Back in 2016, Square Enix released what initially seemed to be an highly experimental title, blending one of their longest running franchises with the block building mechanics we were seeing pop up in quite a few games at the time. But upon looking a little deeper, it was clear this game was more than just a cash grab Minecraft clone. This game was Dragon Quest Builders. And now a few years on, a sequel has landed, fixing up many of the issues raised from the original and delivering numerous vast lands to explore and build on, along with a full story mode packed with great characters that cements it as an RPG game worth checking out.
As the title suggests, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a game focused around building and is a spin off title based on the much loved Dragon Quest franchise. Players of the original Builders may remember that that game was set in a world based on Dragon Quest 1, Builders 2 is doing much the same but based on the world and events from Dragon Quest 2.
The main story focuses on a cult-like group being formed by Hargon (the prime antagonist of Dragon Quest 2) called the Children of Hargon. These followers are trying to eliminate all builders in revenge for Hargon’s defeat. Discouraging things like building and cooking and capturing those that are known builders.
It’s here your story begins. You play as one of the captured builders and start your journey travelling with the other captured on a ship. You can choose to play as a male or female builder and have the option to fully customise them this time around, something that was missing in the original Builders game. You’ll soon manage to escape the ship and find yourself washed up on the Isle of Awakening where you meet a strange guy with seemingly no memory named Malroth. Players of the original Dragon Quest 2 may be able to guess some of the twists coming around this character but for those going in fresh I’ll leave it there so I don’t spoil anything.
From here, you and Malroth will journey the world and visit various lands to restore it’s glory and get people building and creating again, while pushing back the forces of the Children of Hargon.
If you haven’t played through the original Dragon Quest 2 or the first Builders game, don’t fear. One of Dragon Quest Builder 2’s strengths is that you don’t necessarily have to have played them to jump in and fully enjoy this one.
Yes there are nods to characters and events from earlier Dragon Quest games but you won’t be left completely lost with the story or find this game any less enjoyable if you don’t understand them. The premise of this game is self contained and is very welcoming to newcomers, teaching you all the ropes to understand the systems and story within the game as you go.
Although because of this there are some pacing issues throughout the story and the game is quite front heavy with a lot of information and tutorials thrown at you from the start. It is somewhat expected in a game of this type, but it does make the opening hours feel a bit slower than I would have liked. But once you get into the swing of things you’ll really enjoy completing the many quests and rebuilding your towns.
One of the things that has always drawn me to the Dragon Quest series is it’s iconic art-style. Being a big Dragon Ball fan, I’ve always loved the look of Dragon Quest because Akira Toriyama is also involved in the character designs for many of the titles. And it’s no different here. The characters and monsters throughout the world carry his signature art-style and that combined with the visual design and art direction of the world leaves the game looking very vibrant, charming and cute.
While playing, there were times where it was really hard to determine what genre this game fit into. It’s contains such a mish-mash of interesting themes and mechanics. One minute you’re exploring the world, gathering resources and other magic items. The next you’re talking to the townspeople, recruiting new allies and building them a town. Then the game throws puzzles and dungeons into the mix, which contain their own platforming elements. While it is all a massive melding of ideas, they are all implemented in a meaningful way, each have a purpose and come together to create a really fun experience.
At it’s core though Dragon Quest Builders 2 is absolutely an RPG, as the series always has been. It’s a long grind, filled with opportunities to grow and level up your characters, recruit new allies to aid you on your quests, missions and goals to achieve and an intriguing story-line packed with deep characters and plenty of twists and mysteries to uncover.
This entry has seen quite a number of improvements implemented that were based on player feedback from the first builders game. The main being a customisable protagonist and they have also added a first-person mode, increased build heights and block types, the ability to dash, Breath of the Wild style gliding, travelling underwater, co-op multiplayer among other improvements.
Although even with all the improvements the combat is still fairly average and nowhere near as fun as the building and exploration aspects of the game. It’s very button mash focused, having the whole system mapped to the one button. Which leads to most of the combat encounters boiling down to “smack it with your weapons until it’s dead”. There’s no ability for blocking, dodging, parrying or magic so most of the fights, especially the bosses I found myself trying to learn and dodge their attacks then run in to gain a few hits while hoping they didn’t strike back and run out again. It’s not the worst system but certainly didn’t make me feel in control and a capable warrior in battle.
I was fortunate enough to receive both the PS4 and Nintendo Switch versions to review and while I did spend most of my time with the PS4 version (just because it’s what I received first) I was pretty impressed with the version shipped on the Switch, though I did notice some differences between them. The Switch version has everything the console versions do and still looks great, I found it pretty hard to spot noticeable visual downgrades between the versions but it seems less optimised than it’s console counterpart resulting in some much longer loading times and the occasional frame rate drops. Especially in populated areas or in places where I was doing a lot of building.
If you can put up with the load times, the Switch version is a perfectly good option to go with. Especially with how long the game is, being able to take it on the go or play in handheld is a big plus.
Even though it may look cute and targeted at children, there is a fully fleshed out RPG here with Dragon Quest Builder 2. It contains some really fun and addicting building mechanics and deep and likeable characters that will keep you entertained for a long time, which is good because the game is quite lengthy. This isn’t just a big sandbox to build stuff in and it’s certainly not ‘just another Minecraft clone’. If you enjoy JRPG’s and building games you’ll probably really enjoy Dragon Quest Builder 2.
A PS4 and Nintendo Switch review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
If you want to see more content like this and never miss one of our frequent gaming and anime giveaways come and Follow Ani-Game on Twitter.