Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 11.07.2019

Review for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch

The first Dragon Quest Builders game impressed on Switch when it released all the way back in early 2018, with its blend of sandbox building, mining and crafting simulation à la Minecraft and classic Dragon Quest tropes turned Action-RPG. This was however a late port of an existing title released previously on Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita, so there was no doubt the Switch could handle it. If not as well as the PS4, at least just as well if not better than the PS3 and Vita. Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the other hand, if it comes only now as a relatively late localisation, is a game that came out day and date with its PS4 counterpart in Japan. Now this Switch version also releases in the west alongside another version for its higher-specced rival. The European Switch release, which comes courtesy of publisher Nintendo, was long awaited and set to improve on its already excellent predecessor. It is therefore with much excitement that we delve into it for reviewing purposes.

The basic premise of the adventure here is slightly different from the first title. A long time has passed since the days of the legendary builder of the first game. More "builders" have emerged since, however a new evil king of monsters has risen and taken over, banning the act of building or creating for good. Remaining builders are ostracised and hated due to a cult enforcing the idea onto monsters and humans alike that they are evil. This cult is known as the Children of Hargon (the same antagonist from Dragon Quest II). The game opens with a new builder aboard a ship run by monsters. This small area acts as a short tutorial section to teach basic controls as well as crafting and building mechanics. However the ship is soon hit by a storm and all of its passengers get either killed or cast away on a nearby island, the Isle of Awakening. Here, the hero meets Malroth, an amnesiac brawler who will accompany him for most of the adventure, helping gathering materials but also taking part in combat as an AI controlled helper. Lulu, a bossy girl who was also aboard the ship survived as well and the three of them soon meet the ghost of a Hammerhood, a classic Dragon Quest monster type, called the Hairy Hermit who offers the builder a hammer and tasks him with visiting other lands. The goal of this journey is to search for not only more people to rebuild a kingdom on the island, but also more materials, growing things, food types and so on.

Dragon Quest Builders had four very distinct chapters and regions, with town development forced to be started from scratch between them and crafting recipes unlocked in one region not carrying to the next. This successor functions similarly between chapters but it has more of a hub approach with one region in particular, the aforementioned Isle of Awakening, that has to be worked on with all recipes from all regions being available there. Meanwhile, other regions are still kept separate and are there to help unlock new building possibilities for this hub region. This means that, at last, the story mode itself has an area where every block type in the game can be mixed together to create more ambitious projects, which is certainly an improvement. The original was already a mix of an Action-RPG adventure with Minecraftesque building, mining and crafting elements. This one steers things even more towards the RPG side of things. Indeed, previously, levelling up the hero was only achievable by gaining experience through the development of the town, which itself was obtained by creating structures and rooms or varying levels of complexity yielding increasing amounts of experience points.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch

In this one however, levelling up happens through killing monsters, which is not quite as original but perhaps easier to grasp as well, making it more accessible. Dragon Quest Builders encouraged town development through that means but this one introduces a new element to still very much entice players to build and develop a beautiful and, most importantly, functional little hamlet: Gratitude Points. This is how the level of a town gets increased. Villagers will drop those points, represented by little hearts, when the hero accomplishes specific tasks such as making food readily available to them, completing side-quests and building them important facilities like bedrooms, toilets, public baths or even kitchens. Upon reaching Gratitude Points thresholds, the town level can then go up and new crafting recipes will become available in that region of the game.

The same system found previously which detected and identified "room types" by the walls delimiting them and what type of furniture was placed inside is still in place. However it does seem to work anywhere within a given region now, even if making specific types of rooms for the system to detect outside the boundaries of a given town will not produce any beneficial effects since villagers will not make use of them. Still, this is a very welcome change, likely introduced to make developing the hub island all the more interesting, by giving it way more scope. Through each chapter, the builder is therefore given a succession of tasks, from turning tainted soil into clean earth that can sustain life so as to plant crops, or venturing out into the vast world in search of new resources not readily available in town. It all plays and controls similarly to its predecessor, except for the inclusion of swimming (although swimming from one island to the other is restricted by powerful water dwellers mercilessly killing the builder if he or she should try). Dragon Quest Builders 2 also adds an optional first person view. It is however fair to say that the first person camera here is as usable as the third person view mode in Minecraft. They're great additions to get a different view of things, but actual play is better handled through each of those games' default camera setting.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch

At least however, first person view in Dragon Quest Builders 2 makes peering into buildings that were given a roof a lot easier. This was a gameplay issue with the first that remains here in third person mode: the camera has trouble fitting into tight, enclosed spaces. This new inclusion is therefore not useless at all in those instances.

