Enix Corporation has been known for some amazing JRPGs over the years, with one of the first games being the fantastic Dragon Quest series. Since the first game, the series has had a devote cult following before gaining mainstream appeal in west. Like its contemporaries, the Dragon Quest series has had its own fair share of spin off titles that have helped shape and develop the series over the years. One of the more recent spin off titles would be the Dragon Quest Builders series. Dragon Quest Builders 1 was launched on the PS3 and PS4 in January of 2016 in Japan and October later that year worldwide. The game did well enough to garner a sequel, offering up a slew of improvements and advancements. Now, fans of the series will soon be able to enjoy the game themselves. Dragon Quest Builders 2 has improved upon the first game in just about every way, allowing much more freedom and exploration for fans to enjoy. Read on to find out why!
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Omega Force
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Release Date: December 18th, 2018 (Japan), July 12th World Wide
Players: 1-4 Players
For those not in the know, the Dragon Quest Builders series is an open world, sandbox game that gives players the freedom to build and craft their own world, similar to other games such as Minecraft or Terraria. However, where as other games put the story and most of the combat as a secondary focus to the exploration and crafting/building aspects of the genre, DQB allows players to not only enjoy a wide range of crafting and exploration options, but also enjoy a fully fleshed action RPG with a fun and (mostly) light hearted campaign.
There have been several quality of life and over all improvements made to DQB2 compared to the first game. Players are now able to build higher and explore under the water. Once you have progressed far enough in to the game, a hang glider like item will allow the player to take to the skies and glide about, potentially eliminating fall damage. Likewise, after a certain point in the game, players will be able to drive about in a vehicle, drastically increasing movement speed and allowing for quicker exploration.
Farming has been greatly expanded from the first game. A new monster type NPC called a Wiggly will help aerate the soil of farms and animals have been added in as well. In the first island alone, you will come across a helpful puppers that will become a loyal companion that you can even pet in order to make it your friend.
The overall gameplay of DQB2 is just pure enjoyment, almost from the moment you start your campaign. There’s the traditional tutorial to help you get accustomed to the game and the basics of what you will need to know, which, admittedly is a bit of a slog, but it does help to set the mood for the game and set the foundation of the story. Once the fairly brief tutorial stage is completed, the game quickly begins to open up and draw the player in with a combination of engaging crafting, exploration and story mechanics.
Each of the various islands that you visit throughout the game are absolutely massive in scale. While a mild spoiler, the first island that the player visits eventually becomes their own home base. The absolute scale in which the developers have allowed the player to sit back and craft/create to their hearts content within the very first area is staggering. As the game progresses, the character, with the help of Malroth, will gain an ever increasing arsenal of not only crafting recipes, but combat tactics as well. Some of these abilities are primarily crafting orientated in nature, such as being able to break multiple objects as once, while others are more focused in terms of combat.
One of the first abilities of this nature the player will gain is the ability to do a charged up, wide swing type of attack. If you’ve played Link to the Past, you’ll quickly recognize the type of attack I’m speaking of. These attacks not only have increased combat capability, but can also be used to quickly gather up materials for crafting.
I have to admit, while I have enjoyed Terraria and other building style games in the past, games such as Minecraft and others have mostly flown under my radar. I generally stick to games such as Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. Games with a more farming and sim life style of gameplay. But with DQB2, the game quickly drew me in and had me exploring every little nook and cranny available to me.
Even from the first moment you step on the first island, you’re able to explore just about anywhere, so long as you have the gumption and materials to make your way there. Any spot you that you can see on the map you can go to. Climb, glide, swim or dig. You can go just about everywhere on any given island. This utter amount of freedom actually did get me in to trouble on the first island funnily enough. At one point, early on, you’re tasked with following a spectral monster like creature. You’re supposed to follow it through various gates to prompt the cutscene to move on.
Well, I happened to climb up the wrong way to get to the quest marker and had to back track through the mountain in order to get the quest to progress normally. Usually this would lead to a round of cursing either myself or the game, due to vague instructions or a misunderstanding on my part. However, all this did was give me a sense of amazement. I wasn’t angry or dismayed or anything else. I realized that I had explored even more of the world and had gained a few crafting items and found items that I may not have otherwise found.
Beyond just exploring through expansive, open world islands, I rarely found myself running from the various monsters found throughout each of the areas. Even monsters that were far beyond my level, I gladly took on, because the combat and exploration are just that much fun. As long as you have even a basic understanding of how the combat works and range of attacks, you can take on just about anything early on and enjoy it.
As far as the crafting and building goes, I spent way more time than I ever had to, even early on, trying to make decent looking homes and farms, kitting them out with little flairs and customizations. While the game will tell you that you only need four walls and a door in order to make a room that your NPCs will enjoy and sleep in, I would spend a couple of hours crafting actual homes, with walls, floors and roofs, layering them around the area. I would go around the area and dig up massive amounts of soil so I could create hills and plateaus to make various farms and homes, even in the first island. I’m not the most creative of individuals out there, and even I was able to make passable towns that I could be proud of.
