Dragon Quest Builders: Build and battle

An action-adventure and sandbox building game that you’ll want to take everywhere with you on your Nintendo Switch.

If you’ve enjoyed playing sandbox-style games with survival, building, and crafting mechanics yet thought to ­yourself, “gosh, this would be even more fun if I had a story to give context to my actions, a goal to works towards, and characters to make the world feel alive”, then boy oh boy, do I have a game for you!

TASTE OF DESERT - You'll be spending a lot of your time in the great outdoors, like this desert, looking for increasingly more valuable tiers of resources and fending off increasingly more dangerous monsters.

You’ll be spending a lot of your time in the great outdoors, like this desert, looking for increasingly more valuable tiers of resources and fending off increasingly more dangerous monsters.

Dragon Quest Builders is essentially Minecraft if it was a classic fantasy JRPG (Japanese role-playing game). It was originally released for the PlayStation 3, PS4, and PS Vita back in 2016, but recently re-released for Nintendo’s portable home console, the Switch. And a good thing too – if you’re like me and enjoy grand epic adventures as much as building a comfy little town for your NPC (non-player character) pals to live in, then you’ll want to bring this game everywhere you go.

Put your crafting hat on and get ready to whack blocks for their resources, because we’re going on …

A Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest Builders is a spin-off title in the venerable Dragon Quest series, and if you’re not familiar with the franchise, don’t worry – it’s exactly what you think, when you think of a JRPG. Dragon Quest was one of the ­earliest Japanese fantasy adventure games, and it helped define the template for the genre – a heroic warrior takes up a sword and goes on a quest to save the world from evil monsters.

Except, in Dragon Quest Builders, you’re less of a heroic warrior and more of a DIY craftswoman/craftsman; your weapon of choice is a construction hammer; and the world you’re trying to save has, erm, already been doomed and the monsters have overrun the entire kingdom of Alefgard. Oops!

BUILD OR BASH? - Just because you're not a warrior doesn't mean you don't need to fight. Good thing you swing a sword as well as you do a hammer!

Just because you’re not a warrior doesn’t mean you don’t need to fight. Good thing you swing a sword as well as you do a hammer!

Dragon Quest Builders may have a really cute art style – with character designs from Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama, no less – but the ­adorable visual aesthetics really belie the fact that you’re in a post-apocalyptic setting where humanity is barely ­clinging to life amidst the ruins of their once great civilisation. Yeah, there’s a surprisingly grim and dark backstory for this otherwise ­optimistic and cheerful-looking game.

Fortunately, this is where you come in. You’re the last remaining person who’s blessed by the goddess Rubiss with the power of creation, and you’re going to restore light to Alefgard by rebuilding human civilisation, one town at a time. The world may have gone down the toilet, but as the ­legendary Builder known as Bob once said: Can we fix it?

Yes we can

Your quest to rescue humanity takes place across several self-contained story chapters (plus an optional “free roam sandbox”, but more on that later) and it’s these distinct chapters that give Dragon Quest Builders its special appeal.

You see, at the surface level, each chapter might look similar, where the gameplay is largely divided into two parts.

Dragon Quest Builders

The worlds in Dragon Quest Builders aren’t fully randomly generated, meaning you’ll occassionally be surprised by buildings and secrets hand-crafted by the game’s designers. Oooh, what’s in this abandoned hotel?

Half of the time, you’re exploring the world, collecting resources and uncovering puzzle-filled old ruins filled with treasures; the other half, you’re in your home base (the chapter’s main town), erecting walls to protect from monster attacks, building houses to shelter the NPCs who flock to your town, and ­crafting better adventuring gear.

Dig a bit deeper though, and you’ll quickly realise that each chapter has its own narrative arc which adds twists to the survival and exploration mechanics. The first chapter, for example, is a fairly tame introduction to Town Building 101, set against the pleasant backdrop of forests, hills and deserts.

