Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review
More Than a Mere Sequel
It was 1991, and as a nine-year-old discovering RPGs for the first time, I became obsessed with Dragon Warrior. What a masterpiece it was in my mind; becoming a warrior, saving the princess, defeating the Dragonlord and restoring peace to Alefgard. How much better could it get? Then, tucked away in the corner of Toys “R” Us: Dragon Warrior II. More than just a sequel, it was a vast improvement that delivered a larger world, more enemies, a party of three, and Hargon, a villain more fearsome than the Dragonlord.
More than twenty-five years later, the story of Erdrick’s heir rescuing Alefgard was revisited with the first Dragon Quest Builders, albeit with a twist. The game took the creative and compelling formula of Minecraft and infused it with a story, quests, dungeons, boss fights, and the prominent character designs of Akira Toriyama. The final product became much more than just a Minecraft clone, establishing a whole new identity of its own. Players now had people to rescue, villages to build and defend, and a world to save. However, while Dragon Quest Builders expanded upon its primary influence in many regards, it had its flaws and shortcomings. In addition to fixing these issues, Dragon Quest Builders 2 includes many gameplay improvements, as well as expanding the already numerous options for crafting and farming. There is lots of farming and raising livestock here.
The story takes place after the main events of the original Dragon Quest II, where the scions of Erdrick defeated the God of Destruction Malroth and the evil priest Hargon who summoned him. Peace reigned throughout the land until a cult called the Children of Hargon emerged, destroying anything and everything. They decreed heresy upon all things associated with building, cooking, and creating, then rounded up all the builders throughout the world.
The player, who just happens to be a builder, starts off on a ship as a prisoner of the Children of Hargon. After a fierce storm rips apart the ship, the player washes up on an island and meets a sinister-looking fellow who interestingly calls himself Malroth, sharing the same name as the God of Destruction. He happens to love mayhem and destruction, too. Together, they traverse the land, rebuilding the destruction wrought by Hargon’s followers and restoring peace to the realm.
The gameplay centres around building with plenty of JRPG elements. The player finds resources, crafts, builds, farms, quests, defeats monsters, and repeats all of the above. The world is composed of cubic blocks of all varieties, which are used to build an endless possibilities of ideas just like in Minecraft. The main difference is that the game’s building mechanics require the player to build and craft in order to meet certain objectives to advance the story, rather than just toil in aimless creation. The combat plays like a typical action JRPG, requiring strategy for boss fights and challenging monsters.
The game starts players off slowly with oodles of text, teaching them how to survive on the Isle of Awakening by collecting and cooking food, building a shelter to sleep in for the night, and crafting a weapon to kill monsters. Once they progress past this sluggish start, they will find a ship and travel to another island where the story begins. The main goals are to rebuild a town, perform quests for the villagers, and destroy the boss in that specific area. Once these are done, it’s time to return to the Isle of Awakening with the new villagers, tools, and materials before travelling to another island to repeat the process. Though the gameplay starts off a lot like Minecraft, it quickly diverges into new territory, with a large focus on town management, farming, town defence, and questing.
One of the strongest points of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the town-building element, and how it comes with a purpose. The game rewards players for building and satisfying the villagers’ requests with yellow hearts that act as experience points for the town. How the players build their structures is entirely up to them. Collecting enough yellow hearts can level up the town, which not only yields more crafting recipes, but levels up the villagers and their abilities to contribute.
The NPC citizens do not just merely exist. They have actions and needs of their own. They till the soil, harvest the crops, tend the livestock, cook, and create. They eat food, bathe, sleep, and even have bowel movements. Appropriate structures must be built to accommodate villagers’ needs, such as bathhouses, dinner tables replete with plates and food, sleeping quarters, and more. Toilets are a highly sought-after commodity, where villagers do their business and the leavings can be recycled into fertilizer. Attending to the villagers’ needs can feel somewhat like playing The Sims, though without the intense micromanagement. They pretty much take care of themselves, and even lighten the player’s burden by gathering and providing resources. Equip certain villagers with weapons, and their damage output will increase as they defend the town.
That being said, much like the first game, additional story quests given by villagers can slow down the pace. For instance, a villager may want the player to fetch an item, harvest certain crops, and then gather specific materials, leading to a padded layer of grind; by the latter half of the game, these bloated quests drag on enough to squelch the fiery urgency to complete the main story, because the main character is so sidetracked doing everything else. Still, the world is full of interesting characters with humorous and entertaining dialogue to disperse the monotony of it all.