You’re able to build just about everywhere within an island and you can craft at any time as long as you are near a crafting table, which you can bring along with you. There will be times where the game will give you a blueprint that you need to follow and place the correct type of material about, but for the most part, you can build what you want, when you want. Utilizing the blacksmith anvil, you can craft new arms and armor for you, Malroth and the various villagers in each island as well, as long as you have the correct crafting recipe.
Many of these recipes will come from leveling up. Each time you level, Malroth becomes stronger and your created character gains more HP. Usually at level up, Malroth will teach you some sort of new technique and the builder will gain some form of recipe for a new weapon. But you will also gain new recipes as you complete the various main story quests and side quests given to you by villagers and NPCs that you find and interact with as the game progresses.
Not only will villagers and story elements give out new recipes, but you will continue to gain new recipes as you level up the different islands you visit and towns you create. Each of the different islands will have various different tasks that you must complete to progress the story. Take the first island for example: many of the villagers enjoy farming. So as they till the soil and water the crops, they experience immense joy and fulfillment. As they complete their tasks, eat food you harvest and sleep in well designed houses, they will drop what I call “joy hearts”. These hearts will allow you to level up the island. At each level, the builder will learn a slew of new recipes to help craft and design new things you can carry back to your main island or other islands to help improve your buildings there.
DQB2 offers up a fairly well rounded and robust gathering, crafting and exploration experience for the player to enjoy, but I mentioned earlier that it also weaves in a fairly decent and enjoyable story experience. While the story may not have the depth of say, a standard Final Fantasy or even main line Dragon Quest game, the story is whimsical and fun, with more than a hint of darkness.
Taking place in an alternate timeline within the Dragon Quest 2 story, the evil Hargon creates a cult which vilifies any sort of creation. This means that the builders are quickly seen as evil and heretical, with many denizens of the various islands seeing them as harbingers of doom and destruction. Which is more than slightly odd, seeing as the “Children of Hargon” are the very same monsters that only a few generations before were cut down and vilified by the heroes of the main game.
Don’t worry though. You need not have played the original game to understand DQB2, but having some form of knowledge regarding it or the series in general will lead to a much more enjoyable experience, as there are more than a few Easter Eggs for players to find and enjoy. Even Malroth himself is a semi sort of Easter Egg, though I won’t spoil exactly why. Nor will I spoil his eventual relevance to the story beyond just being your amnesiatic side kick that enjoys destruction and very horrible names.
There is a ton of tongue in cheek humor to be found within DQB2, though sometimes, with some characters, the memes and jokes go just a bit too far. I rolled my eyes fairly hard and had to just resist the urge to groan when I came across a young warrior that spoke like the most stereotypical of millenial idiots, over abusing both the literal and figurative meaning of the word “literal”. I half expected her to bust out with phrases such as “Yeet!” or “This is big mood”.
However, most of the characters aren’t nearly as bad and most everyone eventually grows on you, weaving together a narrative that will draw in most players who are just looking for an enjoyable and mostly light hearted action RPG experience. As long as you aren’t expecting Nier Automata or Shadow Hearts level narrative, I firmly believe most players will be able to find at least modicum of enjoyment with the story as they travel through the game, even if it’s just to be able to get to the next area and increase the areas you can explore and the things you can craft.
Graphically, DQB2 is a bright and vibrant game, with several unique biomes for players to enjoy and explore. It’s a much nicer experience at least compared to other block building games, even if most materials and all the environments are made out of various blocks. The characters and monsters just ooze Toriyama’s unique style and appeal.
While there could have been more customization options for the main character, the amount of equipment and weapons you can eventually equip allows your character to stand out from the vast numbers of other player created characters you will eventually get to see. It’s a pleasure to see Toriyama’s work in a new game and see him work his magic in something that is not 100% RPG while also bringing back much beloved designs from a well respected franchise.
As per my usual, I will forgo an indepth analysis of the musical creations and tracks for the game, as again, I am fairly tone deaf and it would be a mute point regardless. I will, however, say that fans of the Dragon Quest series will be delighted to hear classic and reimagined tunes and tracks from the series, right down to the various monster cries. If you are a fan of the previous games, you will notice a lot of throwbacks and homages to older musical tracks.
There is a lot to enjoy and experience in DQB2 for the player willing to search for it and hunt it all down. Most of the time, just to progress the story, not much is needed in terms of imaginative ability, other than just being able to lay things down in a straight line and follow simple directions. But for those with a more design orientated mind, DQB2 offers up a lot of options to make the entire world uniquely yours. Not only are you able to craft and build what you want, but there’s also a lite farming sim that can be greatly enjoyable if that is more your cup of tea.
Beyond just the crafting, building, farming and exploration, there is a very solid action RPG lying underneath everything and a more than enjoyable story experience. And fear not dear reader, for even if you are not of a design mind and can barely make a serviceable stick figure, Dragon Quest Builders 2 allows you to visit other players islands and copy their buildings and bring them over to your world. So you are able to make the world the way you want it to be.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an absolute joy to play and will quickly engage and engross most players who enjoy action RPGs and building style games. Players from all ranges of skill level will be able to enjoy the game and find something worthwhile in its massive lands. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a game most players won’t want to miss.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro using a review copy provided by Square Enix. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.