The original Dragon Quest Builders was an anomaly to me. Despite it’s weird cutesy graphics and barebones plot, I found myself liking it a lot.
Sure, it had a TON of problems (including lack of roofs, repetition with mission objectives and short length) but for what it was (a cross between Minecraft and Dragon Quest) it was a great time.
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to Dragon Quest Builders 2 (I didn’t even download the demo), so having been given a review code by Sony was a massive (but very pleasant) surprise.
Now that I’ve been playing it non-stop for the past few days, I can honestly say that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is what the original should have been.
What is Dragon Quest Builders 2?
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a third person action RPG that places a heavy emphasis on building and exploration. It’s out for the PS4 (reviewed) and Nintendo Switch right now.
From the trailer and what I’ve said about the game, you can probably already guess that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is much influenced by Minecraft. It’s definitely true but it’s hardly the full story.
It’s also a full-fledged action RPG, with a decent story. This time around you’re an amateur builder shipwrecked on an abandoned island with two others.
Soon enough, you’re given the island you’re on and out to find more settlers to increase the population. It’s rather basic but the plot does evolve as you, especially in the third and final acts.
It’s set after the events of Dragon Quest II and features some callbacks to it (including an entire act set in Moonbrooke Castle) but you don’t really need to know anything about the game to enjoy Dragon Quest Builders 2, which is awesome. Hell, you don’t even need to know anything about the original game for that matter too!
There’s a much more interesting story this time around, along with a pretty neat twist in the third act. It’s foreshadowed throughout the game but it’s still a pretty good one.
For most of the game, you’re followed around by Malroth, an AI party member who’s much stronger than you are. He’s the brawn, you’re the brains of the outfit.
While you can fight (and should), you’ll find that Malroth does a better job at it than you do with his massive power and powerful attack combos. It’s weird to have to depend on an AI for survival, but luckily Malroth’s AI is pretty decent at being a bodyguard.
Sometimes others join your party too and it’s damn fun to pile on to take down the monsters. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a mob of human bum rush a giant skeleton.
Fighting and building requires energy, and you’ll need to constantly keep it up by making food. Certain food can also buff you up, but I’ve found the effects to be really negligible so just stick with what fills your stomach the most (or is the easiest resource to get).
Thank god you don’t have to feed your allies…
In your quest to gather more inhabitants for your island, you’ll venture across many smaller islands. These are self-contained missions which you’ll need to complete before you can get the residents to come back with you.
Unlike the original, these islands all have different objectives, which is a godsend and a major plus to keeping you interested. The first one has an issue with farming and the soil (oh yeah, you can farm now in the game!), the second has you restoring a mining town to glory and so on…
Apart from the main islands, you can also unlock different Explorer’s Shores. These are special, randomly generated themed islands where you can sail to and gather materials you can build up your home island with.
There’s also a checklist of material found on each island you can complete, which nets you rewards if you get them all. The best part is that they’re randomly generated each time you travel to them so no two islands will be the same.
Explorer’s Shores are fun but there are only a handful of them, which make them a handy diversion, but nothing more.
Finally, if you want to play with your friends and don’t want to mess up the game’s main island, you also unlock the Buildertopia island when you finish the game. Here you can define the island’s theme (tropical, desert, snow and more), its size and then randomly generate it.
I love the Buildertopia mode simply because it lets you build to your heart’s content without enemies coming once in a while to disturb you. It’s a bit sad that these islands don’t allow you to bring your Buggy Buggy (yes, that’s what it’s called).
The buggy’s the ONLY vehicle in the game, which you’ll build late in the last act. It’s an awesome piece of equipment that allows you to move quickly around the game’s huge maps. I honestly wish that there were more vehicles in the game.
Much ado about things.
One of the main issues I had with the original was the repetition of stuff you had to do as you progress and I was really impressed that Square Enix eliminated that issue altogether. The mission objectives are totally different on every island, which makes the adventure feel fresh as soon as you get to another place on your adventure.
Despite the changing objectives, you’ll still be doing a ton of building and scavenging for materials to use in your building. While at first breaking block by block gets tiresome, as you level up you also gain new skills to destroy blocks.
Now, I just hit R2 and Square and the Builder will smash a huge chunk of the scenery into building bits. Very fun and tons of time saved!
I just wish that the game allowed you to break down materials or objects you don’t want any more. Over the course of the game, I’ve amassed a collection of worthless swords and armor (as I upgraded my gear). Recycling them (instead of just outright deleting them) would be pretty inline with the builder motif plus net me some materials for my trouble.
Speaking of materials, there are a ton of them in the game. From ice to sand, to earth to basalt…there are a ton of them though to be frank you won’t even use most of them as the game’s recipes mainly stick to just a few objects.
Still decorating and creating is pretty good, with the amount of items in store. There are hundreds (if not more) items you can place in the world to create rooms and locations with. If that’s not enough, there’s also the Season Pass which gives you even more items to play around with.
It’s a shame then that there are still a couple of niggling issues to the whole enchilada.
Trouble in paradise.
Chief among them is the wonky camera. It sometimes for no reason at all, zooms to a close-up view. It’ll reset itself after a while but it’s a very big annoyance. The close-up view’s crap since your character takes a huge part of the real estate, blocking your view of 1/6 the screen.
It gets worse in cramped interiors (thankfully there aren’t many) so if you’re building enclosed rooms, make sure to build them at least 5 blocks high so you can go in them without the camera going haywire.
Another disruptive issue stems from how water is handled.
It’s created in blocks, and spreads the same way. However, if you release water from a higher block, it doesn’t seem to gel with the water that’s on the lower block, which creates a weird visual effect on-screen.
There also other visual hitches too, such as the object draw distance. While you can look far off into the horizon in the game, you’ll sadly only be able to make out only the terrain. Features like rocks, grass and even enemies only fade into view when you’re sufficiently near them.
Honestly speaking though, this is just a nitpick, as it doesn’t really affect gameplay that much. It’s just an annoyance at most, to have enemies and object materialize into view as you’re gliding over them.
The bottom line.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a solid, single player action RPG.
Sure, there’s multiplayer now but it’s a bit half-assed. Finding a game requires you to jump through hoops and even then, it’s not as fun as the single player campaign.
Speaking of which, the single player campaign lasted me about 4 days. It’s a pretty decent length but it does start to drag on in the last act. Luckily the game doesn’t overstay its welcome and goes out with a bang, unlocking the post game content.
Despite its visual hitches (the water!), I’ve really enjoyed my time with Dragon Quest Warriors 2. There are definitely some changes I would love Square Enix to maake (more vehicles, better water) but it’s a great experience as it stands.
Great game with a lengthy campaign mode but kind of boring multiplayer.
– Great writing.
– Good length.
– Fun gameplay.
– The water effects!
– Only one vehicle.
– Object draw distance.