The previous game was already heavily compared to Minecraft for good and obvious reasons. Everything that was said while reviewing the original on Switch about both titles having their own drawbacks and advantages still holds true, especially since Minecraft itself also continues to expand and evolve too. Indeed, both titles offer very different experiences, equally worthy of attention. Dragon Quest Builders 2 however makes strides as well to evolve the formula into a more refined offering. Lack of proper online or even local multiplayer was a criticism of the first title, in contrast to the online focus of Minecraft. The title at hand however pulls almost all the stops in that regard with a full blown social sharing platform of screenshots being made available from the get go so players alike can share their own creations for other players to gaze upon in their own game, either at a dedicated notice board or as a pastime while the game loads upon boot-up or when travelling from a region to another. Furthermore, at last, multiplayer is finally included for up to 4 simultaneous builders.

This is still a far cry from Minecraft's own realm system allowing up to 10 people to play at the same time in the same world hosted on a server so the owner of the world does not need to be present or even online for other players to join and progress on their building projects... but the inclusion of multiplayer is still a very welcome addition that only makes this a more enjoyable ride. Communication with other players however is, as always, very restricted from within the game with the lack of proper voice chat being as always a sore sticking point on Switch with Nintendo insisting on enforcing their online app for that purpose and third party developers staying clear of it for good reason. Nevertheless, this is a sizeable improvement over the original and further strengthens the feel while playing Dragon Quest Builders 2 that this is definitely a much more refined formula, to the point of sadly making the first game outdated. Revisiting the latter for its different, separate story, is however still a very much worthwhile activity of course.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch

Visual presentation is at least on par with its predecessor with the engine powering the game, The Sony Computer Entertainment developed PhyreEngine, remaining largely unchanged except in the use of transparencies on water since now the hero builder is able to swim and explore underwater. Draw distance settings in this Switch version seem to be dialled exactly the same as they were in the previous title. However there is a change in both frame rate targets and docked mode rendering resolution. The previous game ran at 720p in both use-cases but ramped up the frame rate target to 60FPS while docked and capped it at 30 in handheld. This one renders at what appears to to be a fixed 1080p while docked and 720p in portable mode, however the frame rate is completely uncapped in both cases. The conclusion with its predecessor was that this type of game didn't necessarily need the higher resolution in docked mode since this type of experience, with its blocky environments, does not aim for photorealism.

Therefore, enjoying this kind of game at 60FPS while docked, with its shinier effects than the likes of vanilla Minecraft on console, was a real treat and also kind of expected since, as is important to remember, it was made so even the PS Vita could run it. Here however, while the far more pristine appearance on large panel displays is certainly an appreciable effort, the more fluctuating performance which never reaches its 60FPS max but rather hovers around the 30~40FPS mark is slightly more distracting, especially when it glides down into the higher 20s in more crowded scenes, though the latter occurrences are very infrequent. Handheld mode however, which is the most enjoyable mode of play for this type of experience anyway, exhibits this to a much lesser extent, probably due to the less stressful resolution for the system even at lower GPU clock speeds but at equal memory bandwidth. Frame rate is uncapped there too, yes, but it turns out more stable. Portable play afforded by the Switch is obviously the main draw for this specific version of the game and the type of experience that it is lends itself perfectly to short bursts of play on the go as much as putting in an hour or two while lying down in bed before sleep.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is simply everything that its predecessor was and then some, with some improved mechanics, more block types to choose from and a new and more interesting story. This is topped off by a much more social experience thanks to the great implementation of online sharing of creations and the inclusion, at last, of multiplayer. It further cements itself as a worthy contender for a Minecraft rival, while still being reasonably different enough that the two can coexist while appealing to different tastes. However the more ambitious graphical settings in docked mode compared to its predecessor result in a reduced level of performance, still keeping it from being the perfect version it could be on Switch where handheld play really makes it shine all the more. This, nevertheless, is the perfect title to make Dragon Quest fans hold out until the release of Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition on Switch on September 27th of this year.

Also known as

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Developer

Omega Force

Publisher

Nintendo

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 12.07.2019   North America release date 12.07.2019   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 12.07.2019    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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