Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a delightful sequel that -- pardon the pun -- builds on its predecessor in a lot of welcome ways. This isn't a huge leap forward by any stretch, but if you enjoyed the first Dragon Quest Builders, then you're probably going to love this.
Right off the bat, Builders 2 does a great job of easing you into your new role as the world's most creative hero. One of the most charming tutorials in recent memory gets you up to speed with the basics, and from that point on, the game introduces new concepts and tasks at a steady pace. Titles like Minecraft, where you're given a huge amount of creative freedom right from the word go, can be incredibly daunting, and so the streamlined, story-focused approach that Builders 2 takes is brilliantly judged.
For the most part, anyway. There are times when some players will no doubt feel like they're being boxed in. While you're always free to build and craft anything that you know the recipe for, the story does, at points, force you to keep moving, effectively putting your personal projects on hold until you complete set objectives. Compounding the issue is the fact that Builders 2 takes a long time to really get going -- there's a good 10 to 15 hours of learning the ins and outs of gameplay before it feels like you're finally let off the leash.
Again, not all players will appreciate how the title holds your hand, but this does allow for more cohesive storytelling. As we've largely come to expect of Dragon Quest, the plot itself is nothing wholly unique or original, but it's all told with a wink and cheeky smile. The series' trademark charm is very much alive and well here, and the whole thing's presented with more confidence and whimsy than it was in the first Dragon Quest Builders.
A more prominent supporting cast is also a factor. There are a number of characters here who you'll gradually get to know over the course of your adventure, each with their own often comical quirks. But aside from your hero, the most important member of the cast is Malroth, a lovably brash, club-wielding companion who's with you every step of your journey.
Whether you're out adventuring, beating monsters black and blue, or simply gathering materials, Malroth will be by your side. As a computer-controlled partner, he's incredibly handy to have around. He's a force to be reckoned with in combat, and he'll even collect ingredients and materials, adding them to your inventory. Malroth's inclusion ends up being an inspired addition to the Builders formula, and he's a great example of a non-playable companion who genuinely makes your life easier.
As with the first game, there's a dangerously addictive gameplay loop at the heart of Builders 2. You're set a task by adorably squat characters, you venture out into the world to stockpile materials, and then you get building. Whether you're constructing a home, digging out the bed of what'll soon be a river, planting a forest, seeding a farm, or even putting the finishing touches on an outdoor toilet, building remains an accessible, rewarding process. Obviously your options are rather limited to begin with, but as you unlock more and more recipes, concepts, and blueprints, developing your cosy little town into a bustling kingdom becomes an obsession.
Indeed, the building part of Builders 2 is engrossing, but this wouldn't be a Dragon Quest game without opportunities for grand adventure. The title takes place in a world made up of islands, and as the story progresses, you get to visit each and every one. Naturally, there are new materials to find as you travel further and further afield, but the game also places a lot of importance on exploration. There are secrets to discover, powerful monsters to slay, and rare rewards to claim. Need a break from all of that building? Just pick a direction and head off into the wilderness.
It's a bit of a shame, though, that the combat system remains so basic. Clearly, fighting monsters isn't the game's focus, but it would have been nice to see some sort of meaningful evolution from the first Builders. This is still a case of whacking a creature with you weapon before running away from its telegraphed attack, and then repeating those same two steps until it's dead. Having Malroth as an ally does speed things along, but the distinct lack of depth means that over the course of this lengthy journey, it's difficult not to just zone out, even during the more interesting boss fights.
But it's hard to care too much about the action when Builders 2 is so good at keeping you busy with other things. Purely as part of the aforementioned gameplay loop, the combat gets the job done, and Dragon Quest's many colourful monsters make for consistently charming opponents.
So Dragon Quest Builders 2 sounds pretty cool, but what about co-op? Frustratingly missing from the first game, co-op has been put forward as a selling point for this sequel, but the reality is that this still isn't the kind of full-blown cooperative multiplayer that a lot players wanted. For starters, the story is not playable with others -- it's strictly a single player experience. Hopping online with friends -- there's no local co-op, just to be clear -- plops you onto a separate island where you're free to build whatever you want, but there's no real exploration. It's essentially a multiplayer building mode.
