Dragon Quest Builders 2.
I’ve played both the original Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II (Dragon Warriors as they were called) on the Gameboy when I was but a wee laddie. Being one of the RPGs from my formative years, the franchise has a special place in my heart.
Why am I bringing up ancient history? That’s because the story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is tied closely to Dragon Quest II. After a short tutorial, you wash up on the shores of the Island of Awakening and soon run into a character called Malroth.
Old-school players like me might find the name familiar, and there are more references to the 1987 game as you further explore the world.
The Builders series can be best described as “Dragon Quest meets Minecraft”. You gather resources by breaking down the environment, slowly climbing up the materials tier as you forge stronger tools to gather with. New crafting recipes are unlocked as the story progresses, though my favorite activity is cooking.
Cooking starts out as a simple aﬀair, where you just find the right ingredients and place them on a bonfire.
Break stuﬀ, build stuﬀ. It’s like Minecraft, but isn’t.
Later into the game, you can start mixing more materials to create all sorts of food. I found myself spending hours mixing and matching random ingredients, just to see what new recipes I can discover.
As for structures, you can build anywhere you desire on your Island of Awakening. You can also invite friends to build together or visit their island to give a helping hand. There’s an annoying hold-over from the first game, where you have to start from scratch whenever you enter a new story island, but any recipes learned are transferable to your main sandbox island.
Otherwise, Square Enix have fixed many of the problems from the first game. For instance, there’s a fast travel system to teleport to the village and other key areas. Players can unlock more fast travel points as they explore the story islands, and even that is made faster with a new sprint ability. The game now goes out of its way to give you more options, so expect to glide around the island or even travel on an Army Ant-styled vehicle.
Character models are all of the chibi sort though, if that’s your thing.
Combat also sees an improvement. You can now get a competent AI teammate that helps with distracting and killing your enemies. The implementation greatly helps the game’s pacing.
On top of that, your weapons and mallet no longer have a durability bar. There are so many other improvements that makes Builders 2 a better game, but perhaps the most defining would be the NPCs themselves.
They now play a more active role by either tilling the ground or building structures for you, making the world feel much more alive.
A hearty serving of modern 8-bit nostalgia.
There’s a certain pixel charm to the blocky caricatures in Builders 2, especially considering its relationship to its NES ancestor. This aesthetic ties in nicely with the blocky styles of Minecraft, making it a smooth fit for the genre. While the 3D rendered monsters have not really changed much between the various DQ titles, the chibi characters might be too cutesy for some. I for one like it, and find that it fits the fun and lighthearted nature of the game.
Square Enix has a similarly safe attitude when it comes to the music. You get standard Dragon Quest fare and most, if not all of the soundtrack, will be familiar to die-hard fans. While the arrangement has not changed much, the score isn’t in 8-bit, giving Builders 2 yet another touch of both old and new.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a game that will easily last you for a good while. It’s a great game that balances fun RPG sandbox mechanics with a colourful cast of quirky characters, and repetitive moments are soothed over with plenty of unlocks and fascinating large-scale projects.
Now to cook me some Gungerbread and Slimy Steak.
AT A GLANCE
Square Enix, Omega Force
Action role-playing, Sandbox
PS4, Nintendo Switch
PICTURES ARMOUR PROJECT/BIRD STUDIO/SQUARE ENIX