The human survivors you meet in this chapter are mostly interested in rebuilding their town, and they’ll send you on quests to build them a bedroom so they have a place to sleep, or a kitchen so they can prepare food for you. (Incidentally, this chapter also shows how the NPCs actually participate in and react to the town you build, which adds a nice degree of verisimilitude.)

Dragon Quest Builders

Dragon Quest Builders isn’t just about making towns, but also about making friends – and good news, these NPCs are actually helpful!

In contrast, a later chapter lands you in the middle of a disease-infested swamp, introduces RPG status effects (poison, paralysis, etc), and pits you and your new allies in a desperate race to find a cure for a plague that’s wiping out the human survivors.

This means that there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to in Dragon Quest Builders, and the sense of achievement you get when you reach a new ­milestone – whether it’s uncovering a hidden crafting recipe, or ­progressing the story, or unlocking a whole new adventuring zone – is incredibly satisfying.

But is there a catch?

Well, there’s always a catch. As I’ve extolled, Dragon Quest Builders is a treasure for people like me who love Minecraft but want a more goal-­oriented or narrative-driven gameplay experience.

However, if you play games like Minecraft primarily as a means of ­creative expression – meaning you just like to build awe-inspiring (and/or hilariously bawdy) monuments and don’t want to worry about things like a hunger meter or rampaging monsters – then you may want to stick with Minecraft.

Dragon Quest Builders

OK, this isn’t a death trap-filled dungeon; I just got overzealous setting up defences around my town.

One major issue is that the “free roam” sandbox mode in Dragon Quest Builders, called Terra Incognita, is only unlocked after finishing the first chapter, and – fair warning – that involves a rather challenging boss fight. Even then, you still need to gather building materials manually. Sorry, there’s no “Creative Mode” (ala Minecraft) for you, so you can’t fly around and build your magnificent skyscraper with an unlimited supply of obsidian blocks.

Another issue is that the game assumes you’re really zen about letting go of your material possessions and any progress you’ve made. You see, since each chapter is self-contained (often with its own unique building materials and crafting recipes), this means that every time you start a new chapter, you’ll leave behind the ­previous town you spent countless hours building, the equipment you crafted, and the ­materials you’ve amassed.

Now, as painful as that sounds, this design decision actually turns out for the best and really adds to the unique experience of each new chapter. Plus, each chapter comes with its own save slots, so it’s not as if you can’t revisit previous chapters once you’re done.

Dragon Quest Builders

Terra Incognita may not have a central story or plot, but on the plus side, you can befriend a kitty who you can ride!

But that said, I won’t lie: the first time I realised what was happening to me when I entered chapter two, I screamed for a solid 20 minutes at my TV screen, one minute for every hour I spent turning the ruined town of Cantlin into a thriving, art-filled, ­cosmopolitan metropolis that’s now disappearing in my rear view mirror.

(This is why I play videogames, folks: they’re so relaxing.)

Keep on building

Dragon Quest Builders is one of my favourite games for the Nintendo Switch, and how can it not be? It ­combines two amazing things – the ­creative freedom of Minecraft and the evocative story-telling of JRPGs – to create something unique and memorable.

If you’re still unsure what to make of it, then don’t worry – you can try out the free demo from the Nintendo eShop, which lets you explore the first section of Chapter 1.

Dragon Quest Builders

Adventure is out there!

The demo was what got me ­interested in Dragon Quest Builders in the first place, as it gave me a taste of the game’s delightful mix of action-­adventure and town-building.

Pros: It’s Minecraft but with a story you can get invested in; each self-contained chapter in the story introduces unique twists to the gameplay.

Cons: If you’re just here to build, you’ll be disappointed at a lack of a full “Creative mode”.

Dragon Quest Builders
(Square Enix/Nintendo)
Sandbox action RPG for Nintendo Switch
Rating: ?????
Price: US$49.99 (RM195)

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British company Financial.org is on the alert list of Indonesia

Last week financial regulator Financial Services Authority of Indonesia (OJK) included Financial.org into the alert list to warn investors and company visitors.

