Dragon Quest Builders 2 PlayStation 4 Review

July 21, 2019

The urge to build can be strong at times, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t sometimes struggle with the lack of structure that comes from games like Minecraft. I love the idea of creative freedom, but a lack of narrative leaves me struggling to maintain focus and eventually lose interest. That’s why Dragon Quest Builders appealed to me so much when it launched in 2016, combining the building mechanics I loved to play around with and a narrative that kept pushing me along. It wasn’t all rosy though, with a range of issues that bottlenecked enjoyment and combat that offered little variety and dragged the experience down. Its sequel, Dragon Quest Builders 2, fixes and improves many of the issues from the original, but still manages to run into some of the same pitfalls.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 opens some years after the conclusion of the first game. The big bad was defeated, and it was assumed that his followers would disperse, but they instead doubled down on their ideologies and have once again set out to rid the World of Afelgard of Building. You see, in the world of Dragon Quest Builders, Building is a special ability that allows a few to create anything out of almost nothing. This act of creation is at odds with the destruction the Children of Hargon crave. This time around, the Children have adopted a new strategy – brainwashing Afelgard’s inhabitants to believe that Building is evil and is the cause of all wrongs in the World. Open Dragon Quest Builders 2, as a storm leaves you stranded on a strange island with only two other people. After being gifted ownership of the island, it’s now up to you to travel to other islands, seeking people and resources to help you construct a paradise and battling the Children of Hargon as you do. The story can get a bit dark at points, but it’s largely told with a humorous tone that is meant to keep it light-hearted. The writing itself is largely average at best – with many examples of poor grammar and spelling throughout – and there aren’t many interesting twists or turns to it. There are also some scenes and moments that left me feeling uncomfortable – like the majority of an island’s inhabitants sole-driving force being the chance to see a young woman they’ve watched grow up since childhood don a bunny suit and dance for their enjoyment. While the narrative provides a driving force to keep you progressing in Dragon Quest Builders 2, it’s far from amazing.

There’s no doubt that the biggest drawcard in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the building and this is where the game really shines. Much like other survival and building games, the idea in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is to collect materials from the World, craft whatever pieces you need and build to your heart’s content. The way that Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes this up a notch is through the incredible number of pieces you can craft. There’s a myriad of different wall types, doors, windows roofing, decorations and more, all there for you to facilitate whatever creative vision you have. New to Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the ability to farm and use water in your creations. The game does a great job at allowing you to tie these systems together however you want in your creations. With freely swappable first- and third-person views, easily identifiable placement indicators and the ability to quickly lay multiple blocks in first-person mode, the building in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is mechanically great and fun to interact with.

Once you’re done creating rooms, buildings, pools, farms or whatever else you feel like, it’s time to interact with those creations. Or more specifically, it’s time for the game’s many NPCs to interact with them. NPC companions and villagers are ever-present in the game, and their AI is much improved from the last game. As long as you have the right spaces set up, NPCs will automatically begin taking appropriate action. Have a kitchen set up? NPCs will start using the fires inside to cook for you. Fields? Get ready for some freshly tilled earth and watered plants. It’s refreshing to not need to manually manage resources, instead you’re able to spend your time freely exploring and doing whatever you want. As you construct rooms and complete NPC quests the townsfolk will drop little hearts for you to collect. These hearts serve as one progression metric in Dragon Quest Builders 2. These serve a couple of different purposes – to unlock new islands to travel to from your main hub and to upgrade the towns on those islands; unlocking new crafting recipes. It’s nice to be rewarded specifically for making your townsfolk’s lives easier, but the hearts can also get a bit unsightly as you return to a town to find tens of them strewn about and have to run over all of them to collect them.

The other method of character progression in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is through combat. By defeating enemies you’ll gain experience points which will level up you and your ever-present AI partner. By levelling up your health increases, your companion’s damage increases, you’ll unlock new weapon/armours recipes, and very occasionally you’ll unlock a new ability. Beyond this, and slaughtering enemies for crafting components, there’s little in Dragon Quest Builder 2’s combat that is actively engaging or interesting. The combat is largely the same button mashing slog that it was in the original, with only boss battles bringing anything close to an interesting twist to encounters. There’s no dodge roll, no guard and only an extremely small handful of special attacks you can use. I quickly began avoiding combat wherever possible, purely because of how boring it was, which is frustrating when the game actively throws you into combat so often. Beyond the combat, the general controls in the game are fine, if not particularly interesting. The new paraglider and ability to go underwater can be fun, but the latter is rarely used in an interesting way, and the same could be said for the paraglider. A few more interesting platforming sections or underwater areas would have gone a long way.

If you’ve played a Dragon Quest game in the past, Dragon Quest Builders 2 will look immediately familiar to you. The game used a similar style to Dragon Quest XI for its enemies – which look great – with a blockier aesthetic for the world and a chibi style for its human characters. Coming into the game with a solid background in the franchise, the different styles are a little disparate and don’t quite gel together into a single cohesive whole. What is quite annoying though, is the game’s inability to hold a steady framerate on my PlayStation 4 Pro. Despite a relatively limited view distance and nothing ground-breaking graphically, I continually ran into issues where the game became a jittery mess or the framerate dropped during particularly busy combat encounters. There is also a complete lack of voice over, which in itself isn’t a massive issue, but it would have been nice to have something other than ineffectual mutterings on occasion. Especially during the unskippable cutscenes, where the game would stop for 30+ seconds on a screen containing 2 sentences. I would have also loved a bit more variety in the soundtrack, because hearing the same two or three tracks for the bulk of the 5 or so hours you’ll spend in each main story section began to grate.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a definite improvement on its predecessor. Despite its story not being especially well written, the structure it provides to progression is still one of the best in its genre. The building mechanics have been refined and the additional variety makes for a grand creative time. There is still a massive amount of improvement that could be had on the combat side, with it still being incredibly one-note and lacklustre. If you’re looking for a building experience with a bit more structure and narrative than Minecraft then Dragon Quest Builders 2 is for you, just don’t expect the trappings around it to be amazing.


- Building mechanics are fantastic
- Heaps of variety in crafting content
- AI is vastly improves on the original game
- Farming is fun


- Combat is still boring and one-note
- Localisation is littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes
- Not much variety to the soundtrack

Overall Score: