Build On A Classic
A few years back, there was a little crafting game that caught me by surprise: Dragon Quest Builders. As I have mentioned before, I initially thought the game was a late-to-the-party cash grab on the crafting genre when demoing it, but it turned out to be much more than I had anticipated when diving into the full game.
As such, when a sequel to the game was announced, it had my full attention. I’ve never been one for aimless crafting games, and Dragon Quest Builders brought structure to the genre that helped hold my attention, keeping it there long past when I originally published my review of it.
Now here we are, nearly three years since the original, and the main question I have to ask is this: does the sequel contain the same magic that won me over in the first game?
Developed by Omega Force and Square Enix, and published by the latter, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set for release on July 12th, 2019, for PS4 and Switch. The PS4 version was played for this review.
Tear It Down and Build It Up
Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place after the events of mainline series entry Dragon Quest II. A group of monsters known as the Children of Hargon have managed to gain a grip on the world, and are working to plunge it into ruin. Their main order of business? Capturing and eliminating all Builders, those in the DQB series who are able to craft and create things.
You play as a Builder who has been captured by the Children of Hargon, being held prisoner on a ship. Said ship gets caught in a storm and sinks, and you wash up on a deserted island along with a couple of other survivors.
There seems to be no way out of the island chain you washed up in, so it’s up to you to build yourself and the other survivors a brand new home on this island. Unfortunately, you are still an Apprentice. To learn the skills you need to build a brand new society, you will have to travel to other nearby islands to assist locals and expand your repertoire of Builders skills.
Much like its predecessor, DQB2‘s story brings some much needed structure to the crafting genre. This time, though, it feels a bit uneven. The plot starts off unusually dark, as I moved my character through dead bodies strewn around a beach to collect materials. Twisted humor continues to weave its way throughout, typically with members of the Children of Hargon constantly threatening to kill you and all you hold dear.
Clashing with this is some off-kilter zany humor. Giant worm creatures that help revive dirt around your farm and are fed with food made from poop (which you have to collect from your village’s bathroom). Members of the Children of Hargon struggling between their desire to murder and their uncontrollable urge to till the soil of your farm.
It’s an odd clash, especially for a game with such a “cute” aesthetic, but I ended up enjoying it more often than not. The plot itself was less dense than the original DQB, but this weird mix of dark and zany humor kept me pushing through quests to see just what kind of situation I would end up in next.
Following the Recipe
Much of the base gameplay of DQB2 is carried over from the original. You’ll still be building specific structures within a base area, exploring the world to find new materials, and completing various quests to expand cities, this time across various islands. In general, the game takes a “don’t fix what ain’t broke” approach as a sequel.
Most of the changes in this title are found in the minor details. Learning new crafting recipes and structure blueprints is now tied to mission progress, rather than just stumbling across new materials. Upgrading your towns requires keeping the citizens you attract happy, and you can tell when they are as they’ll spit out little heart-shaped collectibles that fill a progress bar to your next upgrade.
The biggest difference I found between DQB2 and the original comes in the combat. Fighting still plays out in a basic action style, with one button swinging whatever weapon you’re carrying. This time around, though, you always have an NPC fighting alongside you – typically one (a main character in the story named Malroth), sometimes many.
To balance this out, your character’s combat skills have been…a bit lessened. You are a Builder after all, not a fighter. However, this made my contributions to battle feel somewhat useless. Up against enemies the same (or slightly higher) level as me, I was doing barely any damage at all, usually waiting for one of my NPC partners to come up and lay down the real damage against my enemy.
The creation aspect, though, I still found myself having a ton of fun with. DQB2 still forces you to build multiple towns from scratch much like the original, but you also have access to the original island you woke up as a persistent building ground. For those looking for more freedom in their creativity, this is where you have the chance to run wild, putting all the recipes you learned on the story islands to use to create wild structures. The game also includes some online connectivity, giving you the ability to upload photos of your characters and creations to a public bulletin board where other’s can view and comment on them.
Aside from these minor tweaks and a few quality of life adjustments (weapons and armor no longer break, for example), fans of the original will find themselves right at home with the gameplay of DQB2.
Break Out the Old Blocks
Both visually and aurally, it doesn’t appear that much has changed between DQB2 and its progenitor. You still have your block-based world and cute chibi characters with Akira Toriyama’s distinctive visual style. Aside from a ton of new design blocks you can create to add more visual flair to your structures, it’d be easy to mistake this game for the original at a passing glance.
The soundtrack here, again, is made up of reused and remastered tracks from past Dragon Quest games. I can pretty much restate here what I said in my review of the previous entry: the music isn’t bad, but it didn’t stand out either, mostly fading into the background as I focused on my building.
What’s New is Old Again
All in all, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an incredibly solid game, continuing to bring some structure to the crafting genre, which is something that I very much appreciate. However, I didn’t find myself as enthralled with this entry as I did the original. I believe it’s because the game doesn’t feel as unique anymore. What was special about the previous game is retread here, and it didn’t feel like I was experiencing anything new.
However, I don’t want that to be taken as me saying DQB2 is a bad game – far from it in fact. What we have here is an excellent title with truly addictive mechanics and some fun exploration. It’s just missing that “shock to the system” quality that the original had for me.
If you’re new to this sub-franchise, I can guarantee you’ll have a great time with this game. For returning players, as long as you’re aware that this game is more of the same at its core, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here.
Review copy provided by Square Enix for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.