It's like a very, very well-done mod. In Dragon Quest Builders, Square Enix has taken the thrill and almost tangible joy of building your own world, and coated it in a deep, glossy layer of Dragon Quest paint. If you don't know Dragon Quest, it was the sworn rival of Final Fantasy in the Japanese RPG golden age. Then Squaresoft (FF) and Enix (DQ) became the same company. Oh, and if you don't know Minecraft, where have you been, you monster?
It just looks so good. In comparison to Minecraft's chunky (and iconic styling), to see such a similar game with so much big-game-studio lipstick makes it feel like a very different title. If you've played a Dragon Quest game before, you'll see familiar enemies and tropes. There are plenty of slimes to batter with a choice of weapons, and all the items carry the same names as in the iconic RPG series.
And that's great. What's not so great is how shallow it feels. There's no first-person mode to admire creations (although the PS4 is at least capable of sharing creations easily enough), and while Minecraft typically felt limitless, in DQ:B, you can only dig down four layers before that typical video game barrier of invisibility stops your pickaxe. That said, maybe you want more direction in a Minecraft-style game. If so, then DQ:B could be a fit. In the trailer, you can see what looks like an appropriate protagonist, an aim (shady kingdom on the horizon) and a whole world to explore -- if only just past the surface.
Dragon Quest Builders launches on PS4, PS3 and Vita in January 2015, but only in Japan. Square Enix hasn't yet announced any plans for a wider release.