Dragon Quest Builders’s strength comes from the way the two seemingly opposite designs of old-school JRPG and Minecraft actually complement each other. But, while the path to becoming the legendary builder is straightforward, there’s a right and a wrong way to play.

With the game launching next week, you’ll want to keep these basic strategies in mind, because once it gets its hooks in you, you won’t want to put it down. Better to make it as painless as possible.

Forage first

The first major thing Builders tasks you to do is to start rebuilding the ruins of Cantlin, a town wiped out after a great calamity. Once you begin this process and start running down a few quests, the day-night cycle will kick in; weirdly, at the outset of your adventure, you have daylight forever, and you should take advantage of it by foraging for as many materials you can possibly carry, because it’s hard to see much in the dark.

Since the first few quests need a number of materials you have to gather anyway, spend ten minutes running around collecting food (plumberries and fungal marshrooms, usually found in wooded areas), broken branches, grass, white petals and, most important of all, blocks of earth you’ll need to start building real structures. Slimes will also drop blue goo, which you’ll need to make torches and other objects. Make sure you get 20 or 30 of each kind of item and your city — not to mention your powers to build new things — will be well on their way in no time.

Build everything you can

The Forge is just one of several crafting stations you get early on.
The Forge is just one of several crafting stations you get early on.

When you do settle in and start building proper items as you complete quests (and later, begin picking up new items) you’ll automatically learn how to build new equipment. You should often make use of this. Making individual items results in a short animation, so if you’re need of, say, 10 healing creams, it’s a faster way to do it. Don’t forget about it.

Don’t forget your survival gear

Speaking of healing creams, never leave your base without them. It takes a little while for Builders’s difficulty to ramp up, but enemies do become powerful, especially if you’re caught out in the middle of nowhere when the sun sets (which happens all too often).

Aside from healing items, you’ll also want to have a small supply of chimera wings on hand to safely whisk you back to the safety of your town if need be (make sure you’re outside when you use these air-lifting items; otherwise you’ll bash your head on the ceiling), and most important, food — early on, your best bet is to gather a number of mushrooms to make ‘shrooms-on-a-stick using your base’s kitchen. You’ll need a good supply, since each only restores about 20 percent of your hunger.

When building your city, layer it on

Every so often, your small settlement is beset by hordes of monsters out to destroy it. During these mini-battle sessions, they tend to throw themselves against your outermost fortifications, and as you’ll quickly discover, earth blocks won’t take much punishment. Should your walls be breached, the monsters will wreak havoc.

Your best defense here is to beef up your fortifications. Although Builders defines a building as a structure that’s two blocks high, it’s better to make everything at least three. And, for buildings at the outermost perimeter of your town (the ones facing outward to the west and south, mostly) it’s also smart to add an additional set of blocks at the outermost point so that even if a band of skeletons get through the first layer, your city is intact. It’s easier to rebuild this way, too. Then, as soon as you can, upgrade that earth to stone!

Use a torch

Torches aren’t just useful for bringing light to living quarters in your base — they’re also quite handy if you happen to need a light source in the middle of the night. Builders’s day-night cycle often feels all too brief, so it’s inevitable you’ll be stumbling around in the dark at least half the time you play. Anything to mitigate that is a godsend.

Use look/up to strafe in combat

If there’s a weak link in Builders, it’s that combat is pretty rudimentary and it can be easy to be either too far or too close to hit an enemy. To make things a little easier, you can use the “look up/down” down functions in battle to create a makeshift strafe. It’s not perfect, but by holding down both commands (using the shoulder buttons), you can forward or backward facing an enemy, which is certainly useful when your melee strikes are falling a little short. In lieu of a targeting function, it’s a decent replacement.

Explore

This should go without saying, but Builders’s world is full of secret treasures to find and monsters to best. Go explore it!

Photos via Square Enix

Steve Haske is a Seattle-based writer and sometimes a creator of stupid art. His work can be found on VICE and Playboy. Iain Glen is his Virgil.