Block after Block
Dragon Quest built a legacy for itself in the past few decades. With a slew of acclaimed JRPGs and spin-off titles under its belt, the series has had a celebrated history. Back in 2016, Square Enix tried something different with the launch of Dragon Quest Builders. The game ambitiously combined the Dragon Quest IP with a certain popular voxel-based crafting game. Since then, Square Enix gave the go-ahead for a sequel, and it releases in the West in less than a month.
Before the Western release, I got a chance to play a preview at E3, and now it’s on my radar. You play as an apprentice builder in a world where builders are scarce. The Children of Hagron (from Dragon Quest 2) have prohibited building and incarcerated anyone who does so. However, your character has escaped the cult’s clutches, and it’s up to you to topple them.
Despite how dark the setup sounds, Dragon Quest Builders 2 exudes a sense of calm and peace. You choose to play as a boy or girl, and you end up on an island. You’ll soon meet a friendly NPC who’s under attack by some wild animals. This situation gave me the first taste of the game’s combat, which wasn’t complicated. A couple taps of the attack button would unleash a basic combo, and foes presented enough danger to keep you cautiously on guard.
After dealing with the monsters, the NPC excitedly wants you to help her build a farm. In fact, many years ago, that island housed one of the best farms in the world, and she wishes to make that a reality again. I immediately got flashbacks to games like Harvest Moon, but Builders sets itself apart with its focus on creating.
When you reach the dilapidated farm, the game quickly teaches you the basics of building. By placing a scarecrow, you designate a field for crops, and your workers (in this case, that friendly NPC) starts tilling the soil. After you plant a seed, she’ll automatically water them, too. This automation lets you focus on crafting and shaping the world around you rather than maintaining your crops. After all, your job description involves building, not farming.
The moment that really got my attention was when the game introduced blueprints. These look to be the bread and butter of Dragon Quest Builders 2. To help the farmers water the crops, I needed to build a canal that carried water to the farm. In your notebook, you’ll find a 3D rendering of whatever you’re trying to build—in this case, a canal.
The render shows up in the real world, and it’s up to you to place the right blocks in the right spot. In other words, you literally build large constructs, one piece at a time. The mechanic serves as a puzzle without a sense of urgency, bringing a laid-back vibe to this pseudo-JRPG.
This mix of active and passive gameplay makes Dragon Quest Builders 2 a relaxing experience. The combat was surprisingly engaging, despite its straightforward simplicity. The low-pressure environment felt welcoming, like a warm cup of tea after a long day of work. Hopefully the rest of the game continues to deliver a similar experience.
For more previews and information about this or anything else from E3, check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.