Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 Box art It’s been a long two year wait since it first released on other consoles, but DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 has finally made its way to Xbox and Xbox Game Pass. The Dragon Quest games have been around since the mid 80’s on the NES, having numerous sequels over the past few decades, primarily focusing on the RPG genre. Then roughly a decade ago a little game called Minecraft released, creating a whole new genre which almost everyone has played in some form at this point. It’s easy to make DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 comparison to Minecraft simply because of its blocky nature and block building gameplay, but this isn’t a simple Dragon Quest reskin you might initially expect. Even though it may focus more on the building side than typical RPG, there’s a great balance and blending of the two genres. For the Dragon Quest fans out there you can expect tons of Easter Eggs, references, music, slimes and more, just as if it was a typical Dragon Quest entry.

While I’ve played Minecraft before, I could never really get into it. Many love its freeform gameplay without any hand holding, but that’s exactly why I never really enjoyed it. This is where DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 absolutely excels, giving you a narrative based experience that you’d expect from any of the mainline titles but also melding together that block building gameplay that you enjoy. With a much more focused approach yet still letting you create however you like, DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 kind of took me by surprise, as I was initially expecting a Minecraft clone of sorts, but I couldn’t put this one down due to the addictive and quite lengthy campaign. Having no real narrative or core objectives is what made me not really care for Minecraft, and the fact that DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 actually focuses on this instead is what really made me stick with it for longer than I expected. While you’re given a linear story to follow along, this lets newcomers not only to the Dragon Quest universe feel at ease, but even players like myself that never felt at home in Minecraft, teaching you new tools and mechanics slowly as you progress without ever becoming overwhelming.

You are a fabled Builder, a person with an ability to crate anything you can think of to note down in your recipe book. The Children of Hargon are an evil kind that has made ever person and monster think that destruction is the way of life, capturing and imprisoning any Builders they can find. You too become captured and are being taken somewhere on a mysterious ship, that is, until your shipwreck on a seemingly the seemingly unknown Isle of Awakening. As you awake and find everyone else dead on the shores, it seems someone else has survived, Malroth, though he doesn’t remember what happened to him or how he got there. With new friend in tow, you two embark on a journey that will work on making you the best Builder out there to fight against the Children of Hargon, but doing so won’t be easy or quick.

This is just the beginning of your adventure and only one of many islands you’ll explore during your journey. Not only do you need to fight a force of evil but uncover what has happened and why you have the special abilities of a Builder. You can’t do this alone though and Malroth will be by your side throughout. With a focus on story the journey is quite lengthy, though this is most likely due to the constant distractions of building, farming and other quests that you’ll constantly be tasked with.

As you work on your journey to become the ultimate Builder,you’ll need to start off small and work your way up as you learn new recipes and experience. You’re first tasked with creating a small room but will eventually have the freedom to craft and build anything that you like, though you’re always guided by story based quests to progress further whenever you wish to do so. Each new area and island has its own materials to craft with, farm, cook and more, so even after 30+ hours I was still learning new recipes and building new items.

Early on certain areas will be blocked off, either by vast bodies of water that are impassible or certain blocks that aren’t able to be smashed and collected, acting as a barrier to keep you contained to particular areas. As you progress in the story you’ll eventually learn new abilities or gain new gear that will allow you to explore new places. For example, you’ll eventually gain access to a Windbreaker, a parachute-like item that allows you to glide across large gaps and prevent taking falling damage. Clearly a nod to Zelda, this is one way the game slowly opens you up to new areas to explore.

Because the maps are so large there’s a handful of different teleport stones you can find to use to instantly warp to and from once found, which becomes quite useful since you’ll be doing many fetch quests. While the latter half of the game does become a little more of a grind, you are almost always learning new recipes and things to craft as you progress. Even after 15+ hours I was gaining new tools to help me become a better crafter, so you never become overwhelmed all at once.

Given that the majority of DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 is much like Minecraft you can expect to be building often, be it small fences, watering holes, farms or even massive buildings, able to freely swap between first and third person whenever you see fit. Early on you’ll be given blueprints for certain buildings, showing you exactly where to place which blocks and its layers, though that’s only to be used as an early template, as you’ll want to create your buildings and farms whatever way, size or shape you wish. You’re also able to create dozens of decorative items, allowing you to customize all your creations in near endless possibilities.

