When the original Dragon Quest Builders released in the west back in October of 2016, I was very entertained by the combination of Dragon Quest lore and a blocky world that urged players to create and build. So, when Dragon Quest Builders 2 was announced, I was excited to dive in and try the game out for myself. With such an amazing first entry in the series, it only made sense for the sequel to hit the same notes, and then build from there. Unfortunately, while Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a solid game, it takes a few steps backward in key areas that helped to really shape the first game into the masterpiece that it was.
One step forward, two steps back
Building was one of my favorite things in the original Dragon Quest Builders, and the unique focus on creation was a big part of what made the game so unique. While building and creation have seen some updates in Dragon Quest Builders 2, the game also takes less of a focus on the player creating things. Instead, the various villagers and companions that players meet along the way will take charge of creating the more significant structures in the game.
While this might be a good change for some players, one of the things that made the series stand out so much was the ability to create and build massive structures throughout the story. Instead of focusing more on the building this time around, players spend most of their time running around completing various quests and missions for the people they meet along the way. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of quests to keep you busy along the way, which is a positive on its own.
Unlike the first game, Dragon Quest Builders 2 introduces more long-form missions, resulting in players having to complete a series of different quests with smaller objectives to pull off one much larger objective. This is evident right from the start and gives the game more of an RPG feel than the first title, which isn’t a bad thing until you start to dive into the nitty-gritty of the quests and find yourself face to face with a ton of useless fetch quests.
The second game in the series also changes up how some of the tools like the Hammer and Glove work, as they are now separate entities from your sword. This actually makes things easier to manage, especially as you work with more advanced scenarios later in the game. There are also some new items to collect, like the new gliding item that allows you to float through the air to reach far off areas. It's a nice mix of new and returning items that helps to make the entire formula feel fresh again, despite being mostly more of the same things we've already seen from the first game.
Teach a man to fight
Another big feature that the developers have shifted focus to is combat. While the first game relied on combat a good bit for progression and material gathering, Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes a much heavier handed approach to combat. It’s still just as clunky as the original combat system, though now you do a lot less damage thanks to the game’s introduction of a party system. That’s right, unlike the original title, Dragon Quest Builders 2 introduces players to a nice party system that allows them to bring along a character that Dragon Quest fans will probably recognize.
Enter Malroth, one of many companions that players will meet along their journey as a builder. Yes, that name is correct, and yes that’s exactly who you might think it is if you’re a fan of the Dragon Quest series. Like the first game’s connection to the original Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest Builders 2 picks up after the events of Dragon Quest 2, but that’s something we’ll discuss a bit later on in this review. Malroth is a big part of the combat system in Dragon Quest Builders 2, as he tags along with you throughout your journey.
While the party system is a nice addition, for some reason the developers have decided that they should hold most of the stopping power that you have when it comes to combat. The builder himself (or herself depending on which you choose to play as) feels much weaker compared to the first game, and it’s a very negative change as you don’t seem to deal nearly as much damage to enemies as you should. This makes later combat sequences tedious, as you have to heavily rely on your party members to do a big part of the legwork.
Your villagers will also dive into combat when it’s near them, which can be helpful at times, but also makes it much more difficult to keep up with where you are thanks to the weird camera angles that the game sometimes shifts into. All around, the satisfaction that hits used to bring in the original game is no longer there, and much of my time in combat, I’d hit enemies, then retreat as my allies dealt the killing blows to them. Again, this is definitely something that’s subjective for each player, but I wasn’t a very big fan of feeling powerless through a large portion of the game’s combat scenarios.
One for the history books
One of the best things about the Dragon Quest Builders series is the direct connection to the original Dragon Quest story. In fact, Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place after the events of Dragon Quest 2, with the story centering around the Children of Hargon as they seek revenge for the defeat of Hargon by Erdrick’s descendants. The story picks up with the builder stuck on a boat with the Children of Hargon and several other builders.
It’s through a quick little tutorial that players become a bit acquainted with the story basics, as well as the base level of mechanics that they’ll make use of throughout their time in the game. Building and creation has been outlawed for quite some time, though the Children of Hargon on the ship are quick to take the builder up on their skills to repair some of the various bits around the ship. Of course, this segment doesn’t last a terribly long time, and soon players are thrust directly into the story as the ship is destroyed and the builder finds themselves awake on the Isle of Awakening, where they meet Malroth and a couple of other helpful companions.
This is the main hub throughout the game, and you’ll return here many times for key plot points in the story. Of course, the island itself plays a very important role in the story, as you build up your own kingdom here. It’s up to you as a builder to open everyone’s eyes to the rich, creative history of the world, and you’ll do that across several different islands and biomes, all of which are reached through a beautiful retro map.
The story is perhaps one of the most engaging parts of Dragon Quest Builders 2, and a big part of what kept me pushing forward, as I wanted to learn more about the world and the rich history that it has to offer those who go looking. While it does have some flaws—namely the unskippable cutscenes that often contain useless information—the overall story is one that players should find enjoyable to experience. A part of me wishes they had focused more on the deep lore that is found in the Dragon Quest series, but another part of me is glad that they only used it as a loose progression factor for the builder’s journey.
Diamonds in the rough
There is a lot to dislike about Dragon Quest Builders 2, but there is also a lot to love. While the game has some flaws, overall, it’s a solid sequel. Hopefully, if Square Enix continues to explore the sandbox setup, they take a renewed focus on building and work on smoothing out the combat sequences a little bit. I’d love to see players return to the same level of power as the first game, as well as more focus on the player themselves building things up, versus the villagers taking care of the larger projects.
Still, though, I had a really good time traveling through the world that has been brought to life within Dragon Quest Builders 2. If you’re looking for a good game that has plenty of content to keep you logging in every day, then this is one title you’ll want to check out.
This review is based off of a PlayStation 4 review code provided by the publisher. Dragon Quest Builders 2 will release on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on July 12, 2019.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
- Fun building systems
- Quirky and cute graphics
- Hours of content to play through
- Living, breathing world
- Clunky combat
- Player attacks feel weak and unsatisfying
- Unskippable cutscenes that add nothing to the story