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Review

Review: Dragon Quest Builders 2

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The ori­gi­nal Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders was a decent pro­of of con­cept for a dif­fe­rent style of Dra­gon Quest game, but it fell short in a few are­as. For the sequel, the deve­lo­pers have mana­ged to impro­ve upon near­ly every ele­ment of the game, deli­vering a sequel that is as enjoy­a­ble as the main series.

When boo­ting up the ori­gi­nal Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders for the first time, we weren’t sure what to expect. Mine­craft-style buil­ding was a uni­que choice of game­play for a spin-off based on the more line­ar and sto­ry-focu­sed Dra­gon Quest series. But it worked for the most part, using Dra­gon Quest 1’s sto­ry as a base for its own tale, while also brin­ging a new twist to sand­box games. With Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 it was inte­res­ting to see that, while many parts have been chan­ged, the core parts of the ori­gi­nal game have remai­ned intact.

Fol­lo­wing on from the first game, Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 uses Dra­gon Quest 2 as the the­me of its sto­ry, with buil­ding being ban­ned by the Child­ren of Har­gon. Your cha­rac­ter is being taken by mons­ters due to their occupa­ti­on as a buil­der, but ends up being ship­w­re­cked along with a coup­le of unfa­mi­li­ar faces on a mys­te­rious island. After fin­ding out that they’re on the Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing, an aban­do­ned island lacking in life and resour­ces. You and your dest­ruc­tive new fri­end Mal­roth head off to new islands to find resi­dents and mate­ri­als, in an attempt to turn the Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing into a new home for buil­ders.

Pro­gres­si­on is fair­ly simp­le, though not exac­t­ly like the first game. In that game you pro­gres­sed from one island to the next with no breaks in-bet­ween, whe­re­as here the­re are less islands to explo­re during the main sto­ry but you have a chan­ce to unwind on the Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing befo­re hea­ding to the next sto­ry area. Each island in Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 has its own sto­ry­line, along with a focus on one par­ti­cu­lar mecha­nic of the game. For examp­le, the first island you visit is used to intro­du­ce far­ming, along with the basics of room buil­ding.

The sto­ry is still in many ways an exten­ded tuto­ri­al, but the redu­ced num­ber of main islands means that each one has more time to show off its cha­rac­ters and envi­ron­ments. This works for some of the sto­ry, like the afo­re­men­tio­ned first island cal­led Fur­row­field. Here you build up the town from near­ly not­hing, tur­ning it into an area fil­led with farm­land and various faci­li­ties. The more you build, the more items you unlock and even more town­speop­le appe­ar, so there’s always a sen­se of pro­gres­si­on. This is con­stant throughout every island, but they can suf­fer from being too drag­ged out at times. The second island is the worst for this, repea­ting the same jokes over and over again. The stel­lar loca­li­sa­ti­on does miti­ga­te some of the repe­ti­ti­ve dia­lo­gue and humour, but many of the cha­rac­ters nee­ded to be more fle­shed out.

For­tu­n­a­te­ly, any issu­es with the sto­ry can be easi­ly igno­red thanks to the incredi­b­ly fun game­play. The Buil­ders series focu­ses a lot on the buil­dings you crea­te and how town­speop­le can inter­act with them. A room two blocks high with a door of any type is the basic lay­out for a buil­ding, and from the­re you can fur­nish them with various items to crea­te dif­fe­rent types of buil­dings. From bedrooms to armou­ries, the­re are many buil­dings to crea­te. You’ll be requi­red to build cer­tain rooms during the sto­ry, but a lot of them are left for you to dis­co­ver. The addi­ti­on of new tools fur­ther impro­ves buil­ding, giving you the abi­li­ty to crea­te walls or store an infi­ni­te amount of liquid. From more items to craft to new buil­ding reci­pes, there’s even more to crea­te than the first game, and you’ll rare­ly feel limi­ted in what you can build com­pa­red to the first game.

Explo­ra­ti­on has also been impro­ved, main­ly in regards to how you get around the map. Ins­tead of slow­ly run­ning around the map like in Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 1, you have access to a stami­na gau­ge that lets you sprint at a much hig­her speed. As you pro­gress through the sto­ry and level up, the amount time you can sprint is increa­sed even fur­ther. You’ll also unlock the abi­li­ty to gli­de during the first island, making lar­ger gaps and moun­tains easier to navi­ga­te bet­ween. The­se, com­bi­ned with a generous amount of fast tra­vel points, make gathe­ring sup­plies or com­ple­ting quests from town­speop­le much more stream­li­ned. The pace of Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 feels much fas­ter over­all, espe­ci­al­ly when you take into account the new buil­ding rela­ted tools, and is wel­co­me chan­ge. The only area that is some­what of a let-down is the batt­le sys­tem which main­ly reli­es on but­ton mashing, but having Mal­roth around during the sto­ry does at least cut down on the amount of figh­t­ing you need to do.

All the­se impro­ve­ments would have less mea­ning if the­re was litt­le to do out­si­de of the main sto­ry, a pro­blem which made Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders feel lacking in con­tent. The Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing makes up the majo­ri­ty of con­tent out­si­de of the sto­ry islands, and is likely whe­re a lot of peop­le will spent most of their time. The island is split into three main are­as, giving you more land to work with as the sto­ry pro­gres­ses. Out­si­de of a few requi­red struc­tures (which can be demo­lished later) you’re free to build wha­te­ver you want, with some optio­nal tar­gets that give you access to some of the new tools. The­se tar­gets are good for tho­se that want a more focu­sed expe­ri­ence simi­lar to the main sto­ry, but there’s a lot of room for your own ori­gi­nal crea­ti­ons. As you com­ple­te the tar­gets and crea­te more buil­dings, you’ll keep unlo­cking even more mecha­nics. The­re are rare crops that give you bet­ter coo­king ingre­dients and dyes, pets that can be bred to crea­te new breeds and new ways to cate­go­ri­se your crea­ti­ons. Making mul­ti­ple towns, each with their own resi­dents and the­mes is an incredi­b­ly fun and an easy way to spend hund­reds of hours. Per­for­mance can beco­me a pro­blem on PS4 once you’ve built a lot of stuff though, even with the cap on how many vil­la­gers and buil­dings you can have. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s some­thing to take into account when making more com­plex designs.

It’s good that the Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing is so fle­shed out, becau­se if you’re into mul­ti­play­er it’ll be whe­re you spend most of your time in game. Unli­ke the first Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders, Buil­ders 2 offers 4 play­er co-op, with a few caveats. Asi­de from the Isle of Awa­ke­n­ing, the only pla­ces you can visit with fri­ends are mate­ri­al islands, small ran­dom­ly gene­ra­ted are­as that give you access to unli­mi­ted amounts of cer­tain items. The­se are a good way to collect rare blocks or craf­ting mate­ri­als, but not par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ting to explo­re with fri­ends. There’s also no way to play with ran­dom play­ers, or search through avail­ab­le islands asi­de from tho­se that belong to your fri­ends. It’s a step in the right direc­tion com­pa­red to the first game, but Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 is still pri­ma­ri­ly a sin­gle play­er expe­ri­ence.

Conclusion

As long as you’re not expec­ting a fle­shed out mul­ti­play­er mode, Dra­gon Quest Buil­ders 2 is a phe­no­me­nal sequel that is a good alter­na­ti­ve to the main­stay sand­box games. With new DLC being released soon, the­re is more than enough con­tent here for tho­se that like to build or anyo­ne that just wants to play a more focu­sed buil­ding game.

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