Dragon Quest has always appealed to me in a big way. I love this light-hearted approach that stands out against the more self-serious Final Fantasy. I love the innately British localization that’s always so full of series' distinct charm. If a title has the words Dragon Quest on it, I’m immediately intrigued. Even its spinoffs feel like fresh, exciting slices of this zany universe. Such is the case with Dragon Quest Builders 2.
The conceit for this particular spinoff is a fun one. Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place in a world where inhabitants consider the act of building - simply creating something out of nothing - to be treacherous and evil. It’s so extreme, in fact, that people consider the act of creating anything, even cooking, sinful. Nobody understands the very concept of invention and those who are gifted with such knowledge are known as Builders.
That’s where you come in. A nameless, faceless Builder who may very well bring about a building revolution with your insane crafting skills. Your companion Malroth joins you on your adventures, a classic JRPG amnesiac who - if you couldn’t already tell from his malevolent name - seems a tad fishy. There are a lot of other characters throughout and even more dialogue. It’s sharp, witty, and breezy, but there can certainly be too much of it and it begins to drag after half a dozen hours.
Building, Farming, and Surviving in Dragon Quest Builders 2
As you might expect from a Dragon Quest game, it takes a little while to get going. There’s a lot of slow tutorials and exposition with little intention of getting going, enjoyable on its own merits but it does tend to labor on the point. Ultimately, though, as much as Builders 2 likes to feed you dialog and world-building, this is a game about creating. It’s a guided sandbox that comes together as Minecraft meets Maple Story.
The Minecraft part is immediately clear. The world is made up of large, blocky terrain and you gather resources to survive and build. That much is pretty obvious. However, the Maple Story portion of the game becomes clear a bit later on. Once you’re around half a dozen hours in, Dragon Quest Builders 2 becomes more about farming crops, ensuring your population(s) are happy and fed, and generally building a nice little society.
The AI are mostly independent. They’ll look after themselves and work on your fields so long as you provide the right assets. For instance, a scarecrow will spur your workers into action, tilling the fields and making them crop-ready. The challenge quickly becomes providing them with what they need, finding more people to join your town, and ensuring everyone stays safe.
Nothing you do for your population goes unnoticed. For every meal eaten, every night happily slept through, and every crop harvested, your population will drop little hearts to show their appreciation. Gather these hearts, referred to as ‘gratitude points’, to gradually level up your settlements, increasing the efficiency of your workers and earning new recipes along the way.
Slaying Slimes In Dragon Quest Builders 2
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dragon Quest game without some blue slimes to slay. Unfortunately, the combat is the weakest part of what Builders 2 offers. It’s rudimentary and tedious, consisting of little more than slashing away at monsters. Thankfully, you can often rely on your stronger and more ferocious companions to do most of the legwork, especially when monsters invade your settlement and the entire population joins in to kick some monster butt.
You’ll level up as you fight your way through typically colorful arrays of fiends, granting you access to bigger and better weapons, but the whole thing feels rather dull. Eventually, you’ll come across large-scale boss encounters, where you’ll have to come together with your companions and topple a huge foe. These fights can be tense, dramatic, and challenging, offering more refined and satisfying encounters than the previous game, but there’s still something missing.
You can lay traps, turn bits of land into lethal death traps, but the experience is ultimately clumsy, messy, and frustrating. You can prepare all you like, but once combat begins you’ll be helplessly flailing in the boss’ direction and trying to avoid being hit. After all, you’re not especially spry. The combat could really use some expansion, perhaps a dodge roll or side-step, or simply some more compelling weapons to use.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review | Final Thoughts
Unfortunately, things aren’t all peachy on the technical side. Playing the game on a PlayStation 4 Pro, Dragon Quest Builders 2 doesn’t do the hardware any favors. While at a distance it looks quite nice, that facade quickly fades when you get close. Textures appear flat and low-res, while the limited draw distances render the environments as though they were shrouded in fog. A frame rate that struggles to keep up makes this all the more frustrating. Once your settlements become crowded and lively, you’ll notice the frame rate takes a dive.
Ultimately, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a solid improvement on its predecessor. The combat may still be thin and underwhelming, but the core of the experience: gathering, building, farming, and surviving, is compelling and exciting. The writing, loaded though it may be, is full of charm and a breezy approach to world-building that you can’t help but appreciate. If you like a slice of sandbox with a hint of humor, Dragon Quest Builders 2 may just be what you’re looking for.
TechRaptor reviewed Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Nintendo Switch.
- Charming, Endearing Writing
- Engaging, Rewarding Building Mechanics
- More Dragon Quest!
- Thin, Clumsy Combat
- Frame Rate Struggles On A PS4 Pro