First, I’ll answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind: yes, you can pet the dog in Dragon Quest Builders 2.
Not unlike its predecessor, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a sandbox game a la Minecraft or Terraria, but with a more concrete story. The narrative is loosely based on the events of Dragon Quest 2, albeit from the perspective of a “Builder.” In this world, citizens have been taught to despise Builders and think of them as dastardly evil-doers. However, the main character is an adorable, doe-eyed simpleton who couldn’t menace a slime. Much of the game is spent changing hearts and opening people’s eyes to the wonders of building.
It plays very similarly to the first Dragon Quest Builders, improving on the controls and introducing new tools and mechanics. It has similar — but cleaner — graphics and tons of new items and recipes. DQB2 introduces new methods of travel, an actual leveling up system, and farming, which townspeople will help out with, and they’ll even pitch in when it comes to building. There’s also a multiplayer mode, though it doesn’t allow for co-op through the story. Instead, up to four players can roam around and build together on one player’s home island.
This “Isle of Awakening” functions similarly to the Terra Incognita mode from the first game: an open sandbox allowing players to build to their hearts’ content. There are some story missions that require building certain structures on the island, however, the rest is entirely up to the player. The main character washes up on this island to find two new friends: Lulu and Malroth. Lulu is a bossy common girl, while Malroth is a hotheaded warrior type, and they tend to bump heads, but before long, your trio all become best friends. I wound up getting very emotionally attached to the characters, and some of the story themes and sheer emotions I felt while playing made me feel like I was in a Studio Ghibli film. It sometimes got dark, but there was always hope and friendship.
Shortly after you arrive on your new island and make some new best friends, you all decide that the island needs more townspeople, so you and Malroth set sail to other nearby islands. First up is Furrowfield, a once-green and lush island with a huge farm housing tons of different plants and crops. When you arrive, however, all the good soil has been turned to sludge. Here we meet Rosie, a blue-haired, giant-glasses-wearing farmer, for whom I would do absolutely anything. She and the other townsfolk have all been brainwashed into believing Builders are evil by the way of the “Children of Hargon,” a group of monsters that the player fights throughout the game. Rosie decides she is willing to forgo these teachings if it means you can help rebuild the farm.
This island is a good tutorial and guide for the rest of the game: it shows the player how to create rooms with specific requirements, work from blueprints, and even introduces the new farming mechanic, much of which is done by the villagers so you can focus on building. As the main character gets better at at construction, you can strike a builder’s bell, which increases the level of your town and brings in more villagers that might be willing to give building a try. As you construct new rooms and structures, and as the townsfolk do their day-to-day tasks such as farming, eating, and sleeping, they will give you “gratitude” points. These are little hearts that are dropped and can be collected and counted toward raising the town to the next level. Each level unlocks more recipes and warms more people to the idea of building. It’s a fun way to collect XP, and it can be really satisfying to pick up a lot of those hearts at once.
Though building (have I said that word enough yet?) is clearly the main focus of the game, there are also plenty of opportunities to do battle as you explore each island and run into monsters. I was pleasantly surprised with the combat of this game, and it actually felt pretty good. As soon as I started wishing that my character could have a charged attack, I reached a level that let me learn one. Later in the game, you also unlock an extremely satisfying move that builds up over time while in combat, and it’s probably my favorite thing to unleash upon the world. There’s also a lot more combat in the game than I was expecting, with monsters periodically attacking your base, various mini-bosses scattered around the maps, and, of course, opportunities for larger boss fights with some seriously fun mechanics. It’s not all slashing your sword, and there are sometimes other strategies involved — I certainly wasn’t expecting to enjoy the combat as much as I did.
In fact, I ended up spending entire days just playing this game for hours on end. The building was addicting, and I was actually invested in helping out the characters. There were plenty of times where I was just speeding through dialogue, though. There is a lot of dialogue. It’s incredibly well-written, and each character (and every type of monster!) has their own way of speaking that is conveyed well through syntax. But man, they just say a lot of stuff. All too often, things will get repeated several times, which adds a lot of unnecessary time to an already long game. Sometimes it feels patronizing to have DQB2 repeat itself to me and explain mechanics that I’ve already become comfortable with, but for the most part, I can easily look past the long, redundant dialogue to get back to what is obviously the best aspect of the game: the building.
I am not a particularly creative person, but man, I do still love to create. I’ve seen some of the amazing things people have made in these games. I’ll never be able to create such fantastic builds, but it’s still so much fun to just play around with all the materials and make a new building. One of my proudest moments was when I first returned to the Isle of Awakening and created a small cliff-side cafe, a restaurant overlooking the island. I’m now in the process of creating a gigantic farm alongside an equally gigantic farmhouse meant to house several villagers. I still have to learn how to properly and easily place roofs on my buildings, but I’m having an absolute blast just making stuff. I can’t wait to see what some people create — I know it will be more exciting than a restaurant and farmhouse.
Coming back to the Isle of Awakening after spending hours on other main islands is truly like a welcome home, and I immediately wanted to go create something with all the new recipes I’d learned. But I also knew it would soon be time to venture out to a new island and gain cooler recipes and more materials. Once I beat the story, the possibilities really opened up, and my creative juices started to flow. After a long, emotional journey, it felt good to come back home and build a farm for all of my townspeople. Dragon Quest Builders 2 absolutely captivated me, and I can’t wait to see what wonderful creations come from others that find themselves equally enthralled.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Square Enix.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 improves upon the first game by adding interesting new mechanics and great combat, all while creating a lively world. Combined with its incredible writing and stirring music, the end result is, simply put, just a lot of fun to play.