Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review: A Textbook Example Of A Sequel Done Right
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the perfect sequel. To be clear: that doesn't mean it's a perfect game by any means, but if you enjoyed the first one or had some specific, common issues with it, then you're very likely going to love this follow-up.
More so than most any sequel I've seen in recent memory, it takes everything about the first game, improves it, expands it, and makes it better from top to bottom all without feeling redundant. It's actually pretty impressive.
Dialogue Boxes Galore
I never put a whole lot of time into the original, but I played enough to approach this review with some ground-level expectations. Despite being familiar with the previous game, an avid consumer of JRPGs, and fan of the core Dragon Quest franchise, I was not prepared for the sheer volume of text in this game. I'm not exaggerating. If you told me Dragon Quest Builders 2 has more lines of dialogue than The Witcher 3, I'd probably believe you.
The premise here is that you're a rare and talented "builder" that possesses the unique gift of being able to, you guessed it, build stuff. That means busting out your book to jot down crafting recipes and blueprint ideas precisely when the narrative demands it.
Truth be told, the story is all but meaningless after the first couple of hours, at which point you finally get to leave the starting island.
The game's broken up into several large themed islands with self-contained quest progressions that gradually teach you the game's various layers such as planting, mining, and so on. Each island has its own set of resources and eventually, you'll unlock access to anything and everything back on the main starting island, which is a bit like your home base as you recruit villagers to come back with you.
Building With Purpose
What originally attracted me to the Dragon Quest Builders franchise as a whole is the fact that it puts the addictive "collect, craft, build" gameplay loop from popular sandbox games such as Minecraft into a package with a clearer, more structured design. Instead of being a pure sandbox, you've got NPCs to chat with, a story to progress through, dedicated chunks of content to do, and a driving sense of purpose. Eventually, you can ignore it all and treat it like a pure sandbox, too, so it's kind of the best of both worlds in a way.
The downside to this is that even after a dozen or so hours, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is obsessed with teaching you. Even if it's something you figured out on your own, sifting through countless dialogue boxes over and over is tedious. I usually am very much against not reading the dialogue in games like this; I'm a writer so, of course, I appreciate good prose, but it eventually gets monotonous and patronizing in this case.
All of the writing is cute and charming, but sometimes I just wanted to get on with things already.
From a gameplay perspective, Dragon Quest Builders 2 feels really good. It uses a sort of middle ground between being top-down and isometric with a camera that can pan and zoom a bit to get the right angle. Thankfully, it helps establish a good sense of scale for how large the settings often are.
You'll spend most of your time completing simple checklist-style quests, but once you get a bit into the first non-starter island, things open up more. You'll start building up villages and recruiting NPC villagers that can go with you on adventures, along with your combat buddy, Malroth.
As a first for the series, you can even assign tasks to villagers, too, like collecting certain items or even working on completing structures by following blueprints. Being able to offload a lot of the busy work to your helpers is a huge quality of life improvement.
Learning New Tricks
Speaking of changes and new features, the biggest addition here is multiplayer. Just like Dragon Quest 2 itself added a party to the game instead of the original's single protagonist, Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds NPC companions and player companions as well.
Combat received an overhaul as well by letting you attack much more quickly, removing the damage you'd take from touching enemies previously (it was super annoying,) and increasing the intensity a bit across the board. It's still just mashing attack and moving away from enemy swipes, but it's less tedious at least, even if not remarkable.
In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, though, the biggest improvement to me is the enormous inventory expansion. No longer do you need to constantly drop things off in storage or sift through chests to find items. You've basically just got bottomless pockets this time around. Add in a Breath of the Wild-style glider, teleporters spread across islands, and a flute to help find rare items and it really rounds out the sequel package here in a great way.
And you can swim now, too!
- Great improvement on the original in basically every way,
- Lots of wonderful quality of life improvements,
- Tons of stuff to do with dozens of hours of content,
- Normally tedious stuff is handled very well.
- Combat is still a bit boring,
- At its core, it's still more of the same,
- Story is extremely forgettable, albeit well-written.
At the end of the day, you probably already decided whether Dragon Quest Builders 2 was for you from reading the features list summary on Wikipedia or the storefront page of your choice. This doesn't reinvent the blocky cube wheel, and it doesn't do a whole lot to stand out other than refining its existing formula, but for fans of the original, that should be more than enough.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 releases on July 12, 2019, for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
[Note: A copy of Dragon Quest Builders 2 was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.]