Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review
Fighting for creativity.
Like its predecessor, Dragon Quest Builders 2 offers a unique spin on the building, crafting, and foraging aspects of Minecraft (something that has obviously been the inspiration here), while giving players a more structured path to take. It offers equal parts creative freedom and linear story-based gameplay to form an oddly enjoyable hybrid between a traditional role playing game and builder x management simulator.
While the freedom is there in Dragon Quest Builders 2, you kind of have to earn it by playing through the game’s lengthy campaign, which whisks you around the world to different locales full of unique natives. The common thread is that you are the last “Builder” in a world where building has been banished by a group called the Children of Hagon. Each location that you visit has different needs from the Builder, like the ability to sustain crops and build housing or mine minerals.
There are a lot of moving parts in Dragon Quest Builders 2. It’s an action RPG style game, so the combat is all in real-time. There are plenty of enemies to deal with, almost to a fault. Just about every block of a world can be mined and/or contains something that could be useful to you. There are traditional quests, big boss battles, puzzles to solve, complex structures to build, multiple facets of settlements to manage, and more. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is something for people who enjoy the creative freedom that a game like Minecraft gives you, but are looking for more of a linear foundation to let you see and do interesting things with a narrative attached to it.
You’re not just building, your’re managing people too
Playing through the story lets you earn and unlock new things, meeting new characters with special abilities. Your mission across this game is to bring people back to your home base where you can use them to create the things you want to create. However, on these adventures you’ll be stumbling across places that need to be revitalized and returned to their old glory. As the Children of Hagon have banished all building and creation, your presence is something that allows these places to tap back into their natural resources and the stories are all themed around this. There is a fairly rigid structure on these adventures. You’ll head into a new land and then establish a friendship with the locals and help them get back on their feet. You’ll build things that make them happy while completing quests to get the items that you need to do this. Making these citizens happy will allow you to attract more natives to the settlement and you’ll push towards a level of self sustainability before leaving for your home/next adventure. It’s a rather fun gameplay loop that has a lot of variation.
You’ll build complex blueprints that need to be built to an exact spec. You’ll build and manage housing, sleeping arrangements, food and dining areas, toilets, and other very precise details of the settlement. While the path to the end of one of these story islands is fairly linear, you can get there any way that you want. You can build the bare minimum for the settlement, or you can build the area as elaborate as you desire. There’s a nice level of freedom in the story islands, which does keep things fresh. You’re managing all of these societal aspects of your settlement, while also defending the area from monsters, heading out to progress the story along, and ultimately leveling up and improving your community in the process.
In a sea of good features, combat is not great
The building and freedom of the game is probably its best aspect. Combat is probably its worst. Combat in Dragon Quest Builders 2 leaves a lot to be desired. It’s fairly simplistic, perhaps overly so and there’s a lot of it. It’s mind-numbingly mashy, and better blocking or dodging mechanics incorporated into it probably could’ve helped it feel better. There is a good bit of progression tied to this aspect of the game, with the ability to craft new weapons for yourself and your companion Malroth. The only real saving grace for this combat system is that you have AI that will take control of it most of the time. Malroth is effectively your personal body guard and will be with you constantly on this journey — he’s usually dealing out more damage than you in any given fight. That is, when he’s around. Sometimes this AI just won’t be on time for a fight, leaving you feeling incredibly over-matched for a given situation.
While this aspect of the game is the least enjoyable, the building, crafting, and management options really are the core experience here. Building is done on a block by block basis and this can feel a little bit inaccurate at times, especially in the third person default view. Switching over to the first person view did ultimately become the way I enjoyed playing the building aspects of the game the most, as it felt like it gave you the most accuracy in placing blocks where you wanted to above and below your view. Crafting is somewhat simplistic in Dragon Quest Builders 2. You’ll find plenty of things to create, but you’ll usually find these things through the natural progression of the game instead of things like trial and error.
Most of DQB2 is intuitive and easy to learn
You have a crafting table for items and an anvil for weapons. If you’ve learned how to craft something, it will be available on the crafting board. If you have the required ingredients you will be able to build the item, if you don’t, you can’t. The only real problems you run into in crafting is having the ingredients on hand. You may run out of a certain item and need to remember how or where to track it down again. The story islands do seem measured in that you are pretty much always encountering the items that you need and very rarely will you get stumped on trying to find a specific ingredient. Management and leveling is probably my favorite thing about this game though. There’s an incredible level of satisfaction to be had in Dragon Quest Builder’s management aspects. Your settlements function something like The Sims. These characters will live out their days working in fields, mines, and doing things like cooking, bathing, going to the bathroom, eating, drinking, and many different activities that would occur in a normal day. They need recreation, food, and other essentials to make them happy. They happier they are, the more productive they are, and the faster you get to your goals.
Much of this carries back over to your own personal island as well. There’s a nice cohesion between your island and the stories of on the ones you visit. On your island you have a big block of land that you can shape any way that you want. There are plenty of natural resources in this environment, but characters that return to your island with you will offer you some special abilities. You can set off on adventures which are effectively scavenger hunts that have you tracking down a laundry list of environmental items and the reward is an infinite number of a certain resource at your crafting table. Your personal island is also something that you can share with others or even build with other players. Up to four friends (or friends of friends if you allow it in settings) can come to your island and build with you. While we didn’t get a chance to try this aspect of the game for this review, it seems like an interesting social element.
The vibe of Dragon Quest Builders is whimsical. The Chibi-style characters and general tone of most of the narrative is cute and fun, while sometimes stretching into weird, dark territory with death or sexuality. It is a game where you’ll be doing a lot of reading, and the developers have made an odd choice in the delivery of the majority of this text. If I had to guess, 80% of the narrative dialogue is written using some type of slang or accent on a character by character basis. So, while you’re talking to Malroth you’ll get a standard English text. Other characters will have some sort of broken language. “I can’t ‘old aht much longer.” for example. Not incredibly hard to decipher what is being said when you look at it, but when there are large chunks of this type of text it can be a little bit time consuming and at times just simply annoying. It doesn’t feel like it adds enough flavor to the characters to justify making it more difficult to sift through the text.
Regardless, even with some small gripes and some major ones (combat), Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a lot of fun to play. It’s a leisurely game, one that isn’t too demanding of you and something that is fun in small chunks or long, multi-hour sessions. While I wasn’t a huge Dragon Quest fan going into this game and I’m probably still not after sinking 30+ hours into it, the formula of gameplay here is what reeled me in and kept me coming back. For a Dragon Quest fan, I can imagine this being everything they wanted in this type of game.
If you like the building, crafting, and collecting aspects of something like Minecraft, but wanted a little more structure, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an easy recommendation whether you’re a Dragon Quest fan or not.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
- Available On: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: Omega Force
- Genre: Action RPG
- US Release Date: July 12th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "If you like the building, crafting, and collecting aspects of something like Minecraft, but wanted a little more structure, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an easy recommendation whether you're a Dragon Quest fan or not. "