When Minecraft was released a little over ten years ago, the Dragon Quest franchise was already more than two decades old. Dragon Quest IX launched in the same period as Minecraft, meaning the universe was well and truly developed long before the block-building sandboxes we love to play in were even a glimmer in the developers’ eyes. With the launch of the original Dragon Quest Builders on PS4 back in 2016, Square Enix was able to learn a lot about designing this type of world. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good to see a Minecraft-style game inside an established universe. Dragon Quest Builders 2 builds on everything they’ve learnt, and what we’re left with is a blooming ballooning world full of exploration and creativity.
Kicking things off in the Dragon Quest Builders 2 Switch version, we soon learn that while the Switch is perfectly capable of running a game of this size, it also comes with some decent downfalls. Draw distances aren’t huge, and objects and enemies won’t load until you get within a certain range of them. This did make a bit of the exploring difficult as there are a lot of occasions where you get tasked to find different items. The Dragon Quest Builders 2 Switch version’s biggest drawback however is its battery life. We were lucky to get two hours of playtime out of it when the Switch wasn’t docked. Sure, you can play the game on the go which is great, but if the game can’t last a good 3-4 hours like Breath of the Wild then there are some clear battery-draining issues that the developers could have looked in to ahead of launch.
While on-the-go building proved to be problematic, the game’s overall stability was fine. It auto-saves periodically, and you can also manually save if you’re worried about losing data when switching between docks or taking the Switch with you. The joy-cons worked well, however as usual we found a pro controller was the best way to play the game, particularly due to all the fine-tuning required in some of the more intricate constructions.
Getting down to the core of the game, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set in a world full of islands. You begin your journey on a ship which quickly capsizes after completing a few basic tutorials. Washing up on an island, you quickly become acquainted with characters Malroth and Lulu. Malroth is basically your sidekick for the whole game, and as you level up, his powers also increase. Malroth will even help you gather resources, for example if you start knocking on wood, Malroth will look around and see if there are any other trees he can cut down to help out.
Base building is fairly similar to the first game. There are blueprints for rooms which come more in handy later in the game, and your base inhabitants will actually help construct rooms for you if you teach them how. This made some of the more tedious elements of the story far more fluid and meant you can go out and complete missions while the NPC’s constructed your town, cooked food, farmed, and kept things moving.
As you progress throughout the game you unlock more islands to explore. There are a handful of key large islands that have lengthy story missions which each take around ten hours to complete, while there are smaller islands that have gathering missions which reward you with an infinite amount of a certain building material, such as wood, copper, or iron. Unfortunately traveling from one island to another is only done via an NPC and you don’t get to explore any open seas. The bonus islands are unlocked by spending your hearts which are earned on the home island, while the mission islands will unlock as you progress naturally through the game.
Combat in the game is basic, with a simple attack and a charged attack. There’s not much skill required to take on most enemies, and a lot of it comes down to dodging, retreating, and healing. As mentioned, Malroth takes the reins as your go-to tank for taking on most enemies, and towards the end of the game he provides a solid offense meaning you only really need to help him if you’re taking on the tougher enemies. Keeping on top of crafting all the latest weapons and shields is key to making sure you have no difficulty taking on the harder creatures throughout the game, and it doesn’t hurt to have a healthy stockpile of cooked food either.
One of Dragon Quest Builders 2’s biggest drawcards might be its 4-player co-operative online mode, meaning you can connect up with friends to build to your hearts delight. You can visit their island or they can visit yours, and you can exchange building tips all via a handy warp system. There’s also a noticeboard feature where you can upload your favourite photos and view other players photos, providing an online community feel to the game. Square Enix is attempting to make Dragon Quest Builders 2 as online-friendly as possible, and we’re excited to see what other players come up with.
As mentioned earlier, the Dragon Quest Builders 2 Switch version doesn’t look as good as it does on its PlayStation 4 counterpart. It was never going to be the case though, and we were relatively happy with how it looked and performed on the Switch regardless. The character models are all very cutesy in typical Japanese anime style. Combining the sheer amount of friendly and enemy NPCs with the sheer amount of building materials and construction possibilities, Dragon Quest Builders 2 Switch version is quite the accomplishment.
The audio throughout the game is mundane. With no voice acting, we were left scrolling through mountains of text boxes which can be incredibly slow moving to the point where we felt like this aspect of the game was unfinished or at least unpolished. The music throughout the game proves to be incredibly repetitious, with some of it on as little as 10 second loops. Luckily you can turn down the music (or completely off) via the menu, and we were disappointed with the lack of variety considering how long you are required to spend in certain areas of the game due to building.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch is no small feat. It’s a massive sandbox game that forces you to be creative and learn new things not just about the Dragon Quest world but also about the world around you, whether by accident or by design. While the Nintendo Switch is not the best platform to get the game on, fans of block-building games and fans of the Dragon Quest games will not be disappointed by it. As mentioned, there’s a solid 50+ hours of story content in the game, and the exploration and building will add many more hours on top. While the game has its troubles, the Builders franchise in itself is shaping up to be very decent indeed.
- A massive world of islands to explore - Loads of different building items - A lengthy story filled with memorable characters and moments.
- Unpolished translations - Annoyingly slow textbox cut-scenes - Horrible battery life, not refined for Switch.