Dragon Quest Builders has been out for a while now (I remember loving the game when it originally launched on the PlayStation 4 back in 2016), but it’s NEVER too late for a Steam release. The game holds up well too, and whilst it isn’t quite as good as its sequel, it’s still a treat to play through this re-imagined take on the original Dragon Quest adventure.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Dragon Quest Builders put players in a world that has been taken over by the Dragonlord – someone that long-time Dragon Quest fans will recognize as the antagonist of the original game. It’s actually set in an alternate version of the first Dragon Quest game where the villains won in the end, leaving the world in a state of ruin and turmoil. Disaster, right? After being awoken by the mysterious Goddess, you take on the role of a Builder that is tasked with wronging the rights of the universe and restoring peace through the power of their special building abilities. The game never takes itself too seriously nor does it expand upon the lore as much as you’d expect from a Dragon Quest game, which is something you’ll witness early on when the impatient Builder doesn’t only try to rush the Goddess through her explanation of the game’s mechanics but also falls asleep from boredom during the process. It’s all very light-hearted and fun though, which is a theme you’ll encounter across the rest of the game.

Your core job throughout the game is to help re-build the world, with players mining for materials, crafting gear, building structures, discovering new recipes, and vanquishing the enemies that are causing havoc in their surroundings. The best comparison would be to something like Minecraft, but with more of an RPG-like twist to your progression through the adventure. There are plenty of quests to complete as you move between different areas and unlock new structures to build, whilst you’ll encounter plenty of colourful characters that help bring the world to life – they’ll often offer you side quests to complete too, so there’s plenty to keep players busy and invested in the journey.

Re-building towns across the world is always enjoyable, with the many characters you meet filling you in on what is required. You still get the freedom to craft each town how you see fit so the guidance never restricts your creativity, but it always points you in the right direction to ensure you’re not leaving anything out. Constructing buildings is simple enough, with players only needing to make sure that each room is at least two blocks high, has a door, and a source of light. That’s a simple breakdown of it and more specialist structures will require a lot more prerequisites before they can be built, but Dragon Quest Builders never overcomplicates the process. You’ll unlock plenty of recipes and blueprints simply from progressing through the game’s story, so you won’t run out of things to create quickly either.

“The way that it connects to the original Dragon Quest game is great, whilst the fact that it comes with all previously released DLC is a real treat.”

Of course, you still have to find the materials required to build, but that’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. You can find materials by mining in the wilderness, cutting at objects in your surroundings, or by simply defeating monsters, with combat playing a heavy role in the experience (and also including a lot of familiar creatures from the Dragon Quest universe). Combat in Dragon Quest Builders feels like something out of the classic The Legend of Zelda titles more than anything, with it taking an action-RPG approach that’ll have you slashing away at enemies… and… well… not doing much else. Admittedly, there’s not a massive amount of depth to combat and it does keep things simple, but it is satisfying and complements the simplicity of the game’s building mechanics.

Whilst Dragon Quest Builders is at its best during the Story Mode, there’s also an enjoyable free play mode that allows you to play through the game without any real restrictions holding you back. I’ve got nieces and nephews who only play in Minecraft’s Creative Mode, so having something similar in Dragon Quest Builders does make it more accessible for younger players. It acts as a wonderful introduction to the series too, and who knows, perhaps it’ll encourage them to experience their first proper RPG adventure with the mainline titles.

Visually, Dragon Quest Builders looks lovely, with the game blending the blocky style of Minecraft with the established vibrant aesthetic of the Dragon Quest universe. It’s simple yet stylish, with it embracing the best of both worlds to offer a world that’s distinctly familiar whilst also looking unlike any other release in the Dragon Quest series. It looks great on PC too, and whilst it doesn’t have all of the fancy bells and whistles of modern releases, the slick aesthetic ensures it still holds up eight-years on from its initial release.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Everything comes together to make for a really enjoyable experience, though there are some imperfections. For one, nothing carries over between chapters in the game’s Story Mode, forcing players to find recipes, blueprints, and materials all over again. Whilst this does mean you’re never over prepared between chapters, it also meant there was less incentive to go scavenging for resources and exploring outside of the quests given to you. I’m a sucker for hording materials in games like this, but it always felt like time wasted in the end. The controls on PC could be a bit finicky too, so you’ll definitely want to tinker with those before getting stuck in.

The biggest issue is that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is already available on PC, which is more fleshed out and enjoyable experience overall. If you’ve already played Dragon Quest Builders 2, you may find it difficult to go back to the more limited mechanics found here. And if you haven’t played it? I’d recommend it over playing this. That’s not to say that Dragon Quest Builders is a bad game by any stretch of the imagination – I still loved playing it all over again – but it’s hard to recommend when the superior sequel is already available on the platform.

If you do dive in though, you’ll definitely enjoy the adventure it offers. The way that it connects to the original Dragon Quest game is great, whilst the fact that it comes with all previously released DLC is a real treat. Come on, who doesn’t want to admire their creations across a beautiful night sky whilst riding a magic carpet? It even brings with it some quality-of-life features during the building process that were missing when the game originally released, so it’s certainly the best way to experience Dragon Quest Builders. It plays well on the Steam Deck too, so it’s perfect if you’re planning on playing on the go.

Dragon Quest Builders Review

It might have taken eight years to release on Steam, but Dragon Quest Builders is still an enjoyable sandbox-RPG experience that PC gamers will have a blast playing. The way that it reimagines the conclusion of the original Dragon Quest game is really cool, whilst the satisfying gameplay loop of exploring, gathering resources, and building up towns with varied structures is still as addictive now as it was back in 2016.

The main issue is that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is already available on Steam and is a much better game, so it can be a hard sell if you’ve already played the sequel. Still, there’s no doubting that Dragon Quest Builders still holds up today, and whilst it might not be as good as its sequel, it still offers a thoroughly enjoyable building-fuelled adventure in the world of the original Dragon Quest.

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2436570/DRAGON_QUEST_BUILDERS/