It’s always a bit of a conundrum trying to decide what to play next. Old favourite or a new release? Something on PC or a console game? Thankfully, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is now widely available on all platforms, and doesn’t seem to be leaving Game Pass or Playstation Extra anytime soon. While Minecraft is still a behemoth of the block-building genre, this lookalike title has a lot of charm and appeal, despite flying under the radar.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a fairly straightforward game to pick up, and certainly anyone who has played similar titles will find the controls simple and easy to get to grips with. The tutorial at the start goes through all the main things you need to get going, although it can be a little slow, especially if you’re used to the freeplay formula of games like Minecraft. This is the first of quite a few differences. Despite looking, and sometimes feeling, very like Minecraft there are clear distinctions which prevent this Square Enix title from simply being a clone. Perhaps the biggest departure is in the gameplay. In order to unlock the sandbox fun at the end, you’ll have to play through a long RPG storyline first, earning recipes and new friends along the way. In a world where building is forbidden, you’ll have to travel to new lands to convince the people to pick up their tools and help you restore your island, fixing up their own villages and defeating the monsters that threaten them in the process. The gameplay is charming and more-ish, and you’ll likely find yourself losing track of time as you try to level up your building prowess with these small builds and missions. As a nice little side dish, each land also features secret areas to explore, optional quests, and shrine puzzles, all of which are optional but useful if you want to unlock all the rare items and recipes.
Building is an absolute joy in the game. It may take a while to master, especially without the ability to fly, but it’s so much fun that you don’t really care. You’ll learn the ropes of building early, with villagers offering you blueprints and room recipes to get you started, meaning that by the time you’ve defeated Hargon and gotten control of your island, you’ll be rearing to go.
The combat is simple too, perhaps to a fault. There’s no careful dodging or parrying, just a lot of button mashing. While this is excellent for people like me who aren’t too interested in a combat-heavy game, it can get a bit boring. The other big gripe with the game is how long the dialogue takes to get through. For the most part it isn’t a problem, because you’ll just click through it at your own pace. However, there are sections of the game where you don’t have that option, and instead you’ll have to sit through big swathes of conversation where you can’t do anything but glare at your screen as you wait for it to finally move on to the next bit. Without voice acting to accompany the text on the screen, the twenty or so seconds it can sometimes take to get to the next sentence is far too long and drags out the game in places where it should feel quick and exciting.
Characters & Bosses
There are a lot of characters to encounter throughout your adventures. You start with Lulu and Malroth, who you meet after your ship crashes onto a deserted island. Lulu opts to stay on the island, which is perhaps for the best (she’s sweet but very bossy), while Malroth chooses to accompany you as you set out to explore new lands. In each chapter of the game you’ll meet a handful of reluctant villagers who will eventually stand with you against the armies of Hargon, and some will accompany you back to your home island in order to help you fix it up. Each land has a distinct set of characters, from the farmers of Furrowfield and their pumpkin rituals to the Cockney miners of Khrumble-Dun who fight and fuss over the beautiful Babs. There’s a surprising amount of humour and wit to be found in your conversations with them, all of which adds to the charm of the narrative. Additionally, they’ll be a huge help to you when you’re building, helping to gather materials for some of the bigger quest-driven projects, and maintaining crops, cooking, and even constructing sections of your builds for you if you’ve put down a blueprint and some materials.
For those who are familiar with the main Dragon Quest games, a lot of the enemies are nostalgic, including the adorable slimes and hammerhoods. The bosses that you have to defeat to liberate each village are reminiscent of Mario, in that they’re fairly formulaic and you’ll need to watch their movements in order to figure out a pattern to evade their attacks and find openings or risk them destroying your towns. This is one of the areas of the game that Square Enix have improved on a lot since the original Dragon Quest Builders game. In the original, you were forced to repair all the destruction yourself. It was frustrating and time-consuming. Now, your villagers will put it back in the blink of an eye, meaning that you spend less time trying to shoo the mobs of enemy soldiers that accompany the bosses away from your cabbage patch. Which can only be a good thing!
Isle Of Awakening/Buildertopia
The RPG gameplay is nothing to sniff at, but the main course of the game takes place after you’ve completed the main story. You’ll get glimpses of the Isle of Awakening before this, and your villagers will annoyingly force you to build specific things in your exciting new sandbox, but when it is finally yours… then the real fun can begin. The Isle of Awakening is huge and features several biomes that you can work with or cover over. There are a few quests still to accomplish here—you can complete Tablet tasks in order to unlock new tools and increase villager happiness, and there are Explorer Shores, new resource islands that you will scavenger hunt on to earn unlimited materials to craft with. For the most part though, you’re free to do as you wish. What’s amazing is that the villagers will often use the buildings you’re creating, sitting together in cafes for meals, lining up every night to use the bathroom (possibly the funniest part of the game), and sleeping in the rooms you assign them. It feels very rewarding to have the characters you’ve developed friendships with use your creations in this way, and it spurred me on to try and improve their living quarters just to make them happy.
And if the Isle of Awakening isn’t enough for you, you’ll also get access to a Buildertopia, essentially a second island to fill up. If you need inspiration you can travel to other players’ worlds using the noticeboard, and you can even make blueprints of their builds in order to create exact replicas on your own island. It feels very similar to the Dream Addresses in Animal Crossing but with a lot more versatility for the people visiting.
This game is a thrill to play, especially if you’re keen on cosy crafting and building games like Animal Crossing or Minecraft. The RPG story is surprisingly robust and even when you’re done with the main story, there is so much still to do that it feels like you’re really just getting started. For the sheer amount of hours of gameplay it offers, and the creative fun you can have with it, you can get a lot of bang for your buck out of Dragon Quest Builders 2. There’s a free demo for the game that covers the entire first mission, so if you’re interested in trying it, this is the perfect way to find out if the game is for you!