Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 23.12.2019

Review for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4

The premise of the original Dragon Quest Builders didn't seem to offer much new to the genre it was clearly aping. It was another Minecraft clone, this time with a skin from one of the most venerable and respected JRPG series of all time. It might offer a little fun… yet, it offered a lot more. This sleeper hit massively impressed numerous reviewers here at Cubed3 on each and every format. Now only a year later the sequel has arrived and expectations are a good deal higher, can Dragon Quest Builders 2 live up to them? Cubed3 finds out!

The story does not follow on from the first Dragon Quest Builders, and instead follows the conclusion to Dragon Quest 2. Hargon may be defeated, but now a group of people calling themselves the 'Children of Hargon' are trying to avenge their evil masters by gathering up all Builders in the world and slaughtering them - removing the power of creation. Playing as one of these captured Builders, it seems death is just around the corner. Captured, on a boat and being dragged off to death. That's until that boat ride is cut short.

After a short swim, the hero finds themselves on the Isle of Awakening, and there the Builder meets a young man named Malroth. Now, those who played Dragon Quest 2, or one of the various spin-off titles that reference it, may remember Hargon's plan was to raise the God of Destruction. No, not Beerus - Malroth. A figure that appears fairly regularly through the franchise. So, when an amnesiac human boy with a penchant for breaking stuff named Malroth turns up, knowledgeable players of the series history will fairly quickly guess where that story thread is going. Yeah, subtle. Regardless, Malroth becomes the muscle for the builder. Accompanying and protecting them on the first steps across this Isle of Awakening. This is the hub of the game and from here the builder embarks to many other lands to learn to become a Master Builder. Starting with Furrowfields.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4

The land of Furrowfields isn't doing particularly well. An ill wind sweeps over everything and a poison infects the land itself. The Builder has a chance to try to push back this corruption when a chance encounter with an NPC leads them toward a certain decimated little village. At the heart of the village is a tree known as the Deitree, a tiny sapling trying desperately to hold back the corruption that is poisoning the land. Along with a handful of characters met along the way, the Builder is tasked with building up the village, to recruit townsfolk, and to assist in their requests. This strengthens and grows the tree, pushing back the corruption.

This first village teaches the core gameplay concepts; the basics of smashing blocks, collecting them, then reusing them; the basics of farming, to gather food, feeding the Builder and the villagers; on how to cleanse the poison in the land, making new potential farmland, and, most importantly, of building. Every village needs a wealth of rooms, when night falls dangers lurk and so first on the agenda are bedrooms for the villagers to sleep and make it to dawn. Farmed foods need cooking which means a kitchen, barns for the farming supplies, and toilets for… "night soil." Yes, any good village needs a toilet but it's a strange experience to see a huge group of villagers queue up then one by one "make use" of the single clay pot and towel on the wall. Even weirder when everyone in the rushes at once to craft some night soil. The reality of building up a town is insanely addictive, but often… just insane.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4

These key gameplay elements are wonderfully delivered via simple side quests, and the fundamentals are quick and easy to pick up. As these quests are completed, and the villagers kept happy, they begin to drop little hearts of affection, collecting enough of these increases the town's overall level. This gives bonuses to the abilities of the villagers in the town in addition to adding more people to the village and unlocking new crafting recipes.

As all this is going on, and the game is getting more and more addictive, there's a grand story playing out too. The evil beings in this land aren't happy to see someone restoring the tree, and decide to try to destroy the town, fighting them back, and protecting this new little Hamlet makes up the first chapter of the story. Once it's all complete though, it becomes clear just how massive this adventure really is. After restoring the land of Furrowfields, it's back to the Isle of Awakening to build up new areas there too, to learn that building means more than building rooms and amenities. It's building a world, and here the Builder learns to make rivers, valleys, forests, and meadows.

Once this is complete, the cycle continues, the Builder travels to a new land; the land of Krumbul Dun, where the focus isn't on farming, but on mining. Develop skills there, return and expand the Isle of Awakening further, then the game decides to torture, not only the Builder, but the player too, with the land of Skelkatraz. As is evident from its name, this part of the story is dedicated to a prison and removes everything that makes this fun or interesting. It's an absolute slog to get through and one of the stupidest design decisions ever seen in a video game. The next section isn't much better as the freedom to explore and build at leisure is replaced with a constant fight against the tide of enemies - having to repeatedly build, replace, or repair defences as the hordes threaten to overrun.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4

Thankfully, there's a postgame once the story is complete that offers up new islands and areas to explore and build with... but, this detracts from what actually made this title stand apart from its progenitor and the other clones of its ilk. The reason this is so much more engaging than its inspiration - Minecraft - is that it has been built with a story and a goal as the focus, rather than just an open sandbox to play in, but this is only the case for the first half of the game, as the second half feels a grind, and the post-game is back to being just the sandbox this evolved from.

These are all elements the developers are experimenting with, and while some don't land, there are plenty of new additions and elements that do. For example, there are new tools to expand the gameplay. There's a magical pot which can hold infinite water within it to craft, not just waterholes and ponds, but waterfalls, rivers, and lakes. The Wind Mantle allows the build to glide across huge chasms. The rubbish durability system has been trashed; underwater explorations. first-person perspective; so much more!

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The first Dragon Quest Builders was an amazing surprise, taking all the things its progenitor did and improving on them by adding its own flair and style, now Dragon Quest Builders 2 feels bigger in every way, but only better in some. The core mechanics have been polished, the world shines, and, generally, this is an absolute joy to chill out with. It's a shame that the whole thing doesn't feel this way, with the sections that experiment elsewhere feeling a step backward and detracting from the whole experience. It's clear the developers are still experimenting, and it's very exciting to imagine what the third entry could look like.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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