A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragon Quest Builders is an open-world role-playing game (RPG) with a Minecraft-like creative twist. Kids can go wherever they like, whacking rocks and trees to harvest resources, and then use those materials and their imaginations to build whatever they like. They'll also fight cartoonish monsters using swords and mallets, but there's no blood or gore -- enemies simply disappear when defeated, sometimes leaving useful resources behind. Parents should note that text dialogue contains mild profanity, including the words "hell" and "damn," plus a small amount of light innuendo, thanks to occasional phrases such as "show some skin." One of the objects that players can build is labeled a "beer barrel." The Switch version of the game also features an 8-bit NES version of characters and environments from the original Dragon Quest game, which could get players interested in checking out the whole franchise.
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What's it about?
DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS puts kids in the role of a Legendary Builder who's been awakened after a long sleep and is destined to restore a diminished humanity's place in the fantastical world of Alefgard, ruled by the nefarious Dragonlord, king of monsters. Your fully customizable character is the only human left with the imagination and inspiration to create and build new objects and buildings. He or she journeys through the game's vast, free-to-roam world -- which consists entirely of blocks -- bashing rocks and trees and other stuff to harvest resources that can be used to build everything from beds and stools to houses and castles. Non-player characters met along the way (often in the ruins of buildings that players are free to reconstruct or leave as found) will provide construction projects and help color in the world's dark history. The further you venture the more new resources you'll find, allowing you to construct fancier and more robust buildings and more powerful weapons and gear, all of which will be necessary as you encounter stronger enemies on your way to a final confrontation with the Dragonlord. The Nintendo Switch version allows you to eventually acquire a creature known as the Great Sabrecub, which you can ride into battle with monsters. Defeating beasts with the Sabrecub will drop special crafting materials known as Pixels, which can be used to build terrain from the original Dragon Quest game from the NES, as well as customize townsfolk and your hero in the classic 8-bit visual style.
Is it any good?
If you enjoy Minecraft, chances are you'll like this creative role-playing game. It has a very similar (but noticeably more modern) blocky aesthetic, offers an analogous resource-gathering mechanic, and provides nearly boundless opportunity to create whatever you like. All that, and it has an actual story filled with satisfying exploration and building objectives to boot -- which should prove a boon for anyone who likes the creative potential of a game like Minecraft but craves a little more direction and narrative. While this sort of a game might seem a stretch for the traditional Dragon Quest formula, it actually fits surprisingly well. Franchise fans will recognize monsters, music, and the series' trademark tongue-in-cheek dialogue and will be happy to know they can still grow and upgrade their character with seeds, new armor, and more powerful weapons. The Switch version's inclusion of "Pixels" as a crafting material to customize the look of the game even further toward the classic adventure is a great homage to the original series, while giving a bit of visual flair to the blocky environments.
There are a couple of minor quirks, though. For starters, the action is presented from a third-person perspective, which sometimes makes it a little tricky to target specific blocks for removal or placement (though as you learn more powerful area-damage moves, such as a spin attack, you'll be able to clear and harvest blocks quicker than you ever could in Minecraft). Plus, there's a little less freedom to experiment at the start, since recipes for objects are gradually provided through quests rather than stumbled upon by combining random ingredients. But once you've been playing for five or 10 hours, you'll be able to build everything from bustling towns to towering castles. This one earns an easy recommendation for kids with big imaginations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Like Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders can be deeply habit forming, luring kids to keep playing and building for long stretches. Would you consider using the game's day/night cycle to set a play session time limit? A few days of in-game time should equal around an hour in the real world.
Talk about creativity in games. This game feels a lot like Minecraft in its look and creative freedom, but how do the two games differ? Which one allows for more creative possibilities?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading
Science: rocks and minerals, substance properties
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, problem solving
Creativity: combining knowledge, imagination, making new creations
Self-Direction: initiative, set objectives, work to achieve goals
Tech Skills: digital creation
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: October 11, 2016
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: STEM, Magic and Fantasy, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes
- Last updated: May 6, 2021
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