Dragon Quest Builders is over three years old, and I still think of the fun I had the first time I went through Square Enix's Minecraft tribute. Despite being a Dragon Quest fan of near-immeasurable proportions, I don't latch onto every spin-off game we see out of the classic JRPG series. Dragon Quest Builders is an exception. Its mix of fighting and crafting to rebuild a world ravaged by a fallen hero's very poor choice makes for an interesting and satisfying game experience.
Though I loved Dragon Quest Builders enough to name it one of my favourite games of 2016, there are still some "Eh?" mechanics that court controversy. The biggest problem with Dragon Quest Builders might be the fact its chapter-based gameplay starts you in each area with nothing but the clothes on your back. It's humbling to finish one chapter with the best available weapons and armor, only to have to start the next one by scrounging for sticks and grass to make primitive tools, but not everyone loves being born anew again and again.
In Dragon Quest Builders 2, Square Enix sides with fans who don't like the first game's chapter-based system and the repeated clean slates that come with it. The second game has a number of quality-of-life improvements over the first one, and the biggest change is probably the overworld map. Now you're tasked with rebuilding life on a series of islands following the fall of Dragon Quest 2's heroes (yes, the alternate "fallen timeline" is at play here, same as in the first game). You can travel from island to island via a boat or a fast-travel system. No more chapters, no more starting over.
The preview build I sampled at PAX East only let me fiddle around on one island, so I didn't get a chance to travel to a new area with my pockets stuffed full of cool stuff. Despite my short preview, it's clear Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds a lot of new things to build and some new mechanics to mess around with in addition to the usual assortment of tools and tasks that come with making the world safe and habitable for innocent people. Farming plays a big part in the game, for one thing: I tilled a small field and started to build an irrigation system before my demo ended.
Additional quality-of-life improvements surfaced as I played. Weapons and tools no longer seem to break, and the Builder's weapon is mapped to a separate button from their Mallet (the Builder's answer to Minecraft's pickaxe). That means no more shuffling between the two, though it appears the Mallet's attack power might have been nerfed. That might disappoint you if you enjoy clobbering your foes with a steel hammer. NPCs also play a bigger role than simply getting in your way and filling up your chests with useless garbage. They fight with you, they farm with you, and they drop "gratitude" that powers you up when you collect it. Hey, grab your nourishment wherever you can. It's a rough ol' world out there.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 comes to the PlayStation 4 and Switch on July 12.
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