Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review — Build to Your Heart’s Content
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a great follow-up in every way imaginable and, dare I say, one of the best games in the entire series.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is hands-down one of the best games of 2019. I fear that a lot of people won’t give this game a fair shake, whether they’re longtime fans of the series or not. I’m here to tell you that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a ridiculously fun and dynamic game whether you’re into JRPGs, action-adventure titles, or games like Minecraft. There’s so much to do, see, fight, and, of course, build; you could spend hundreds of hours doing things and there’d still be more to do afterward.
Some of the biggest things that were always missing in Minecraft for me was a living, breathing world that feels inhabited by all sorts of people and creatures. In that regard, Dragon Quest Builders 2 offers mechanics that are relative to the core JRPG series and then some. You develop relationships with actual characters who will join you on your journey, and in that regard, the game has elements of something akin to Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. There’s a lot to do outside of the core building mechanics making this game more accessible to those who may prefer different genres.
If you simply want to experience the game’s storyline, you can. If you want to build to your heart’s content, you can. If you want to take on sidequests and explore off the beaten path, you absolutely can. There’s a myriad of options at your disposal. Everything is introduced at a reasonable pace but be sure to expect a storyline that’ll span multiple hours.
The story in Dragon Quest Builders 2 has you, again, playing as the Builder; a master creator who can build unlike any other in the world. Your identity creates problems with the Children of Hargon, a cult of monsters dedicated to destroying anyone and anything related to the Builder. In the opening hours of the game, a chain of events finds you stranded on a deserted island with two others. This island happens to be the home of the world’s previous Builder and it acts as a sort of base of operations where you can build and bring others who you’ll find throughout the world.
You start from humble beginnings before you find yourself a ship and a captain to take you to other islands across the world. Similarly to the first game, each town you encounter acts as a chapter in the story. The inhabitants of every island face their own problems and only you can help them overcome the Children of Hargon’s rule. These islands are also known for different things. For example, the first place you go to is well known for farming, so you’ll learn to hone your farming skills here, whereas the second island is focused on mining so you’ll learn how to build more intricate buildings and more powerful equipment. Every encounter is refreshing and acts as a great way to learn the many mechanics present in Builders 2.
You can also revisit these places when their chapter comes to an end to build and expand upon them. You’re also encouraged to explore every island as there will always be some exciting secrets to find. There are also puzzles are spread throughout the world that require you to figure out a sort of building challenge. These will give you special rewards that you can then exchange for cool prizes. I found these puzzles to be a really great distraction and something that completely took my attention away from the beaten path.
Characters feel more personable in Dragon Quest Builders 2 and at the end of every chapter, some of them will follow you back to your island to make a new home for themselves. Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter a wide array of characters who are widely different from one another. I found myself getting really obsessive over growing my island into a city metropolis with lots to do and see. Another interesting thing is the fact that some other sentient species will join you on your island as well. My personal favorite is a giant worm who helps you with farming and turning different patches of land into green open fields or forests. These unique characters can all be assigned to different jobs and locations on your island so there’s some micromanagement involved in that regard.
Your characters will also grow to care about you more and more as you complete more quests for them. You’re rewarded with Gratitude Points that allow you to purchase new blueprints for different items, furniture, and more. It’s definitely a solid reward as it inspires you to build more and unlock more intricate items.
Malroth, one of the characters you wash ashore with, acts as your best friend and will follow you loyally throughout the entirety of Dragon Quest Builders 2. He’s an amnesiac who shines when in combat or helping you collect materials. His ability to build however leaves more to be desired. Malroth’s inclusion is a welcome one as he’s a very powerful ally in combat and quite convenient when it comes to collecting materials at a faster rate. Thankfully, he never gets in the way of the core game and his character is overall a very solid inclusion in the story.
Interestingly enough, the iconic monsters are not all evil in Dragon Quest Builders 2. In fact, you can actually befriend a good amount of them once you acquire a special item about halfway through the game. Said monsters all have their own special abilities that allow you to do cool things like use them as mounts, for example. Some of them will also come back to your island with you so you can then interact with them as much as you’d like.