Now, obviously, Builders 2 wants to tell a proper story, complete with characters and set events, and so incorporating multiplayer into the campaign may not be a viable option. We can understand that line of thinking, but some sort of survival-style co-op mode would have made for a fantastic addition.
Oh, and before anyone asks, Builders 2 does away with its predecessor's structure. A sticking point for many players, your progress, including your items, equipment, and gathered materials, would essentially be wiped whenever you moved to a new chapter in the first Builders. It was the game's way of keeping things fresh, but it understandably annoyed a lot of people. Anyway, that's gone in Builders 2. Although you can't carry over all of your materials when you sail off to explore a new island, you do keep your character level, equipment, tools, and building knowledge, meaning that progression is constant. Phew.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 does a lot of things better than its predecessor. A better story is propped up by better characters, and even though the opening hours are slow, there's a better overall flow to the game. All in all, Square Enix has constructed a rock solid sequel that, while safe and undeniably familiar, should satisfy both returning players and newcomers alike.
If anyone's got any questions about the game just @ me.
Ah, a bit disappointed by the multiplayer. Was a main selling point of this sequel for us, I figured you'd be able to buddy up through the story. Guess they have something to add for 3! All the other improvements sound great though. Solid review, thank you!
@NintendoFan4Lyf He gets more powerful as you level up. He doesn't have any armour, but you can craft him new weapons (which all have different looks).
@ShogunRok How's the exploration? I would hope that the sequel would build in the first game's sense of adventure.
@Enuo I think it's a bit more enjoyable than the first game. You're encouraged to explore more often because of certain tasks, and because there are usually some cool secrets to find. Building is obviously still the focus, but I do think there's a bigger emphasis on adventure this time around as well.
@ShogunRok Isn't there a hang glider type item in the game? If so, does it help traverse the environment at all?
@Broosh Yeah there is, and you get it reasonably early on. It can make traversal way, way faster. The glider itself is actually really speedy as well, and you can go a lot farther than you first think.
I'm so glad everything doesn't reset like in the first game when completing a chapter. That was definitely one of my biggest gripes with the first game.
@munkondi Fortunately it doesn't!
Any word on what the fps is? I've heard it's 60fps on both base and PS4 Pro.
@Onion Yep, 60fps. There are some very slight dips here and there if things get really hectic (loads of enemies on screen, buildings or objects being destroyed) but for the most part it seems to be 60fps solid.
I got DQ11 last week and it's my first Dragon Quest ever (loving the game btw) will I be somehow lost if I get this game?
Is there an ending to this or it keeps going forever?
Can you switch the music off, keeping the SFX volume? Those initially charming tunes in the first game drove me to despair by the time I reached the final chapter. I also found the number of blueprints meant that building creativity seemed a bit discouraged..
Sweet, thanks. Probably pick up the PS4 version (unless I really wanna take the game on the go) since the Switch version is 30fps with dips, according to Nintendolife. Not that it's a big deal in a game like this but I have options here, may as well go with the higher framerate for now.
@deadfred77 I just checked, and you can't mute the music completely, but you can turn it down to the point where it's very quiet.
Blueprints and recipes are still a big part of this and you're basically discovering them throughout the entire game. I do know what you mean about the system limiting creativity to some degree, but at least you can build on top of stuff or make something new once your task is completed.
@AFCC Nah, Builders has nothing to do with the main series, other than some story references that don't really matter too much anyway. You'll be fine jumping into this even if you had no idea what Dragon Quest is.
And there is an ending, but you can still keep playing.
Wow bummer to hear story mode isn't coop Hopefully the build mode or w/e is still fun for my wife and I.
@ShogunRok Awesome! Thank you
Is the multiplayer broken on ps4? 'cause I can't connect to anyone.
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