I had a fun time with the first Dragon Quest Builders, Square Enix’s take on the sandbox craft genre popularized by Minecraft. The sequel, Dragon Quest Builders 2, builds upon its predecessor with a bigger world, co-op, and some improvements that actually address some of my complaints with the original.
You play as a customizable builder who washes up on a deserted island and meets an amnesiac boy named Malroth. The two protagonists sail to various islands, rebuilding broken towns, and facing the cult, the Children of Hargon. If you’ve played the original Dragon Quest 2 (Dragon Warrior II), you’ll likely appreciate the plot direction and callbacks. Series fans will also like the music and classic artwork by Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama. However, it’s not necessary to play any other Dragon Quest game or even the previous Dragon Quest Builders to enjoy the sequel.
This block-builder RPG’s strengths are its focus on the RPG elements. The campaign is based on fulfilling quests, all of which teach you the basics of building. Creating structures and items is a straightforward process that is fun to master. Making buildings involves gathering blocks and placing them back down however you like. To create decorative furniture, practical healing items, and equipment, you simply go to a designated workstation and choose what to make from a list. If you have gathered enough materials, you may instantly craft your desired object. As you heed resident’s requests, your town naturally grows, and as you gain materials, you automatically learn more recipes for a wide variety of items. It’s an addictive progression loop that encourages grinding and exploring. Although much of the story is a guided experience, I appreciate having direction as opposed to more open-ended crafting games. I also didn’t mind following blueprints, building an entire structure based on a predetermined design. However, some may not be as pleased with having to play an RPG-length tutorial to experience the full extent of free-building.
Dragon Quest Builders 2’s scale is huge, and your towns, the structures you can create, and the explorable area are all larger than in the original. The island sizes are a particular plus for fans of the adventure element, as they present a more diverse world to gather resources. The inventory space is very big, allowing for longer scavenging expeditions without having to return and drop off items – an issue in the first game. Warp orbs and an 8-bit mini-map offer great convenience on that front as well. New tools assist building and customizing more than before, such as a water jug that lets you fill in holes and cliffs with ponds and waterfalls. However, I do wish the interface controls were easier to use. Several actions are mapped to a single button, and the unreliable camera control that sometimes zooms in and out on its own is cumbersome. First-person mode is a nice option, but I personally found the camera more dizzying compared to the third-person perspective.
Along the way, you’ll have to fight enemies. In the sequel, your weapon is mapped to a different button than the rest of your building tools, so you can easily switch between combat and crafting. That being said, the actual battle system hasn’t changed much. Hacking repeatedly at most enemies is the core strategy. You can also charge moves, but much of the fighting is simply jumping, dodging, and attacking. Running is also possible with the new dash system, though it’s limited by a stamina gauge. The large-scale bosses are fun and require clever tactics. The sequel improves one of my biggest peeves: although enemies can still destroy my buildings, your townspeople will now immediately rebuild them following battles. I no longer was discouraged to go all-out fighting enemies, and I felt comfortable knowing my hard work would not perish.
The improved AI fosters immersion as well. Throughout most of the game, Malroth is a faithful permanent party member who assists with fighting. At certain points, other townspeople will also fight alongside you. On some occasions, the townspeople will even recreate large blueprints for you, provided you pick up any missing materials. Upon beating an island’s boss, some townspeople will follow you to your main island to build a grand base.
This leads to the sequel’s biggest improvement: progress now carries between islands. The first game had a segmented chapter structure such that once you finished a chapter, your progress was completely reset for the next one. In Dragon Quest Builders 2, you keep your recipes, blueprints, equipment, and stats between islands. On top of this, you can revisit islands as you wish, leading to a more cohesive experience. You do have to leave your items behind temporarily when starting at a new island. I didn’t mind, though, as each area presents a fresh goal and theme. For example, the first island revolves around farming, which in itself is a unique Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley-like sub-game, while the second centers around an underground mine rich with resources. Unique transportation, like minecarts, cars, and flight, give each area its own identity.
The Isle of Awakening brings it all together, gathering characters, recipes, and tools from the various islands, and letting you build to your heart’s content. You may fashion the terrain, build elaborate structures, create nourishing towns, or whatever else your creativity inspires you to do. Best of all, you can visit other builders’ creations online or have them check out yours. A robust photo mode assists with showing off masterpieces. This free-build mode is the cream of the crop, and comes with its own achievements and extra explorable islands. The main campaign already takes about 40 hours to complete, but creative builders could play for hundreds of hours. The sequel’s big addition is co-op play, which has its limitations. Yes, you can build with up to three other players, but you can only do so online and only on the Isle of Awakening. Multiplayer is a great idea for this experience and something that I wanted, but it’s unfortunate that you can’t do the campaign with a friend or play locally on the PS4 version.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the definitive edition of Square Enix’s crafting RPG. Not only does it fix issues from the original, but it also expands upon its predecessor with a larger scale and more content. On the other end of the spectrum, the sequel doesn’t drastically change the formula. Quality-of-life improvements make it easier to customize your structures and engage with the campaign, but it’s more of the same. If the original offering was enough for you or you didn’t like it in the first place, this game won’t change your mind. But if your goal is to enjoy the best version of an immersive and charming crafting RPG experience, then Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a great place to start building.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!