting in Dragon Quest Builders
Minecraft has its share of battles, but combat against zombies and skeleton generally feels a lot more "floaty" than in Dragon Quest Builders. Dragon Quest Builders' third-person perspective makes its combat feel like the battles in a Legend of Zelda title, and every sword swing offers a sense of weight that's absent in Minecraft. Plus, Dragon Quest Builders has a much wider array of enemies to combat, and they drop more varied loot than Minecraft beasties.
Your construction space is generally much more limited in Dragon Quest Builders
You can build outside your town borders all you like, and doing so is necessary to meet some challenges, but your citizens won't use any facilities that aren't within the warm glow of your banner. Hey, it's a rough world out there. It should also be noted that every overworld in Dragon Quest Builders is pre-programmed. Minecraft's world, by comparison, is randomly-generated with each new game.
Exploration and treasure-hunting are more involved in Dragon Quest Builders—with one exception
Dragon Quest Builders isn't just about building towns. It's also about exploring the world. You can charge ahead on your rebuilding missions, but it's much more fun to wander the land after taking on side-quests from your troubled villagers. Exploring castles and ruins is a big part of the Dragon Quest Builders experience; doing so is vital for digging up materials and learning about the calamities plaguing each kingdom. That said, Dragon Quest Builders lacks Minecraft's sprawling underground grottoes, which is a shame. Most of the action takes place on the surface of Alefgard, through there are a few chances to dip into caves.
Dragon Quest Builders is a feast for Dragon Quest fans, but it also stands on its own as a great building / action game. It's worth your time if you enjoy Minecraft, but want something with a little more structure (so to speak). Add in the convenience of the Switch's portability, and you have another winner for Nintendo's little system.