All the greats are celebrating their 30th birthdays this year - The Legend of Zelda, Japanese role-playing game epics Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and of course, our very own editor Ian. But with three decades of slimes, terrible puns and oodles of charm, it's Dragon Quest that's at the top of our list for this year (sorry ed!), and with two 3DS remakes scheduled to hit the console by the end of the year, plus a decidedly Minecraft-y spin off in the form of Builders, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be one heck of a birthday celebration.
Dragon Quest Builders, which merges the creative block-building of Minecraft with a story-driven role-playing adventure, is a bit of an interesting spin off. Set in a world where the king of the monsters has driven humanity out to the farthest fringes of the land, taking over all their towns and cities and plunging the world into darkness, just one hope remains - you! A young boy/girl blessed with the ability to build becomes a nation's hope, as you explore the world, rebuild the lost towns and take the fight to the monster king himself (for more on how the game plays, check out our hands-on impressions).
At the recent Gamescom show in Cologne, we sat down with assistant producer Takuma Shirashi, producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto and executive producer of the Dragon Quest series, Yuu Miyake to chat about the upcoming game:
Is it fair to summarise Dragon Quest Builders as Minecraft with a story, or is there more to it than that?
That description is not far off the mark. Of course there's the sandbox building element which is like Minecraft, but it's combined with some other more RPG elements as well. If you play it, you'll find the feel of it is very different from Minecraft.
Obviously you can create and make anything you want, but depending on what you've created, that has a knock on effect on the story.
In terms of the story line, roughly how long is it going to take to play through?
It depends a lot on what you do, and what kind of player you are. If we take a very proficient gamer, who just wants to have a run through of the story, you're looking at about forty hours.
If you just go for the basic village making, just going from next to next to next - you can have a very quick run through. But some people want to express themselves, and create something that looks like Cologne Cathedral or whatever - that takes time, obviously.
The forty hours is only for the main route, too. Obviously on top of that you can play a lot of sub quests as well, so as you can see it's a really big product.
How do you know what you need to build where?
For some players, they might be a bit confused about what they need to do now, and what needs to be done next. For such players we have blueprint diagrams, which help guide you through the building process, showing you what the finished building should look like as well as a list of the materials required to make it. Once you have made the basic structure as instructed by the blueprint, the rest of it is up to your imagination. You can add any details, extensions, roofs, rooms you want - it's entirely up to you.
So if there's a quest where someone says they want a house with a bedroom, you can either use a blueprint or make something as spectacular as you want?
Not really for every single quest. Some quests come with blueprints, and for those you have to stick with it as far as the basic structure is concerned - only then can you add on other elements to make it into something you really like.
There are other quests you receive too. Maybe you get verbal requests of 'this is the kind of room I want', but there's no blueprint, so it's left to your imagination to create something that matches it.
You can put in pieces of furniture too - like this dresser, with flowers and a mirror. When you put that in the villagers will come around and start getting an interest in fashion. To start with they look very shabby, shambolic and frumpy, but at a later stage, because of the dresser, they start looking better and more fashionable.
So what you build is going to affect your villagers over time too?
Does it do multiplayer at all? Local or online?
It's single player only.
Is there any reason why you decided not to do a multiplayer mode at all?
When we started developing the game, our primary target was creating a very good game which was a combination between a sandbox and an RPG. We feel that these two elements are very compatible, but to create a very nice game was a big challenge, and we wanted to concentrate on that huge task, rather than being too greedy and ambitious.
Are there going to be any cameo characters, from previous Dragon Quest games?
[laughs] Maaaaaybe you might bump into a character who's name might remind you of somebody else… But that's as much as we're saying!
Also there are some items and monsters that, if you're a loyal Dragon Quest fan, you might recognise. That's not so say this game is only for Dragon Quest fans either - you don't really need any knowledge to be able to enjoy the game.
What else is there to do in Dragon Quest Builders outside of the main story?
While you can enjoy a solid story in the story mode, there is another mode on offer, which we call Free Build Mode. There's no story line at all here, and you can just focus on creating whatever you fancy.
One very interesting feature here is that you can share your creation, so you can give someone the building you made or you can download somebody else's creation.
As you know, the game is already out in Japan, and we've already asked our fans to create something around the theme of an amusement park. So some of our users have sent in rollercoasters, a merry go round, a pyramid and all sorts.
Do you still get attacked by monsters in Free Build, or is it literally all about creating?
Yes there are monsters in the Free Build mode as well, but you don't have a battle against them - in fact, you can get them to follow you. You can form a party with them and they can help you instead. You can take them with you to an island or area infested with monsters and they'll be very very handy. Different monsters have different attacks and abilities too.
Can you talk a bit about how sharing works? Is it going to be a central hub where you can download all sorts from, is it just sharing with friends?
So basically, you can upload your creations to the server, and you can also see what's already on the server, and then it's up to you. You can check out all the creations made by a particular player, or perhaps a friend has given you a password to access a particular creation.
Is there much in the way of moderation on that?
Are you talking about somebody trying to upload something that is… naughty?
Yeah, something like that.
We will be checking all the content properly, and we're not going to allow anything that's too controversial or coarse.
So do you share just the buildings, rather than the map itself?
That's correct, yes.
Dragon Quest Builders will be making it's way onto the Playstation 4 and PS Vita (download only) on the 14th October - we can't wait. In the meantime, why not check out this message from Fujimoto-san and Shiraishi-san to get you in the mood: