It’s pretty clear by now that the game industry works in a sort of cycle of fads. Nothing good can exist in contemporary video games without there being ten copies of it. MOBAs, Battle Royale games, TCGs, deckbuilding games, fifty thousand versions of Auto Chess…if something takes off, everyone’s going to want a piece of the pie, and sometimes they even turn around and target a different pie as we saw with Fortnite.
Back in the day, the pie in question was Minecraft and related building games. One of the spawn of that particular era was Dragon Quest Builders, a spinoff developed by none other than Omega Force (best known for the endless Dynasty Warriors games). Sure, it came out a little after the Minecraft craze had cooled, but it still fit firmly into that mold and ended up being surprisingly decent. Decent enough, in fact, that it also spawned a sequel with Dragon Quest Builders 2. Despite all this talk of spawning, the game is better than you might think.
Long ago, the monstrous Children of Hargon were defeated. This villainous religion is based around the tenet of destruction, and any who would create are their enemies. That, unfortunately, includes you. You’re a Builder, someone tasked with creating buildings, items, food and more. You’ll have to deal with Hargonite opposition as you work to rebuild a destroyed world, passing through three very different islands on your way. All the while, you’ll team up with your pal Malroth, who’s got a case of amnesia, a big club, a destructive streak a mile wide and the same name as the Hargonites’ deity…
Everyone knows and loves Dragon Quest, right? It’s a pun-filled take on the classic JRPG formula. Dragon Quest Builders took that concept and stapled it on top of a Minecraft-styled construction game. It worked, though, because the JRPG elements added a level of structure that standard Minecraft was missing. You can build whatever you want, sure, but there’s also a plot to follow with specific things to work on, so there’s always something new to make, discover or do.
Builders 2 takes that same idea and expands on it in several ways. You’ve got a partner to work with in Malroth, for instance, giving you a little combat expertise that your main character lacks. Further assistance comes in the form of NPCs who learn to build and help you on larger projects, which is welcome when you see the size of some of the massive construction projects you’re expected to throw together. Each area you visit has its own gimmick, as well, ranging from farming to mining to more unusual themes, so there’s plenty of variety to go around.
Everything’s nice, clean and enjoyable, too. Not perfect, necessarily – combat tends to be a bit of a slog, especially since your character is something of a weenie and most battles boil down to providing additional damage while Malroth does the real work. Additionally, while the new builder tools like the fluid-moving jug and the block-moving gloves make for a nice concept, the controls fight you every step of the way while using them due to an attempt to pack multiple functions on the same buttons. The classic smash-and-replace strategy tends to be the best way to make adjustments, leaving the gloves and pot relegated to specific scenarios.
Even still, these are minor quibbles compared to the sheer joy of collection and creation. Building little classic RPG towns is a great time, and even if larger projects tend to be somewhat hand-holdy thanks to all the help you receive, there’s still a palpable level of accomplishment when you’ve finished them. You’re encouraged via the hub area to work on your own ideas as well as following the plot, so more creative players have plenty to do as well.
From a presentation perspective, Builders 2…well, it looks like Builders but a little more so. It’s got that classic Toriyama aesthetic you know and love slapped onto a cute super-deformed art style, which is as much a match made in Heaven as it ever was. The cities, mines, towers and castles you build also look great thanks to Builders’ signature style of discouraging roofs, making for buildings with open tops that look like an old-school RPG. It’s great all around, and the framerate even maintains well up to the very last bits of the game.
If you enjoyed Minecraft – and still enjoy it after thousands of identical titles came out a few years ago – Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an obvious buy. The structure provided by a full-fledged RPG plot takes the concept to a whole new level. The original Builders was a fantastic game, and Builders 2 improves on nearly every aspect. You can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.