Earlier Busines Times reported that Malaysia’s Securities Commission placed Financial.org on a list of “unauthorized websites/investment products/companies/individuals” last year.

Experts of financial markets are concerned with the activity of Financial.org. One reason is that the British company presents itself as an education business in the investment field, but the factual state of affairs evidence that Financial.org is a market player that ploughs investors’ money into stocks.

Samsung Galaxy S9+: To the nines

Superior cameras and speakers headline the functions of Samsung’s feature-packed flagships, the Galaxy S9 and S9+.

From the time our cavemen ­ancestors took a stab at graffiti – parietal art if you want to get ­technical – we have loved leaving messages with pictures.

Maybe it’s because a picture is worth a thousand words or typing still feels tedious on the phone, ­pictures have fascinated us, ­especially the young.

So today more than ever, ­everyone is resorting to using some sort of image – stickers, photos, emojis, GIFs.

And the mobile phone sector is embracing it because this June we will be getting an additional 157 emoji, including superheroes and villains, just in case there ­weren’t enough ways to express yourself with them already.

See the light

So it isn’t surprising that Samsung’s focus with its next-gen smartphones – the Galaxy S9 and S9+ – is on the camera and related features like AR emoji.

They are the first Galaxy ­smartphones to feature cameras with dual apertures – while this might seem minor, light is almost everything when it comes to taking better pictures.

By having two apertures – one big (f/1.5) and one small (f/2.4) – the camera has finer control over the amount of light so the image is not over or under exposed.

Even on the bigger Galaxy S9, the fingerprint sensor is easy to reach.

Even on the bigger Galaxy S9, the fingerprint sensor is easy to reach. — Photos: Samsung

I had a week to test the Galaxy S9+ – it had no trouble taking pictures in low light environments as the ­bigger aperture resulted in brighter images. Though there was still some softening, it’s much less compared to most other smartphones.

The other highlight is slow motion video recording – this is not new but the S9/S9+ is capable of slowing down action much more as it can record at 960fps (frames per second).

Want to see a fidget spinner spin in slow motion or a balloon ­bursting? With this smartphone you can. And you don’t have to be quick on the trigger as the camera will automatically detect motion and initiate the slow-mo capture for you.

Selfie stickers

Though we are getting more emoji later this year, it’s nothing like being able to turn yourself into a digital avatar.

AR Emoji is exactly that. Point the front camera at yourself and select AR Emoji and it’ll create a cartoon avatar of you.

Why use generic stickers when you can create a customisable avatar of yourself? — Photos: Samsung

Why use generic stickers when you can create a customisable avatar of yourself? 

It’s more of a caricature than an accurate portrait but it’s all fun because you get to change ­elements like hairstyle, skin tone, spectacles and clothes.

If you are bored of your face, like me, you can just pick an animal skin for your avatar and create an animated emoji that you can safe as GIF (short looping video).

As GIF is supported on most messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, you can share it with just about everyone.

Augmented audio

With the Galaxy S9/S9+, it’s not all about seeing the difference but hearing it too, as it has stereo speakers tuned by popular Austrian acoustic company AKG.

It’s supposed to be 40% louder – and though I didn’t have a meter to measure it, the Galaxy S9+ is much louder than the S8+, and, more importantly, the sound doesn’t break at max volume.

And as there are speakers on both ends, listening to audio while holding it vertically or in an other orientation doesn’t muffle the sound as much, as I generally tend to cup the bottom.

The icing on the cake is Dolby Atmos which is easily turned on/off from the shortcut menu. With it on, you’ll get a more robust sound – notes that were hidden before come to the fore – especially when listening to music. I tested it out with tunes ranging from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to Panic At The Disco’s cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and Pentatonix’s Hallelujah, and I was impressed with how it handled everything from orchestral to a cappella.

However, where it falls short shouldn’t surprise – the bass is still lacking and for that you need external Bluetooth speakers.

