I got completely hooked to Dragon Quest Builders when it released in 2016, with Square Enix proving successful in their attempt to introduce fresh gameplay mechanics into one of their more established franchises and making a success out of it. I mean, crafting and building has been on trend for the last few years anyway, so it made sense to introduce it to something like Dragon Quest – not only would it appeal to fans of the series, but also those who wanted more of an adventure to go along with their crafting endeavours.
Well, it proved to be enough of a success to warrant a sequel, with Dragon Quest Builders 2 living up to its name by building on the foundation of what made the original such a success and introducing all new features and improvements to the core experience. It’s a sequel that fans of the original will really enjoy, but it’s also a good entry point for those who missed out the first time around.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 starts with the player held as a prisoner on a ship full of vicious monsters who want to rid the world of all of its heroic builders, with the player’s customisable hero instead tasked with completing menial tasks for the baddies to keep everything ship-shape. All seems doomed upon the ship, but it instead crashes upon the ‘Isle of Awakening’ and you find your freedom. Of course, all isn’t well in the world and you soon learn that you need to become a legendary ‘Master Builder’ to help fix it.
That’s really putting the tale in a nutshell, because Dragon Quest Builders 2’s narrative is delightful and charming throughout. It’s clear that a lot of emphasis has been placed on expanding the narrative this time around, and it shows throughout with the quirky and colourful cast of characters not only making each situation and location in the game more endearing but also helping the game stand out as more of an RPG experience. There’s a truly grand adventure to head out on here, and seeing all of its twists and turns play out as you progress really helps Dragon Quest Builders 2 stand out as one of the more charming crafting titles available.
You’ll find your main home in Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the ‘Isle of Awakening’ – it starts off as an empty and almost derelict place, but it’s where you’ll be bringing the folk you recruit on your adventure to live and will eventually see it grow into an impressive home for you all. How do you get the folk to join you in the first place, though? By adventuring across a series of islands and completing the tasks they require of you, of course. As you go across each island in the game with your newly-acquired ship (eat that, monsters!), you’ll encounter different types of environments to explore, new building blueprints to build, and even get access to fresh mechanics including farming and mining. The townsfolk can help you out with a lot of this stuff too, so you’ll never feel overwhelmed as you balance out adventuring and building.
This is particularly handy in instances of combat where you’ve got hordes of enemies attacking, with the townsfolk holding their own in ensuring everywhere is safe. On the flip-side, you’ve got to look after them too, so you’ll want to make sure everyone around you is in good hands. Despite Dragon Quest Builders 2’s main story being a solo experience, you’ll never feel isolated or that you don’t have help around you, whether that’s in-battle or when simply trying maintain a thriving home.
One big improvement that has been introduced this time around is the fact that you don’t lose anything as you progress through the game. The original was broken down into chapters that spanned multiple locales, but each time you started one you’d have to begin anew with all your blueprints and resources getting erased – in Dragon Quest Builders 2 though, you keep everything you’ve earned as you visit new locations. It might sound like a small feature, but it’s something that fans of the first game will appreciate. That’s not all though: there’s also the inclusion of fast travel, faster running speeds, the ability to swim, and even a nice gliding technique to get around that you can use from the increased heights you can build to. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is packed full of quality of life improvements to go along with its more in-depth narrative and crafting options, and it simply helps make it feel like a much better game than the first.
Some things will be familiar though, such as the kinds of objectives you’re set and the tasks you complete during your adventure. There’ll be plenty of resource gathering, crafting, building, and enemy defeating as you go through the game, so you shouldn’t expect too much of an evolution upon the gameplay cycle established in the first game there. What it does do though is make the whole experience more streamlined and enjoyable, so gamers can’t complain too much. Why fix what isn’t broken, after all?
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a BIG game. I’ve spent more than forty-hours with it so far and I’m still discovering new crafting options and areas to explore, so it’s definitely one of those long-haul experiences that offers plenty of bang for your buck. What’s most impressive though is that it doesn’t get boring, with each new thing you unlock or area you explore offering enough to keep the game interesting throughout. Sure, it can feel a little bit repetitive with some of the objectives setting you on the same sort of missions (‘gather this’, ‘build that’, ‘defeat him’ for example), but not once did I find myself feeling bored or tired of it.
A lot of this is down to just how much Dragon Quest Builders 2 offers though. Whilst the core mechanics may revolve around building and helping create this thriving new world, there are so many opportunities for the player to simply enjoy an adventure. Whether it’s vanquishing enemies, taking part in one of the many epic boss encounters, solving puzzles, or uncovering secrets across the land whilst exploring, Dragon Quest Builders 2 offers MORE than just building; it offers an adventure worthy of the Dragon Quest name.
You can even have a friend join you in some aspects of the game too via online multiplayer, which is something fans have been eagerly asking for since the first game. It comes with some caveats though: you can only actually take part in building on a multiplayer-specific island (no story mode together, sorry) and you’ll have to spend around ten hours with the game before you can unlock the option to play together. Building together does make for a fun endeavour though and it’s great to be able to finally enjoy the experience with a friend, but given the scope of the adventure offered in the game’s single-player component it’s a bit of a shame to find that it is so limited here.
Whilst we primarily reviewed Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the PlayStation 4, we did get a chance to look at the Nintendo Switch version too. It plays the same as its PlayStation 4 counterpart, with a lot of its aspects actually suiting the portable nature of the console better. It also looked impressive visually in both the handheld and TV mode too, even if it’s clear that it’s outshone by Sony’s console – that’s to be expected though given the difference in specs between them both. The only real downside to the Switch version came with the loading times, which felt significantly longer than on the PlayStation 4. It’s not a huge problem since once you’re in the game, its large environments mean you don’t have to load again for a while; that doesn’t mean that they’re not noticeable, though.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is simply fantastic. It improves upon the original game in so many ways, with the charming narrative, the intricate building mechanics, and the sense of adventure that comes with exploring each island coming together perfectly to make for a truly remarkable experience.
I really enjoyed the first game and in many ways its gameplay mechanics don’t change up all that much in Dragon Quest Builders 2, but the things it does do differently and the new quality of life improvements it introduces really help make it stand out as another brilliant addition to Square Enix’s much-loved RPG series.
Developer: Omega Force, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch