Dragon Quest Builders emerged seemingly out of nowhere as Square Enix’s answer to Minecraft and other similar games about wandering a blocky world, eating food, avoiding monsters, and of course, building things. Aside from the Dragon Quest IP value, the big hook was that, unlike its more open-ended peers, Dragon Quest Builders was more structured and story-driven. Some fans refer to it as “Minecraft with goals,” as the core game is more about maintaining resources and following blueprints rather than sandbox play (although that’s an option too). It seemed to be a success, as Square Enix almost immediately pumped out a sequel. Following a similar narrative setup that plays with classic Dragon Quest canon, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the kind of “more and better” sequel that gives fans of this genre more than they’ll ever need to chew on, and then some. And it’s all pretty tasty.
Much like the first game, Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes the story of a classic Dragon Quest title and messes with it a little bit, presenting an alternate version of a familiar world. In Builders, the story asked a “what if” concerning the ultimate yes/no question at the end of the original Dragon Quest. In Builders 2, everything goes as planned and the heroes of Dragon Quest II defeat the demon Malroth just like in the Famicom original. However, instead of peace being immediately restored to the land in the usual Dragon Quest fashion, the remnants of Hargon’s followers attempt to continue their slain master’s mission of destruction. As a Builder, your character escapes servitude aboard a Children of Hargon airship, and along with a few new friends (including a mysterious kid named, well, Malroth) sets off on a journey to create a new home out of the remnants of a dead island. Hours upon hours of resource gathering, crafting, and cooking ensue.
Laying Bricks Atop the Apocalypse
Just like the first game, much of your time in Dragon Quest Builders 2 will be spent restoring life to a ruined world, one cube at a time. To do this you’ll use your trusty hammer to break the environment down into crafting materials, from the rotten soil of a dying world to nicer things like tomato seeds. As you progress through the story, you’ll gain more and more recipes, and grow from slapping together roofless shacks to cultivating farmland and constructing elaborate living quarters fit for royalty. Along the way, you’ll make several new friends, and you’ll sort of become their boss. This is one of the more interesting aspects of Builders 2, and one that further moves this series away from Minecraft comparisons.
In parallel to the original Dragon Quest 2, Builders 2 is built around the idea of a “party.” We take that word for granted now, inherently understanding a “party” in a JRPG means your little band of heroes. But the first Dragon Quest, the granddaddy of the JRPG, was a solo outing. It wasn’t until the sequel that additional player characters were introduced alongside the hero. This is reflected here, as the hero is joined by Malroth, and plenty of other characters and creatures along the way. Malroth is with you almost the entire time, and he helps you fight monsters and even collect resources. All the while, new people are joining your home bases on various islands, and growing along with each scenario.
In Builders 2, you aren’t the only Builder. Anyone can learn, and this Builder is a great teacher. After you spend several ours learning the ropes yourself as a player, the game eventually takes a major turn and hands half the ropes over to the NPCs. As the given tasks grow more complicated, the player becomes more of a manager, going out and making the major moves while the crew back home automatically gathers resources, farms, cooks, and even build. As the story progresses and the players’ goals escalate in scale, the more sustainment and automation can be developed. It’s really cool to see in action, and a great barometer of progress and fulfillment as a player.
Dragon Quest Builders 2, Feat. Omega Force
As I noted in our preview for Dragon Quest Builders 2, the combat is one of the biggest straight-up improvements from the first game. In Builders, combat felt like even less than an afterthought, and encountering troublesome monsters was a great way to stop having fun immediately. This time, Square Enix brought its pals over at Koei Tecmo and Omega Force (Musou/Warriors) to help spruce up the finer points of gameplay. While the result isn’t some wild and crazy Warriors or Ninja Gaiden combofest, it is a lot more fun to move around the world and smack Toriyama’s classic creatures for EXP. The new hero Builder is much more physically capable, able to dash around, leap, and competently swing his or her weapon. Plus, Malroth is a serious bruiser, and has unique weapons you can give only to him. With Malroth going wild and the much better, more smooth combat play and animations, Builders 2 is significantly more fun to play than the first, even when you aren’t doing the whole building thing. That said, as much as combat is improved from the first game, it does still feel quite shallow considering how often you have to engage with enemies, especially when you encounter larger foes demanding much more time to defeat.
Building on that Solid Foundation
Like I said earlier, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a pure example of “the same, but more and better.” If you played the first Builders, you’ll be able to immediately jump in and notice all the new stuff you can do. If you haven’t, there’s so much going on it’s almost overwhelming, but it’s all so adorable and fun you’ll quickly get pulled in to the loop. New features include multiplayer, a first-person view, and new player capabilities such as underwater activities and a glider ripped straight out of Breath of the Wild. What the player is capable of has been expanded greatly, making for even more options to find and do cool things. After playing Builders 2, it feels like the first game was a foundational proof of concept, and this sequel is the skyscraper built on top of that early success.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a massive game that can get even more massive if you date to venture outside the box and get creative on your own. But even if you don’t care for sandbox-style gameplay, there is more than enough story to keep JRPG and Dragon Quest fans occupied. If the first game seemed a little out of your comfort zone as a traditional Dragon Quest fan, rest assured that Dragon Quest Builders 2 smooths out nearly all the first game’s rough edges, has plenty of Dragon Quest fanservice to shake a slime at, and has plenty of tools to make the sometimes icky survival and resource management of the genre easy enough to deal with. With so much to do, fun, engaging play and a cute, lighthearted story that takes its time to breathe, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the best kind of sequel.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.