Minecraft's an interesting phenomenon. Its wide-spread impact is not under question, but old-fogeys like this very author struggle to derive much entertainment from its free-form format. Dragon Quest Builders aims to bring the best of both worlds, then – it's got the creative opportunities of Mojang's masterpiece, but also the quest-based structure of its role-playing forebears. Could Square Enix have a sleeper hit on its hands?
The first thing that jumps out about this sharp-looking spin-off is just how funny it is; the localisation team clearly has a sense of humour, and that's exemplified by the lead character's name: Bildric. Pretty good, no? The game uses the events of the original Dragon Quest – or Dragon Warrior as it was known in North America – to setup a premise in which Alefgard is consumed by monsters, and the people forget their ability to craft.
You are an exception, though, as you do know how to put objects together in order to build things – and the game pokes fun at this silly plot concession with reckless abandon. The title's a little bit talky, particularly in its opening exchanges, but it works just like you'd expect: you slap objects in order to garner raw materials, which can then be either placed in the world or combined with other elements to create new things. It's Minecraft.
The cool thing is that you'll be picking up quests as you play. Someone may want you to build a house for them, for example, and so you'll need to construct a two-block tall perimeter, fit a door, and add a light source in order to complete that request for them. You're free to go off and do whatever you want to if you prefer, but this structure should give traditionalists more of a reason to go off collecting and crafting, which is neat.
A promising start, then, for a game that proved very popular in Japan. There are question marks over whether the quests will remain interesting and the crafting varied, but the writing's fun and the gameplay – minus some odd control quirks – seems up to scratch. We're certainly not going to go overboard with this one, but in a month where first-person shooters will rule the roost, Dragon Quest Builders may just prove a necessary palette cleanser in October.
Will you be digging in to Dragon Quest Builders when it deploys? Is Bildric the best name ever? Craft a comment in the space below.