Developer: Square Enix, Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 12 July 2019 (Consoles), 10 December 2019 (PC)
Price: $59.99 USD/$89.95 AUD – Available Here
Dragon Quest Builders, the quirky take on the long running JRPG franchise, is back with a sequel. Like the first game, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an alternate version of Dragon Quest 2 that mixes action RPGs with voxel sandbox gameplay. Players will wake up on the shores of the Isle of Awakening and soon make friends with Malroth, a warrior with no memories. Together, the pair will take on the cult Children of Hargon who has a chokehold on the world.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a generally lighthearted take on the franchise, a nod back to the more youthful and joyous days of early RPGs. The writing is simple and accessible, making the game appropriate for older children. The writers do an excellent job conveying personality and culture through conversational style, though the accents can be so thick it becomes be hard to read. The humour is not very complex so older children will enjoy it; however, adults have a few gags and jokes that were clearly designed to go over the heads of the little ones.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 mixes elements of action RPGs, voxel sandboxes, and puzzlers. The rhythm of the game is often predictable, cycling between exploration, guided building, and set combat pieces. The difficulty level is low for the most part, making the game ideal for older children or anyone looking for a relaxed game to play.
Combat straight forward. Malroth provides 50-65% of the overall damage, leaving the player to fill in the rest. The builder’s basic attack is the player’s bread and butter. There are some other combat abilities that can be used, but these fall under specific use cases. There is also no dodge, so players will need to learn how to run away from power attacks and position themselves out of harms way while still hitting as many enemies as possible. All these elements combined created a very spammy experience that left me with sore fingers. I suspect if the developers tweaked the controls, they could significantly cut down on some of the button mashing.
The game’s set combat segments are not very hard. For the most part, waves of enemies are hurled at the town. A third of the population are usually able to assist the player and Malroth in the defense. As long as players are continuing to outfit their villagers with the most up to date weapons, the villagers and Malroth can almost handle the entire battle the battle alone. The bosses are the main exception. These fights introduce some interesting mechanics to the fight that will require players to do a little problem solving. The boss fights are definitely the best of what the game’s combat has to offer.
Exploration is a key part of Dragon Quest Builders 2. Each island the builder and Malroth visit are massive landscapes with several biomes. Tucked away in all corners are resources, monsters, mini-bosses, builder puzzles, and treasures to discover. The level design is good. There are lots of points of interest with plenty of monsters and resources along the way. The exception is the higher areas, which often are just vast areas with little to no points of interests. Besides completing the map and using the cliffs as a jump off point for the gliders, there is little reason to explore these areas.
The puzzle design deserves a special mention. Since the game is designed to be accessible to a wide range of ages and skill levels, the puzzles are never very hard. Instead, they offer interesting ideas that play up to the game’s focus on building. Many emphasize pattern recognition, observation skills, and multi-step planning.
Building is a simple affair. The room is the basic unit in Dragon Quest Builders 2. It is an enclosed space with walls two blocks high and accessible through a door. Special room types will offer different bonuses based on the types of items and quality of materials inside. For the most part, players are provided with a lot of guidance with what to build. NPCs will pepper the player with special room requests and give players a list of items needed. Players are free to decide where to build the room and sort of the details for themselves. Major building projects for story completion will give players blueprints of well designed structures. The only downside is players have no creativity in the matter as the blueprints require the building to be done to specifications. The larger structures are set down at predetermined locations while players can lay down smaller buildings where they choose. The blueprint system works well enough, but there is room for improvement. The blueprint overlay in the world is only for the base layer and is not very clear about which block goes where, requiring players to constantly bring up the original blueprint plans to check on progress. While a blue effect appears when the correct block is placed, there are better alternatives. I would have liked to see a detailed blueprint overlay that clearly shows a 2D icon of the correct block that also rises as each layer of blocks are placed.
The guided building will not provide all the needed resources for an entire town. Players will need to add their own buildings to ensure the town’s food, housing, and hygiene needs are met. While the game does not strictly require players to keep the population happy, it will significantly increase heart production, allowing players to progress more quickly through the story.
The PC port quality is decent but has room for significant improvement. Mouse and keyboard controls are very good, and I actually preferred them over the controller. The only downside is the restrictive key bind options that prevent most non-alphanumeric keys from being bound. Another frustration is the game’s tendency to reset the camera settings. I preferred the wide camera angle as I found the default angle caused me some minor motion sickness, but the game would return to the default camera angle every time the builder went into a tight space or a plot-related dialogue occurred. There is a setting in the options to prevent camera changes, but I found it had little effect. Additionally, the game is capped at 60 FPS. While the game does provide options for a 30 FPS cap for weaker computers, an uncapped framerate option would be ideal.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 has a cute super deformed art style that reflects its family-friendly gameplay design. The world is bright and utterly charming. The style is still distinctively Dragon Quest with many classic monsters making an appearance in the game.
The audio experience is enjoyable. The soundtrack does an excellent job of setting the tone for the game. The sound effects are of high quality. There is no voice acting, opting for the more traditional JRPG convention of using a few standard vocalizations to accent certain parts of dialogue. It is a wise choice as some of the heavily accented characters in the game would require skilled voice actors to pull off, otherwise the performance would sound like a train wreck.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a solid, casual game mixing several beloved genres that complement each other well. It’s a family-friendly title that can be enjoyed by adults and older children alike. If you are looking for a more relaxed experience than some of the more hardcore builders out there and need a more guided experience than Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the perfect game for you.
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