Those who played the first Dragon Quest Builders will feel right at home with this sequel, but there are so many improvements that one will have difficulty going back to the original. Veterans will immediately notice an improved UI, which streamlines the use of item management. For instance, the maximum stack size for a particular item now exceeds the 99 counter. The hammer and sword have their own respective button, so the player doesn’t have to keep switching between the two. No more accidentally swinging at enemies with a hammer and mining resources with a sword. The introduction of the gloves removes the need to destroy items in order to collect them; now players can merely lift the object up and relocate it.
The revised control setup does a great job alleviating problems from the first game. However, it does introduce one new issue, as a shared button can lead to players swapping items instead of interacting with objects or villagers. Some players may accidentally find themselves flooding their village with a deluge of water instead of simply moving a table as originally intended. But outside of this, interacting with the game is a delight.
The Isle of Awakening, the starting point of the game, acts as the main hub. This is also the island that can be shared with the online community. Visiting other players’ islands really adds an extra depth of flavour and provides a great feature for players to indulge in. Unfortunately, players cannot do this from the start, as visiting worlds and multiplayer are not unlocked until reaching a certain point in the story.
Traversing the world of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is also much easier than its predecessor. With new items, monster companions, and even a certain vehicle, players can glide, ride, swim, and even fly. The game has a retro-looking map that not only pays homage to the 8-bit overworld of the original, but offers warp points for fast travel. Simply touch one of the navigational globes located throughout the realm and it becomes a fast-travel point on the map. These additions are not only convenient, but necessary, as the world of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is much larger in scale than the previous game.
The combat remains largely unchanged, containing similar elements to the Zelda series by simply slashing the sword at enemies. The character can charge for a powerful spin attack, and use a few other crafted items and projectiles. Unlike the previous game, players now earn experience points by slaying monsters to level up and gain more HP and recipes for crafting better weapons and armour. The villagers help out during boss battles, and players can craft more traps to aid in battle, offering a whole new dimension of strategy. It’s by no means the deepest action combat system out there and doesn’t offer very much challenge, but is still an enjoyable part of the game.
One much appreciated addition to the original game is the inclusion of a first-person view, which players can switch into and out of with a simple press of a button. The first game suffered when entering confined spaces, often giving obscured views and jaw-clenching moments of frustration. The first-person mode fixes this, and even adds an extra layer of novelty to the game. Players can now see the charming and humorous expressions on the villagers and monsters up close, and the details of the confined rooms look much better when navigating in this mode. There is also a new camera mode that allows players to pause the game and rotate the camera to zoom and take pictures complete with filters. Various poses and expressions can be executed for added effect. The pictures can be shared with the rest of the online community for likes and online competitions.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 features remastered music from the early games of the series, composed by Koichi Sugiyama, who has been making music for the series since the very beginning. These tracks stand out with strong melodies, and will evoke many nostalgic memories for longtime fans. Most of the songs are well-placed in their respective environments. For example, the overworld theme of Dragon Quest VI plays over the Furrowfield Island map.
The graphics don’t attempt to stretch the limits of the hardware, but they consistently mesh in well with the world. The character models vary this time around and have their own charming look with cute and humorous expressions. This sequel expands the height and depth of the original world, as players can climb higher altitudes or plunge into the deep waters of the sea and lakes. Still, some of the islands can look quite repetitive, but for a block-based world, the environments are visually appealing. The furniture, buildings, and items all have an artistic quality to stoke creative minds.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 seems to take the best ingredients of Minecraft, The Sims, Harvest Moon, and The Legend of Zelda, and blend it all together with a sprinkle of Dragon Quest flavour. And it works magnificently, because it allows Dragon Quest Builders 2 to step out of being a straight clone and become a standout title in its own right. It is a game for both veterans of the series and newcomers alike. There are plenty of Easter eggs for old-timers like myself, but enough new content to push the boundaries of gameplay to a whole new level. Square Enix has further refined its successful formula with Dragon Quest Builders 2, and the future of this offshoot series looks brighter than ever. Let’s hope it continues crafting classics like this one.
Brilliant blend of RPG, crafting, farming, and village management.
Infinite possibilities of building
Visiting other worlds offers endless exploration
Vastly improved over the original
Slow-paced beginning may turn some players off
Some quests are repetitive and lacking in variety
Multiplayer takes too long to unlock