'Dragon Quest Builders 2' Review: An Ambitious Sequel That Sadly Falls Short

Credit: Square Enix

After the first and entirely excellent Dragon Quest Builders, a sequel was inevitable. Following on in part from the original Dragon Quest II, Dragon Quest Builders 2 expands its scope noticeably but not without issues.

I already played and completed the Japanese version of the game on the Switch when it was released. However, for this review, I have also played the English localized version on both the PlayStation 4 and Switch.

Put simply, the game takes away a lot of what made the first game so interesting and also has some serious pacing issues, as the game is enormous by comparison. This is not to say it is a bad game, far from it in fact, but that it has been overly ambitious.

The premise follows on from the first Dragon Quest Builders but in-line with the story elements from Dragon Quest II. Where the descendants of Erdrick vanquished the mad cleric Hargon and his plan to resurrect Malroth, the god of destruction.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set a while after these events and the Children of Hargon are now scattered across the realm and builders are feared. It’s not long before we meet Malroth in a new form, as your initially grumpy sidekick, and it’s here where the functional issues start.

The first Dragon Quest Builders gave the player a great deal of agency, not only in terms of building but also combat. In the sequel though, much of this agency is taken away.

The pairing of Malroth with the player effectively halves the player’s combat strength, so the combat just feels less satisfying as a result.

Credit: Square Enix

The structure of the sequel is also a bit different over the first game. While that had distinct islands that you progressed across, Dragon Quest Builders 2 starts with the hub island called the Isle of Awakening.

You then sail off to other islands only to return to the Isle of Awakening to undertake large building projects. It’s these large building projects that are also somewhat of an issue, as the other non-playable characters tend to do the bulk of the building of these structures.

In some ways, it was a necessary choice as these structures are both enormous and complicated. Doing them on your own would take ages, so the villagers help out now. My issue is that it again reduces the player’s agency with building. So instead of having these gigantic buildings you have to make, it would have been better to scale things down a bit and let the player actually build things more.

This is the other issue really; the game is just too big and drawn out. The first Dragon Quest Builders was a big game but focused. The sequel is almost excessively big and the pacing suffers as a result.

What would have been regular upgrades to your armor and weapons, are now spread out over whole island quests, which is a bit demoralizing.

This all may sound pretty damning but there is a decent game under all this. While the scope and other changes are an issue, there have also been a lot of improvements to the game.

For starters, your armor and weapons no longer wear out. This is a smart choice and allows you to focus more on mining for resources and fighting enemies. The health setup is more contiguous now, with experience points upgrading the player’s level. This increases your health and access to new recipes for weapons and armor. Moreover, you have various large monsters on each island and vanquishing them gives large amounts of experience points and rarer weapon and armor recipes.

Credit: Square Enix

You also have new items in addition to your hammer, such as the smoothing tool that allows you to change blocks en-masse (rather than the crazy exploit from the first game) and a flute that can tell you where certain ore deposits reside.

There’s also a new glide function that allows you to fly over large areas quite quickly and a more streamlined approach to crafting items. Though the cooking and forging setup is far less direct now and has a strange time penalty added.

The localization into English is also done very well and retains much of the character from the Japanese version, which makes each area and its inhabitants rather endearing.

The whole Malroth angle is also a nice narrative twist and is very heavily telegraphed from the outset, so this is by no means a spoiler.

Yet for all what makes Dragon Quest Builders 2 bigger it is not necessarily better because of it.

I still had fun playing through the English version of the game again but while I could happily recommend the first Dragon Quest Builders to pretty much everyone, I am not so sure I can do that with the sequel.

If you liked the first Dragon Quest Builders then you will enjoy this sequel up to a point but if you are coming in cold, I think you will likely struggle. Not due to the difficulty of the game, as it is quite straightforward, but more down to the sheer slog and the enormity of the game, followed by its slow pacing.

In terms of performance between the two versions, the Switch release has been optimized over the Japanese original but still has framerate issues. The PlayStation 4 version is far smoother in this regard but is less convenient to play, as the Switch is obviously portable. Personally, I preferred the Switch version but if you want a smoother playthrough then the PlayStation 4 is probably for you.

Overall, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a good game but not a great one. Its main mistake is trying to do too much and reducing the effectiveness of the player in combat and building. My only hope is that the eventual third game returns to a more focused approach, as I really feel that with the Dragon Quest Builders series, these games benefit from the mantra that less is more.

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Square Enix

Released: July 12th 2019

Price: $59.99

Score: 7/10

Disclosure: For this review, Nintendo sent me a copy of the game for the Switch and Square Enix sent me a copy of the game for the PlayStation 4. However, I purchased the original Japanese versions on both the Switch and PlayStation 4..

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I also manage Mecha Damashii and do toy reviews over at hobbylink.tv.

Read my Forbes blog here.

