Square Enix celebrated the 36th anniversary of the dragon quest series in Japan by publishing the original Dragon Quest builders ($21.99) on mobile. Dragon Quest builders was a pleasant surprise for me when I played the PS4 game in 2016. If you have never heard of Dragon Quest buildersit’s a spin-off series that mixes the Minecraft aesthetics and building with the charm of dragon quest. the original Dragon Quest builders saw a sequel on PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC that built (no pun intended) on the original in almost every way, making it a much better game. made this mobile version of the first game a bit confusing. After playing it on several iPhones and iPads alongside consoles to compare visuals, Square Enix has done a lot to improve the game here, but there are some confusing issues that prevent it from being as great as it should be. being on mobile.
Dragon Quest builders takes place in the world of the first dragon quest game where you play as a builder aiming to rebuild the world after it was destroyed by the Dragonlord. What did Dragon Quest builders special to me when I originally played it is how perfectly it took on aspects of Minecraft I enjoyed and mixed these with dragon quest storytelling, writing, enemies, and more. I didn’t bother to play a lot of Minecraft with Dragon Quest builders and Dragon Quest Builders 2 available on most platforms I own. These games are so good and add enough direction and mechanics to engage me unlike Minecraft where I’ve never been sucked in so much.
Structurally Dragon Quest builders is a little weird at first. Progress is reset to some extent with each chapter slot. You don’t redo everything like the first chapter, but it’s not one big continuous adventure like you’d expect in a dragon quest Game. The chapters here are huge, and honestly, I was happy with the game right after the first chapter on PS4, with the time I put into it. It’s not a big deal, but you better know that before you jump in and spend a lot of time thinking that whatever you build here will carry over into the next chapter, which is basically a new settlement map . I would also recommend doing a different manual save per chapter for this reason.
Let’s put that aside. Dragon Quest Builders has virtually no controller support on iOS. You can pair a controller and use the analog stick to move around, but the only other button that works is the options button on a PS4/PS5 controller which is mapped to jump. Nothing else on the controller works. There is, however, a silver lining. Square Enix has done a fantastic job with touch controls on iPhone in particular. On iPad they aren’t as good, but I’ll touch on iPad issues a bit. The combination of great iPhone touch controls and new added features make it the best version of the original Dragon Quest builderswith some big caveats.
having played Dragon Quest builders on PS4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch before, I was excited to see it back on iOS to see how it holds up more than half a decade after its Western debut, how it plays on a touchscreen and how it compares on different platforms -forms and iOS devices as usual. With the premium versions of Square Enix on mobile, it feels like the company is throwing darts at a board to decide which core features to skip for each release. The Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters the lack of controller support on mobile is the most recent example. Dragon Quest builders on iOS has almost no controller support as mentioned above, but the real sting isn’t iCloud backup support. For a deep game like this where you’ll be investing dozens of hours at a minimum, having no way to save your progress, let alone sync it to another iOS device, is horrible.
Apart from these issues, Square Enix has brought useful features to Dragon Quest builders on iOS. You can save anywhere instead of being limited in the console version. The lack of save anywhere on Switch made it difficult to properly play on the go in short bursts. On top of that, the mobile version includes an undo button with a decent history of your actions that you can undo. It also supports screen tap to destroy and place blocks. These are amazing additions that make playing the original console releases a chore. I revisited them to compare them with the iPhone and iPad version I have, and it really stands out.
Except for new features, Square Enix also has paid DLCs available for Dragon Quest builders on iOS and Android. These are primarily for the creative mode and not for the main story chapters. Once you’ve unlocked Terra Incognita in-game after a bit of play, you can use this creative mode to expand further over time with new recipes unlocking as you complete the main story. The DLC on mobile includes new content just for the Terra Incognita mode, including an all-in-one bundle that makes a lot more sense to buy than individual items based on price.
So with virtually no controller support and no cloud save saves, is Dragon Quest builders Is it still worth it on iOS? The answer is yes, if you play it on a newer iPhone. I tested it on the iPhone SE (the original), iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 12, and iPhone 11. On the iPhone 11 and 12 it works fine on top, but it has heating problems. On medium graphics it’s more or less fine, while the iPhone 7 Plus and SE struggled to maintain nearly 60fps (which the Switch version rarely did well) unless I uses low with the SE also struggling there.
In its current state, Dragon Quest builders feels unoptimized with its power consumption, causing devices to heat up quite quickly. This causes the screen to darken and performance to drop. It wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the lower graphics options had at least a crisp interface and text. By setting the graphics to low, even the text is blurry. I hope an update (yes, I hear you all laughing considering this is a Square Enix game on mobile) can fix this problem because Dragon Quest builders is undoubtedly going to be super successful on mobile in Japan at least.
If you are considering Dragon Quest builders to play on iPad, you might want to wait. In its current state, the game seems to have a lot of performance issues even on my iPad Pro (2020). For reference, my iPhone 11 at high graphics runs the game better than the iPad Pro (2020) at medium. iPad Air 2 felt like playing it on Switch at high setting. The other issue is that the controls don’t have any customization with any placement I could find, which makes it less enjoyable or intuitive depending on how you’re holding your iPad and its model. Playing at low wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t render the text and interface as low res as mentioned above.
Now the question is, if you don’t care about new features and just want to know which version of Dragon Quest builders looks and works better, the answer is a modern version of the iPhone. I don’t have access to the iPad M1 to compare, but at the moment the iPhone version works just as well as the PS4 version on PS5. One thing to note is that the PS4 version has some performance issues related to frame rate on PS4 and PS4 Pro only in the localized version for North America and Europe, which have never been fixed. These issues were not present in the Japanese version. On Switch, the game runs at an unlocked frame rate at all times and never feels smooth thanks to its inconsistent frame rate issues. On PS Vita, the game aims for a lower frame and isn’t really worth it compared to other versions.
With the exception of cloud save support, which is essential, I’d like to see proper controller support added, as this game was literally only available on consoles up until version mobile. Square Enix is also expected to release an update soon to address heating/power consumption and performance issues for the iPad version. It has the potential to be one of the best premium games on iOS, but some of these issues need to be fixed ASAP.
In its current state, Dragon Quest Builders is a fantastic game, but I can only recommend it with a few big caveats and if you stick to playing it on a modern iPhone. If you care about cloud saves, it’s not here. Controller support is also fundamentally absent. If you consider it on a newer iPhone, that’s amazing. On iPad, for some reason it performs way worse than I expected, even on my iPad Pro (2020) and feels almost as bad as the Switch version on an older iPad Pro with inconsistent performance. Square Enix has done a fantastic job with the touch controls and new quality of life features making it the best version of the game on paper, but the power consumption issues need to be addressed.
Whereas Dragon Quest builders will not replace Dragon Quest Builders 2 for me the iOS version of the original is now the best way to experience it even with the issues mentioned if you’re playing on a newer iPhone. Considering Dragon Quest Builders is still priced at $59.99 on PS4 and $49.99 on Nintendo Switch after all these years, the asking price on mobile doesn’t seem as bad as it is, but I’ll never blame anyone for that. hesitant to support Square Enix pricing on mobile given how unfortunate post-launch support can be had with future versions of iOS and iPadOS. It has the potential to be a 5/5 game on mobile, but Square Enix being Square Enix dragged it down by preventing it from being as good as it could be on iOS and Android. With a bit of luck Dragon Quest Builders 2 ends up coming to mobile and has a much better initial release.