Why is 7 Days to Die so ugly on PS4?

As a Youtuber who falls reluctantly under the label of “Minecraft channel”, I’ve had 7 Days to Die recommended to me a lot. I’ve held back because I don’t really want to reinforce that label, and the market is so flooded with survival crafting zombie games it sort of feels like covering the existence of drinking water at this point. Still, it recently went on sale on the PS4 so I thought I’d check it out.

I like it. It might just be because this isn’t a genre I’ve spent much time with really, (I stream Minecraft every day but I draw the line there. When I’m done with Minecraft’s quota on the channel I put it away and play something else.) but I found myself really drawn in to the realist take on survival. This has always been my favourite part of Minecraft, and 7 Days to Die doesn’t prod as hard as We Happy Few did, so it has all been rather enjoyable. It’s hit and miss at times, the UI is a nightmare from hell, but the sophistication and intricacy of the gameplay grabbed me. I just don’t get why it looks so hideous.

7 Days to Die ps4 graphics

I know the game is procedurally generated, but it honestly looks a mess. Minecraft gets away with basic visuals because it has a complementary style, this aims for realism and undermines it any time you actually stop to look at anything. Character models are hideous, tools like like crap, digging the ground turns everything in a mess of muddy textures, the supposedly frightening Zombie enemies sometimes look like pre-bought assets lumbering around in different lighting to everything around them.

I know, I know, PC isn’t much better, but there’s a reason for that. It came out longer ago, it has to run on wider hardware while being procedurally generated, and on PC once you get the gameplay right, mods can fix the rest. The PS4 entry has had a long time to tighten things up, and it just feels like a cheap rush job. It’s a shame because I really want to like the game. I can see myself continuing to play it and really finding a lot of fun with it, but I’m going have to do that in spite of awful visuals and an interface that makes no attempts to help the player out.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a quick port of a budget game, but trying to play it on the PS4 just shows how cheap, frustrating, and unrefined everything feels. Like the developers thought “people bought it on PC, this’ll do fine” without ever taking into account just how much customers can fix later on a PC game. I never wanted to like a game so much that felt like it was refusing to meet me half way at all.

When Dragon Quest Steals, it Steals Right

Dragon Quest Builders ScreenshotDragon Quest Builders charmed players this week with its merging of Minecraft style construction and JRPG questing. Reviews have been strong with a Metacritic rating of 83 for the PS4 version at this time. The game is no low budget shovel ware release, with a 40 hour quest line, multiple worlds to build in, and an unlockable sandbox mode that sticks a little closer to Minecraft’s open ended free-building. It still launched without too much fanfare, and little hype for the game before its pre-release Demo last month, but this isn’t the first time Dragon Quest has loosened its tie, and slipped into a more casual genre.

I’m talking of course about Dragon Quest Monsters. Arriving during the Pokemon craze, Monsters shamelessly exploits the public’s desire for tiny battling monsters but never loses its Dragon Quest heritage. You play Terry, a young boy whose sister is abducted by monsters in the night. You give chase, falling down a portal to a magic kingdom in a distant land. There the king promises to help you save her, but only if you win the massive monster fighting tournament that’s coming up.

From there the King gives you access to his monster ranch, and a series of portals that will take you to new and interesting realms. Along the way you’ll meet all the famous Dragon Quest beasties, and if you can charm them enough while beating the snot out of them, they just might join you on your quest. If you thought Pokemon was an advert for Stockholm Syndrome, you haven’t seen anything yet. Each world ends in a boss battle that gifts you a unique monster, you can then breed your them to create skill combinations and devastating hybrid soldiers.

Dragon Quest Monsters CoverDid I mention this released in 1998, a year before Pokemon Gold and Silver?

The series has continued with the latest entry, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3, on the DS, It has continued to evolve, developing its own mechanics and identity, but it’s remarkable how bold and well formed that initial fusion of genres was. As I played Dragon Quest Builders, I was reminded more and more of Monsters. The legendary hero who takes a different path to the series’ main protagonists, different worlds to save behind each portal, famous monsters put to new purposes. Both games take the mechanics of their competitors, but when they’re done with them, the result is so authentically true to Dragon Quest that it feels like they were meant to be together.

There have been other mergers, of course. Dragon Quest Heroes is the most recent, and represents the latest in a string of Dynasty Warriors crossovers. The Dragon Quest universe hosts this union but it is still, at its core, a Warriors game. Square-Enix themselves have tried this, lending their Mystery Dungeon format to Nintendo for a series of Pokemon crossovers. (Mystery Dungeon itself a Dragon Quest spin-off.) But there’s something unique about Monsters and Builders. These aren’t simple co-licensing agreements, but a reaction to market trends that takes new and exciting mechanics and responds by absorbing them entirely into the franchise and forming an almost perfect symbiosis.

People might go into Builders expecting Minecraft, but by the end of the first chapter, the game rejects that misconception. Crafting is here, but a lot of the genre’s sacred cow mechanics are tossed. Food and health are totally separate resources, the world isn’t randomly generated, and NPCs are frequent and verbose. Most importantly, you aren’t free to do as you please. Monsters attack regularly and your city needs to be ready, the people you meet have needs, quests need to be done before you can even dig crucial materials out of the ground. This is an old-school RPG to the core, what it takes from Minecraft is really nothing more than the structure of the world in which it is set.

three dragon quest slimes
Neither Builders or Monsters are going to go down as masterpieces. Instead they will be relegated to side-title status, funny knock-offs of more popular games that weren’t quite enough for either audience. There’s something criminally unfair about that. The more I play these games, Builders for the first time, and Monsters as an old and much loved favourite, the more I’m inspired by their transformative approach to their inspirations. Dragon Quest Builders isn’t Minecraft, and could never be, and yet takes liberally from it to make a beautiful and different kind of RPG. A kind that will be forgotten largely because it built the wrong kind of expectations.