The original Dragon Quest Builders was one of my all-time favourite spinoffs to come out of the Dragon Quest series but it was missing quite a lot. A dedicated online mode would have made it perfect and its lack of depth after the campaign felt like you learnt to build and create everything without a real place to spread that creativity once it was over. Dragon Quest Builders 2 now checks all those boxes making it feel like a giant RPG meets Minecraft game.
I use the term “Minecraft” quite loosely here as Dragon Quest Builders 2 is so much more than an ugly building sim (not a fan of Minecraft). The game has a fully-fledged and rather expansive story campaign that ushers you into its fantastically-detailed and layered building experience where you can create anything you want using the recipes you find and learn throughout the over 60-hour campaign. You can then jump online and help other players create their own world and even open your islands up to other players too. It all just works in a well-oiled rotation.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place a few hundred years after the events of the first game and follows the story of a group called the Children of Hargon. In a nutshell, “Builders” are bad and have been banned from the world for decades. You just happen to be one that gets roped into rebuilding and bringing life back to the various islands scattered around the world.
You get to create your male or female builder and throughout the game, you are helped by a mysterious companion known as Marloth. Dragon Quest Builders is now short on its story and fan of the Dragon Quest series will feel right at home as you explore these islands, meet iconic characters, fight deadly enemies and interact with all the fantastic items and lore from the series.
Every island I visited took me on a 10-hour adventure as I learned to farm, mine, build and manage a castle. The campaign rolls out quite slowly but you need time to take it all in and master all the crafting and building. Basically, after waking up on the Isle of Awakening, you need to travel around the world and recruit people to help you turn the island back to its former glory. This means the entire game revolves around you reviving these islands each themed in their own special way, beat a boss and take people back with you.
But the game is so much more than that as every island’s story and theme touches on development and mastering a specific type of building. The first one, for example, was all about farming as I had to help the citizens find new seeds to grow on farms I built. You get tasked in doing specific quests like finding five unique types of seeds and planting them.
Building the fam required me to find wood to make fences and a scarecrow. Once I placed all this down in a square, the “field” room was created and the citizens knew this was a farm which they started looking after. This “room” feature is Dragon Quest Builders 2’s main mechanic as everything you do and create revolves around placing items in four walls and a combination of items turns the room into something specific.
A bedroom, for example, requires a bed, a light source and a pot. Once all placed inside, the citizens will then sleep in it. Add eight beds and an inn sign and it becomes like a hotel giving you more hearts which your people drop and is used to level up your base and unlock new crafting items in the Isle of Awakening.
Later on in the campaign, things get a little tougher. Citizens ask for harder rooms which require you to track down the materials needed to make the items that go inside. Glass, iron, silver, and gold needs to be mined and forged. Luckily the game oozes you into all of this quite nicely so you never feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.
The game truly shines at the end of each campaign chapter which sees you and your citizens join together to create a massive construction that uses hundreds of blocks and items. It is a perfect example of how much you can create when you set your mind and time to it.
There are over 130 rooms you can create in the game, all of which can be learnt throughout the campaign and made by experimenting with specific items. However, you won’t truly get to the real juice of doing your own thing until you have finished all the story islands. Only once you complete an island are you able to take your recipes back to the Isle of Awakening and use them there.
It is a long and drawn out cycle but every moment was satisfying and enjoyable. The story campaign has some real meat on it with some lovable characters and that constant sense of discovery. Take that and add the great building mechanics and you have an addictive and fun experience. When I say “great building mechanics”, I do mean it as crafting and building stuff is instantly an attraction. Often I would not wait to just get stuck into a task and head out to find the things I need to make it all happen.
Placing blocks is as easy as holding down a button and moving about. Smashing things with your hammer is quick and satisfying and if you don’t like something where you placed it, just smash it and pick it up. The same goes for finding decorations in the open world. If you think it will look nice in your bar, smash it and put it there.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 also has a range of new tools that makes everything a lot easier too. A flute that can find rare materials in mountains, a bottomless watering pot that lets you carry liquid and pour it wherever you want and other tools like the swap tool that lets you replace one material with another. Getting around is also so much easier too as you can now glide across gaps with a windbreaker. This meant climbing to the top of a hill and leaping off to travel at double the speed and soar above obstacles. You can also travel underwater too which is a first in the series.
But the real showcase of skill comes after you complete the main islands and set your sights on the Isle of Awakening. It is here where everything you have learnt comes into perspective with an infinite amount of exploration and creativity. This is your land and you can do whatever you want with the things you have discovered to do on the past islands you have saved. You can sail out to smaller islands and find new materials, seeds and rare tools and bring them back to use them in your latest creation.
Luckily, the game still gives you a bit of direction as the Isle of Awakening is divided up into specific areas like farming and mining. Meaning you don’t need to get overwhelmed and lost with where to build what. The citizens you bring back with you all find a place to work and if you build a farm, they will farm there.
One area was a dry wasteland but with enough time and effort, I turned it into a bustling farmland with lush green grass, over one hundred blocks of soil and enough room for everyone to eat, sleep and even bath. I then returned back after unlocking hundreds of new creations on the second island and made a swimming pool. Everyone loved it and it showed by the amounts of love the dropped on the floor which acted as the currency to unlock new island to explore and recipes to make.
The new addition of multiplayer finally makes its debut and it is great. You can open up your Isle of Awakening to other players around 10 hours into the campaign. Other players can join you and help you build your dream creation in a co-op styled mode. I spent a good amount of time playing with my brother as we cleared rubble and flattened land in order to build more rooms and make the people happier. Everything you have unlocked, they have access to and it was great to assign him to a task while I prepped the materials to make the building as he prepared the ground for it.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 succeeded where the original game failed and kept me involved and in love throughout the entire experience. I never felt as if I was bored and the overall pace got tedious, something the original game suffered with. It is more fleshed out, has a faster pace and its multiplayer, while it takes what feels like forever to unlock, is a load of fun. I will keep going back and working on my Isle of Awakening as there is so much left to explore and discover in the game once you think it is over.
This review was based on a code sent to us by Square Enix
Available On: PS4, Switch | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 12 July 2019 | Price: R890