Dragon Quest fans with creative souls can rejoice with the release of this highly anticipated sequel to Dragon Quest Builders.
The original Dragon Quest Builders seemed to come out of nowhere. It combined the Dragon Quest universe with Minecraft gameplay yet with more structure and managed to hit the perfect balance of creativity and structure. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is mostly more of the same but bigger and has you save the towns of 3 islands and loot the resources of many more. The overall structure is looser than the original, giving you a map that you can use to warp to different islands as you wish. You're also introduced to your own greenfield island early on which allows you to take unlocked items and recipes and use them in your own giant creation as you play the main story. The other islands' themes aren't anything new and contain lots of the same monsters and items that fans are already familiar with. The optional islands contain checklists that are fun to complete as they guide you in finding all of the new items. Completing them also unlocks infinite supplies of certain useful items which is very handy.
Other than having a blast terraforming and architecting your very own island, your main goal is to figure out who this guy Hargon is and why he's intent on the destruction of everything. Every villager and monster you meet tells you how bold you are for building things, almost as if they're under a spell. Then there's Malroth, a long-haired dude with glowing red eyes who you meet at the beginning and helps you on your quest from day one. That being said, there's something sinister about him and he keeps hearing strange voices in his head. Oh well, building is more fun than destroying when it comes to video games, at least; so... "build on", I say!
Once you unlock a new island, you're met by a villager who needs your help building their village back to normal after it was destroyed. You're then given quest after quest to follow with goals such as crafting an item, fighting enemies, building a room, or creating some blueprints. Upon completing a quest, you get gratitude points that can be spent on unlocking recipes for items or new islands to explore. Points are also earned daily when villagers use the facilities that you build such as dining tables and toilets. Speaking of which, I got a chuckle out of seeing that I could collect "night soil" out of the toilet after someone uses it. Why is it pink, though? Weird.
If you played Dragon Quest Builders, you might be wondering what's different here and you'll find that there are both good and bad changes. Farming is new and it's basically a simplistic take on what you'd expect from the average Harvest Moon game. That being said, your villagers will do most of the farming for you because who has the time? Water is also new which allows you to fill your bottomless pot in order to pour water as you see fit. You can also swim in it and build waterfalls. A couple of other new activities include gliding and dashing but I don't understand why dashing is limited by a meter that depletes as you run. Why not just let me endlessly dash?
New tools include the echo flute and transform-o-trowel. The echo flute is used to find precious metals or stones hidden in the terrain and the trowel is a more convenient way to replace tile types en masse. You can also now switch to first-person view as you please which is useful when navigating complicated structures and there's a builder's pencil option which lets you create blueprints of structures and save them for later. Finally, playing online allows you to build with up to 3 chums as well as upload pictures of your creations.
When it comes to drawbacks from the original Dragon Quest Builders, the gameplay structure has definitely changed and it doesn't provide the same overall sense of balanced progression that the first had. For example, you're no longer working towards a goal of defending your base against monsters by building elaborate traps. I really enjoyed this in the first game and there's only one island that provides something close to this. The focus is more on story and expanding your collection of villagers and placing blueprints for them to complete. That brings me to another issue: I spent way too much time simply placing blueprints for myself or others to build as opposed to building what I wanted to. The perfect mix is to provide a loose definition of what I need to build in order to progress then let me use my creativity to complete the goal. Sticking to a blueprint is much duller, especially when the villagers simply build it for me.
Issues from the first game have carried over, too, which is quite unfortunate. I still can't tell where the boundaries of my town are and quests can be just as mysterious, giving vague ideas of what you need to do such as one that had me build an oasis yet no matter how much water and greenery I laid, it didn't register until I made a weird-looking mess. Also, villagers with quests can be anywhere on a big map, causing you to hunt for them and you have to mentally remember what they want because there's no in-game list. Finally, once you're on the verge of completing an island, you'll hit a level cap thus giving you no incentive to fight until it unlocks again.
Although I have a few gripes with Dragon Quest Builders 2, I had an absolute blast with it because at its core, it's still an exceptionally fun and creative game. I sunk many hours into it and will continue to do so because exploring the huge world and building my own island with massive structures like pyramids and quaint towns and farms is a joy. I absolutely adore the Dragon Quest universe's visuals and audio as well, especially on a modern console. I just feel like the developers missed the mark a little by not resolving some of the core issues with the first game and also reducing the scope of some of its more enjoyable gameplay elements.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a creative marvel with a ton of ways to unleash your imagination within a huge world. However, it doesn't fix the main issues of the first game nor does it carry over its perfect balance of structure and creativity.
- + Lots of fun to be had exploring and building within a variety of themed islands
- + Large map that can be enjoyed leisurely
- + Various new tools and abilities
- - Issues with town boundaries and obscure quests are still prevalent
- - Too many dull quests that lack creativity
- - Barely any fortress defense gameplay