While we didn’t get to test this, it sounds exciting nonetheless – the Galaxy S9/9+ is able to stream audio to two Bluetooth speakers simultaneously.

Sized up

So which model do you get? It’s largely dependent on the size of your hand – or in my case, wallet.

The two main differences are obvious – the Galaxy S9 has a 5.8in Infinity Display while the S9+ has a 6.2in, and the S9 has a 3,000mAh battery while the S9+ gets a 3,500mAh.

These differences are nothing new as their predecessors too were differentiated this way but with the Galaxy S9 and S9+ there is one other major distinction.

Only the S9+ gets an additional camera on the back for a dual camera setup, making it possible to shoot photos with the Bokeh effect – Samsung calls it Live Focus – which blurs out the background to make the subject standout. The effect is adjustable before or after the image is taken.

The additional camera too is 12 megapixels but it’s telephoto so you get 2x optical zoom which comes in handy more often than you think.

The Galaxy S9+ also has more memory – 6GB RAM vs 4GB RAM on the S9 – but we have not seen an instance yet where the extra memory is needed. However, it does make the phone more future proof.

Both smartphones are available in three colours, namely Midnight Black, Coral Blue and the new Lilac Purple except for the spacious Galaxy S9 256GB which comes only in Midnight Black. — Bloomberg

Both smartphones are available in three colours, namely Midnight Black, Coral Blue and the new Lilac Purple except for the spacious Galaxy S9 256GB which comes only in Midnight Black. — Bloomberg

Also, if you can’t tell apart a Galaxy S9/S9+ from an S8/S8+, you are not alone – Samsung has made the bezels thinner and the screen brighter but it’s not obvious unless you put them side by side.

Other than that, the front remains almost unchanged which is not a bad thing because the ­snazzy look still stands the test of time, putting to shame some of the newer models.

The back, however, is where most of the change happened. The biggest being the fingerprint scanner, which is now below the camera and centred, making it much easier to reach to unlock your phone, even if you have ­dainty hands.

Or you can just use Intelligent Scan, which combines facial ­recognition and iris scan so it can recognise you in a variety of conditions.

Like its predecessors, the smartphones meet the IP68 standard for dust and water resistance so you don’t have to worry about going rough and tumble with the smartphones.

Whole nine yards

If cash is no issue then the Galaxy S9/S9+ is the best money can buy at the moment if you are in the market for an Android.

While in the past you were stuck with one storage option, the Galaxy S9+ is available in three sizes so you can pick one that suits your budget. You don’t really have to splurge on the 256GB model as you can always buy an MicroSD card later for your photos and videos, as the smartphones support a whopping 400GB of external memory.

All in all, if you are looking for a smartphone with one of the best cameras and speakers, check out the Galaxy S9 or S9+.

Pros: Excellent main camera; superior sound; feature-packed; streams to two Bluetooth speakers simultaneously; water and dust resistant. 

Cons: Only minor change in design.

Get the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ now at Lazada.

To download the Lazada App and start shopping on your mobile devices, click here.

Galaxy S9+
Android smartphone
DISPLAY: 6.2in QHD+ Super Amoled (1,440 x 2,960 pixels)
CAMERA: Dual 12-megapixel main cameras (wide-angle camera with dual apertures + telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom); 8-megapixel front camera
CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0 with dual audio, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
PROCESSOR: Exynos 9810 octa-core
MEMORY: 64GB/128GB/256GB internal memory, 6GB RAM
BATTERY: 3,500mAh
OTHER FEATURES: Bixby AI assistant; face recognition, iris scanner, fingerprint sensor; heart rate monitor, water and dust resistant (IP68), fast wired/wireless charging
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 73.8 x 8.5 x 158mm
WEIGHT: 189g
WEBSITE: www.samsung.com/my
PRICE: Samsung S9+ 64GB (RM3,799), 128GB (RM3,999), 256GB (RM4,399); Samsung S9 64GB (RM3,299)
RATING: 4.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics, 1-800-88-9999

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