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Credit: Square Enix

After the first and entirely excellent Dragon Quest Builders, a sequel was inevitable. Following on in part from the original Dragon Quest II, Dragon Quest Builders 2 expands its scope noticeably but not without issues.

I already played and completed the Japanese version of the game on the Switch when it was released. However, for this review, I have also played the English localized version on both the PlayStation 4 and Switch.

Put simply, the game takes away a lot of what made the first game so interesting and also has some serious pacing issues, as the game is enormous by comparison. This is not to say it is a bad game, far from it in fact, but that it has been overly ambitious.

The premise follows on from the first Dragon Quest Builders but in-line with the story elements from Dragon Quest II. Where the descendants of Erdrick vanquished the mad cleric Hargon and his plan to resurrect Malroth, the god of destruction.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set a while after these events and the Children of Hargon are now scattered across the realm and builders are feared. It’s not long before we meet Malroth in a new form, as your initially grumpy sidekick, and it’s here where the functional issues start.

The first Dragon Quest Builders gave the player a great deal of agency, not only in terms of building but also combat. In the sequel though, much of this agency is taken away.

The pairing of Malroth with the player effectively halves the player’s combat strength, so the combat just feels less satisfying as a result.

Credit: Square Enix

The structure of the sequel is also a bit different over the first game. While that had distinct islands that you progressed across, Dragon Quest Builders 2 starts with the hub island called the Isle of Awakening.

You then sail off to other islands only to return to the Isle of Awakening to undertake large building projects. It’s these large building projects that are also somewhat of an issue, as the other non-playable characters tend to do the bulk of the building of these structures.

In some ways, it was a necessary choice as these structures are both enormous and complicated. Doing them on your own would take ages, so the villagers help out now. My issue is that it again reduces the player’s agency with building. So instead of having these gigantic buildings you have to make, it would have been better to scale things down a bit and let the player actually build things more.

This is the other issue really; the game is just too big and drawn out. The first Dragon Quest Builders was a big game but focused. The sequel is almost excessively big and the pacing suffers as a result.

What would have been regular upgrades to your armor and weapons, are now spread out over whole island quests, which is a bit demoralizing.

This all may sound pretty damning but there is a decent game under all this. While the scope and other changes are an issue, there have also been a lot of improvements to the game.

For starters, your armor and weapons no longer wear out. This is a smart choice and allows you to focus more on mining for resources and fighting enemies. The health setup is more contiguous now, with experience points upgrading the player’s level. This increases your health and access to new recipes for weapons and armor. Moreover, you have various large monsters on each island and vanquishing them gives large amounts of experience points and rarer weapon and armor recipes.

Credit: Square Enix

You also have new items in addition to your hammer, such as the smoothing tool that allows you to change blocks en-masse (rather than the crazy exploit from the first game) and a flute that can tell you where certain ore deposits reside.

There’s also a new glide function that allows you to fly over large areas quite quickly and a more streamlined approach to crafting items. Though the cooking and forging setup is far less direct now and has a strange time penalty added.

The localization into English is also done very well and retains much of the character from the Japanese version, which makes each area and its inhabitants rather endearing.

The whole Malroth angle is also a nice narrative twist and is very heavily telegraphed from the outset, so this is by no means a spoiler.

Yet for all what makes Dragon Quest Builders 2 bigger it is not necessarily better because of it.

I still had fun playing through the English version of the game again but while I could happily recommend the first Dragon Quest Builders to pretty much everyone, I am not so sure I can do that with the sequel.

If you liked the first Dragon Quest Builders then you will enjoy this sequel up to a point but if you are coming in cold, I think you will likely struggle. Not due to the difficulty of the game, as it is quite straightforward, but more down to the sheer slog and the enormity of the game, followed by its slow pacing.

In terms of performance between the two versions, the Switch release has been optimized over the Japanese original but still has framerate issues. The PlayStation 4 version is far smoother in this regard but is less convenient to play, as the Switch is obviously portable. Personally, I preferred the Switch version but if you want a smoother playthrough then the PlayStation 4 is probably for you.

Overall, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a good game but not a great one. Its main mistake is trying to do too much and reducing the effectiveness of the player in combat and building. My only hope is that the eventual third game returns to a more focused approach, as I really feel that with the Dragon Quest Builders series, these games benefit from the mantra that less is more.

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Square Enix

Released: July 12th 2019

Price: $59.99

Score: 7/10

Disclosure: For this review, Nintendo sent me a copy of the game for the Switch and Square Enix sent me a copy of the game for the PlayStation 4. However, I purchased the original Japanese versions on both the Switch and PlayStation 4..

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I also manage Mecha Damashii and do toy reviews over at hobbylink.tv.

Read my Forbes blog here.

I cover gaming in Japan as well as the pop-culture here. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or check out my YouTube videos. I also founded and continue to man...