Capsule Review: Dragon Quest Builders 2

Bigger and better than the first one, and an excellent blend of the creative expression of a building game wrapped in the story and characterization of an RPG.

A Minecraft-like game of gathering, crafting, and building wrapped in an action RPG. Set after the end of Dragon Quest II and loaded with callbacks to that game’s characters and events, the story casts you as an apprentice Builder who teams up with the amnesiac Malroth in human form (who does not remember that he is actually the demonic Master of Destruction) to stand against the Children of Hargon, a monster-led church that has outlawed building.

Similar to the previous game, the game is split up into a series of areas with their own characters and mechanical focus. But this time, they aren’t completely cut off from each other - you have a central base of operations from which you venture out to other islands to gain new allies and techniques. You might travel to an island to learn to farm, and while you’re there help out the inhabitants, explore the area to defeat monsters and collect resources, rebuild the local town, and finally defeat a boss, in an arc similar to what you’d see in the previous game. But then, you’d bring your farming techniques and some friends you made back to your base before heading off to the next island. As a result, the game presents a series of tightly-focused arcs but lets you play with all your collected toys in relative freedom along the way.

This fixes the biggest complaint I had with the original Dragon Quest Builders, and the second biggest - shallow combat - is improved as well. Combat still isn’t great but several small tweaks have made it much more engaging and less frustrating, including having Malroth accompany you and help out. Malroth is absolutely the heart of the game’s story, and his relationship with the Builder player character forms the thread uniting the game’s individual chapters and events with some fantastic storytelling-through-gameplay. While there are a couple of moments of frustrating railroading, it’s an excellent story that pays off everything it sets up.

Overall, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a an improvement on its predecessor to a degree I could hardly have hoped for. Everything is bigger and better, with deeper versions of all the previous mechanics and systems with new ones added alongside. And at heart, it’s still a great way to enjoy the creative expression of a building game with Dragon Quest characters and story providing context and motivation.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the story and most structured goals (earned the Platinum Trophy, completed all Tablet Targets). I didn’t do any multi-player or spend any more time on Buildertopias than required to access the story epilogue.

Docprof's Rating:

Five Stars: Favorite. This is one of my all-time favorite games that made a significant impact on me or that I've returned to time and again.

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