Visually, Dragon Quest Builders 2 doesn’t offer the best graphics around by any stretch, but it is a huge step up from the first game. Environments are more detailed with a large variety of different places and biomes to discover. The increase in world size overall makes the adventure feel grander and the world more lived in. There’s a history to this world and so much to discover within its confines. In fact, the game actually takes a nod from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a glider your character can use to reach areas faster or even some locations that wouldn’t be reachable otherwise.
In terms of the core building mechanics, much is largely the same when compared to the first game. Obviously, everything has been expanded upon with even more items, rooms, and buildings to construct. There are some quality of life improvements in the tools you have at your disposal as well. A buggy, for example, helps you travel around the land faster. An endless water tool lets you build lakes and rivers. You also eventually get an instrument that helps you find rarer materials. That’s only scratching the surface but these tools help make the process of building all the easier as you progress through the game. In terms of story, the introduction of these tools also helps to give you some sense of growth as you really hone your abilities as a builder.
There’s also one major improvement that eliminates clutter in most of your areas. Your character will now be able to store all of their items in an inventory space that’s separate from the small bar that’ll allow you to actually use items. You can quickly swap and store items and overall it just makes for a much smoother experience. Chests aren’t completely useless though as you can assign them to different rooms where your NPC companions will store items that they craft in them.
Combat is definitely the weakest part of Dragon Quest Builders 2. There weren’t many moments at all where I felt like I was genuinely in trouble, especially considering Malroth is always with you and is an absolute powerhouse in combat. Boss battles at the end of every chapter are definitely a diamond in the rough, though. Each requires you to utilize different builder options in battle and the bosses themselves are all really cool.
I do wish there was more difficulty with encounters, especially considering all of your towns will be consistently invaded by enemies as time goes on. You could make the excuse that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is trying to be a more accessible game for younger players and the like, but the surprisingly darker tones of the overall story conflicts with this thought.
Music also leaves a bit more to be desired. A lot of the classic Dragon Quest tunes are found throughout but it’s nothing that really sets it apart. Had they opted for a more striking orchestral soundtrack I think it would have definitely helped the entirety of the game feel a bit more epic. Of course, this is only a small gripe and doesn’t take much if anything at all away from an already amazing game.
One of the coolest new mechanics in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the ability to play in first-person. The entirety of the game can be experienced from both a third and first-person angle. Depending on the situation or location I found myself in, I was easily able to switch between them both. I did find that dialogue sections, as well as combat, were better suited for the third-person camera.
The most glaring issue I found persistent in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is its button mapping. Everything is generally fine for the most part, but one button, in particular, can be used to talk to characters and switch your tools. This caused annoying little issues for me where I’d start talking to a character when I had actually intended to switch my tools. When you’re out in the field, this can happen more frequently than you’d think with Malroth since he follows you everywhere you go.
Online functionality has also been added with Dragon Quest Builders 2. It’s a highly welcome feature that allows you to have fun with random players or your friends. I didn’t tinker with this feature myself but plan to once the game released over here in the West on Friday. There’s a really solid sense of community included with a notice board that allows you to share different creations and screenshots. It ensures that fans will be hammering away at Dragon Quest Builders 2 for months and years to come for sure.
Loading screens are also sprinkled with some of the most popular images making the rounds so it’s always inspiring to see what other players are doing. On that note, there’s also a sense of self with the ways in which you’re allowed to customize your character. You’ll unlock different clothing and armor options throughout the game as well as new hair colors and some cosmetic items. It’s greatly appreciated to see a solid amount of customization included with the overall freedom the game provides.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a masterfully built game with a multitude of shiny new features that are just a joy every second you get to tinker with them. I could play this game for a very long time and never get bored with it. There’s something included here for fans of multiple genres and titles. Whether you’re a fan of the Dragon Quest series or not, this is a game you can jump into. While it’s certainly a spin-off from the mainline series, Dragon Quest Builders 2 may very well be one of the best game in the entire franchise.