The Dragon Quest series has been around for a ridiculous amount of time now, and as such it has had a whole smorgasbord of spinoffs for its fans to smile about. Whether you want to collect wacky monsters, waggle a Wii Remote around or cut down hundreds of Musou enemies there’s something out there for every Slime fan. Until now I’d somehow managed to dodge every version of Dragon Quest Builders, and the new PC port was the perfect excuse to rectify that.
Set in the same world as the very first Dragon Quest (or back then for us Dragon Warrior) game, the land is overrun with monsters and the human race isn’t doing so well. In this nightmare situation everyone is too busy looking out for themselves to help each other survive, and for some reason have all forgotten about the concept of building. Enter our protagonist, the great builder of legend who will help fight back against the armies of skeletons and chimera by stacking cubes of dirt on top of each other.
Upon first glance you’d be excused for thinking that Dragon Quest Builders is Minecraft with a Dragon Quest skin, but really the way they function is quite different. There’s a focus on the story in Dragon Quest Builders, where you’re tasked with building a settlement which will attract people from far and wide. Each person you recruit into your village will then give you little tasks to complete, from making yourself new equipment to building them a kitchen. No matter what they want from you, the only way you’ll get it done is by going out into the world and gathering some materials.
Like all the best crafting games, everything you find in Dragon Quest Builders can be smashed up so you can collect it for crafting later. Whether it’s a cube of dirt, a patch of grass or some leftover goo from a defeated slime, it can all be piled into your bag and used to make something helpful.
My favourite aspect of this system though is how you discover new recipes, because it’s just so simple. Every time you pick up a material, your character will instantly be hit by inspiration and learn how to craft anything at all that includes it in its recipe. This means there’s no need for experimentation or turning to Google, you always know exactly what you need. And if you forget where to find a specific material, you can even check which monster drops it in your recipe book.
Killing monsters for materials is a big part of Dragon Quest Builders, which is unfortunate because the combat is threadbare at best. Any enemies you encounter can be attacked with your equipped weapon of choice, and you’ll basically just mash the attack button until they die. Later on in the game you’ll unlock a few special attacks like a powerful spin, but I never really found any of them much more effective than mashing X.
I suppose it does thematically make sense that the combat is basic though, as Dragon Quest Builders likes to make sure you’re aware you’re not a hero. You don’t level up and get stronger like standard Dragon Quest protagonists do, the only way you can power up is by equipping stronger weapons and armour. For a game focused on crafting it makes sense I suppose, and ensures that you focus more on making that shiny new sword instead of fighting Slimes.
While Dragon Quest Heroes is a crafting and building game at heart, it never expects you to spend hours at a time creating structures. To build something that classifies as a room you merely need to make it a shape that’s two blocks high then add a door and some light, you don’t even need a roof. More specific rooms can be made by filling them with specific items, like an armoire for a dressing room or a cooking spit for a kitchen. Each main settlement in a chapter has a level that can be raised by building more impressive structures (which you’re expected to do as a quest every so often) but even then you can also raise it by placing objects all over the place like pots and chests you find on your adventure. Building fans are more than welcome to let their creativity flow too, and there are even options to play chapters after they end to make the biggest and best city possible.
Alongside all the other lovely aspects of Dragon Quest Builders, it also has the audio and visuals of the Dragon Quest series which fans will love. The blast of nostalgia I was hit with when recognisable songs started playing was seriously impactful, and you’ll also encounter all your favourite monsters from your childhood too.
Now all of this was true when the game released in 2016, and nothing has changed in this version of Dragon Quest Builders. The sequel has even been available on PC for a long time, which makes this a particularly peculiar port. That being said, if you’ve avoided the game like me for the last eight years then it’s a great place to start the series, and on the Steam Deck it’s an absolute delight.
Dragon Quest Builders is a wonderful crafting game that strikes an impressive balance between building a settlement and collecting materials in the blocky world, and it plays great on both PC and Steam Deck. As long as you aren’t expecting much from the combat you’ll have a great time building houses and completing quests in this charming classic.
A great take on the crafting genre
Makes creating new items easy by giving you recipes as soon as you can make them
Has all that wonderful Dragon Quest charm
Runs great on PC and Steam Deck
Combat isn't amazing
Might not be what creative gamers are looking for