The further you progress in the story the more materials you’ll be tasked with finding and collecting so you can make new items, thus the treadmill of becoming proficient and building one thing before learning new items begins. The building itself is quite easy, even in third person, as you can ‘aim’ up or downwards with a button press to place blocks exactly where you want. You’re really only limited by your imagination, and while I never really created anything extravagant, seeing what others have made online was nothing short of impressive.

Surprisingly, farming plays a large part of DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2’s gameplay. This is because instead of being by yourself, you make friends along the way which will help you at your base by cooking food, harvesting, planting crops, defending your base against monsters and more. Even though you’re primarily playing by yourself, though technically with Malroth by your side, it feels like a community based game at the same time in certain aspects which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t simply building for no reason; it had purpose. Your crops need to be planted, watered and looked after, which in turn can then be used to cook special food for your adventuring and villagers as well.

Combat plays a large part of DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 as well, not to only gather materials from enemies, but monsters are always roaming the lands, usually where you want to gather. That said, combat is easily the weakest part of the whole DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 experience. Yes you can craft new armor and weapons to survive better, but combat is quite simple that devolves into button mashing for the most part. Malroth will start fighting anything you attack so you always have backup, but all you’ll do is spam the attack button and quickly back away when the larger enemies telegraph their big attacks about to hit; rinse and repeat. You are able to charge your attack for a spin-like move, but its damage isn’t worth the time of not hitting a few times instead. Combat isn’t ‘bad’ per-se, it’s just incredibly basic and not memorable aside from the annoying times where monsters will rush your base, forcing you to fend them off. As you level up from experience in combat you’ll learn new combat abilities, but basically your and Malroth's health will go up and that’s it.

After the opening handful of quests, you’re whisked away to a completely new island, tasked with bringing back the Furrowfield Farm back to life. It’s in abysmal shape, so this is where you’ll start to learn the basics of setting up a gated farm, different housing types, how to tend to your crops and more. Quests come in small chunks, letting you focus on one or two things at a time instead of giving you a massive checklist and becoming overwhelmed. After a dozen or so hours in this area, finally completing my main objective, I thought I was near the end of my journey. Holy was I wrong. This first area, about 8-12 hours or so is basically the introduction to DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2, acting like a very lengthy tutorial.

That’s right, your first ten hours or so are going to be doing the first chapter of the game. After this it opens up even further if you’re trying to complete the campaign. This really shocked me but shows the value within that you’ll get, even if you don’t waste a lot of spare time building anything not needed directly to progress. As you do complete quests and objectives like harvesting, your villagers will drop hearts to show their gratitude and happiness. These are important to collect, as they are used to level up and improve your farm and village, later on being used to unlock special items, recipes and blocks as well.

If you’re like me and don’t really have an interest at building a massive castle or abode, you’ll be happy to know that up to four players can join together to work together on a single project or area. There’s a large caveat to this though; First, you need to complete that opening ‘tutorial’ I mentioned above, so you can’t even access the multiplayer until you’re about a dozen hours in. Second, from as far as I was able to tell, once you do open your Isle of Awakening for friends to join, that’s all that is allowed to join; only friends. This means you can’t have random people join you or you can’t find others to join if they aren’t already on your friends list and send an invite. Maybe there’s a workaround this that I’ve yet to figure out, but even so, multiplayer seems like a very small portion of DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2’s gameplay, focusing instead on the narrative and single player aspect.

While I think that Minecraft purists may not gravitate towards DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2’s more narrative and quest based approach, this is exactly what the genre needed for a player like me to become interested and invested in its world outside from simply given freedom to create whatever I want. This change of pace was very welcomed, and just as thought I was nearing the end of my journey, the game opened up further, giving me even more to play with however I wished, but always able to come back to that linear structure when I desire.

Block building mixed with RPG and survival elements and even farming works quite well within the Dragon Quest backdrop. Slimes and traditional enemies are fitting for a cute aesthetic like this and I kept wanting to progress further to see what new items I could craft and build with. Able to focus on any aspect you desire, DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 is a great blend of genres and may surprise you with how expansive its world actually is.

**DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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