Minecraft is one of the most clever games of all time and it was just a matter of time till a big studio tried to create their own spin on this mega hit. Dragon Quest Builders may not be the first but it is definitely one of the most polished and clever Minecraft inspired experiences. Unlike Minecraft which pretty much lets you set your own objectives DQB is very structured and quite heavily narrative-driven. You'll meet several characters along your journey that will need you to complete quests for them as you help restore light into the world. Having clear linear objectives will help you have something to stay focused on in this sandbox but the question is how long can it keep you engaged before you leave the playpen?
Darkness has descended on the land of DQB and it is up to you to fight the evil monsters back and restore light to the world. You're the legendary "builder"; one of the only people left who knows how to build anew. Each chapter you find yourself in a small town and as you begin to restore these little villages new people will come to stay. These people all have different needs and will help inspire you to conceive new recipes to craft objects that will further improve your village. As your village grows in buildings and population you are also bound to catch the attention of the monsters. Waves of them will try to attack your town and at the end of each chapter there is a large boss the threatens to undo much of your work.
DQB keeps you in a semi-rewarding loop of exploring, collecting, crafting, and building. You need to wonder farther and farther from town to collect more exotic and varied materials. As you explore their is actually a handful of hidden chests and little side missions that are a delight to discover. Once back at base you can turn in your quests and build new rooms, tools, and defenses to better your town. Half of the rooms you make come from blueprints you can simply lie on the ground which will show you exactly what you need and where. Seeing your town go from some scattered ruins to a thriving village is definitely satisfying.
If everything sounds good so far thats because it is but DQB could have been so much more. The first big let-down is the awkward combat system. All you can do in combat is move, attack, and throw some stones. You can't even move and attack at the same time so often you'll knock an enemy back and have to stop attacking to move up and get back in range. Having the ability to block, roll, or counter attack would have added just a little bit of much needed depth. Also coming from someone who plays mostly solo I have to say that I think DQB is sorely lacking co-op. Even if the story is driven around one player, going out on quests and building up the town while playing along side another player would have been a blast!
In summary I really have mixed feelings on the experience DQB offers. Exploring the array of different islands and watching your villages grow is fantastic. Each new item you discover and recipe you invent brings a bit of excitement. However, for a game fill will monsters the combat is incredibly lack-luster. If this game had only offered an online co-op option I wonder have easily sunk 40+ hours in; this would have made up for the rest of the short comings. So if you don't mind going it alone their is a lot of good content here but if you want more refined action or a multiplayer experience better look elsewhere.