Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a game that wears its influences loud and proud on its sleeve. A cross between JRPG, Minecraft style open world sandbox and some almost Zelda-esque puzzles thrown in for good measure. It is proof that just because you are obvious about what you are influenced by, you can still package it all together in a new way to create a fun adventure. Dragon Quest Builders 2 isn’t just my introduction to the sub-series of the long running JRPG series but it is actually the first Dragon Quest game I have played to a decent extent. If my experience with this game is anything to go by, it definitely will not be the last.

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The basic plot of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is that you are a builder – a human capable of making almost anything with the right materials. However, in this world building has been outlawed by the Children of Hargon whose number one goal is to destroy anything and everything that has been built. Humans are forced into helping the monsters in destroying things. You start the game being captured by the Children of Hargon, doing menial tasks for them before the ship is destroyed and you wake up on the Isle of Awakening alongside a mysterious but strong guy called Malroth. Together with another prisoner, Lulu, you will defeat monsters, gather materials to build new objects and eventually turn the Isle of Awakening from a barren desolate place to the ideal paradise island of your dreams.

There are two ‘modes’ to the gameplay – in one, you go to different islands in order to gather new materials and helpers to bring back to your own island to help turn it into the perfect place for builders to build their lives away. You will need to sort out the island’s problems first in order to gain the respect of the population who are naturally disposed to despise builders – although almost all humans (and some non-humans) are natural builders inside. The first island you go to is Furrowfield Farm where you start off with the task of building a farm able to grow crops and eventually you will heal the island from the corrupted soil that has prevented anything being grown. These are fairly in-depth stories of their own and each character you meet has a different personality and role within the village that they take on – one has aspirations of becoming Mayor, an other takes control of the Kitchen and another one is a giant worm that can turn any kind of soil into grassland or forest land just by feeding it a certain type of worm food. It is a very light-hearted game and it definitely seems like they were putting a lot of focus in making sure this game would not only be suitable for a younger audience but would actively be targeted towards them.

This is not to say that there aren’t some dark themes or anything for adults to enjoy  – there definitely is, but nothing is super complicated and everything feels nice and calm for the most part. The building can be a bit finicky, occasionally I will go to place a block in a specific place but the game will decide I actually wanted to place it a level higher than the rest of the blocks I just placed. You can play the game in an isometric 3D way with a good amount of control over the camera or in first-person like Minecraft. I tend to play in third person except from when I’m trying to make a big building project.

Building is a lot of fun though and the game does give you a lot of freedom to play around with it. You will have to build certain things during the course of the story and in Furrowfield Farm especially I found that they do not give you a lot of space in their village area to go hog wild with my designs, this changes when you go back to your own island. Again, there are a few things you have to do in order to progress the story but then you can build whatever you like. Want to build a ten-storey apartment complex with each floor being a seperate bedroom for each of your residents? Go for it! Want to build seventeen toilets? Hell yeah, build those loos!

Wastrels is my new favourite word

This game will charm the heck out of you if you let it though. The personalities, the writing, the music and just the overall niceness of the game should melt even the hottest of hearts. An non-spoilery example will be the early interactions of Marloth, a man who clearly has evil aspirations even if he doesn’t remember them, finding joy in something as simple as a high five. Characters go on journeys in this game and as someone who has not played the other DQ games I really hope they are just as charming as this one. Even the character that speaks in internet lingo that is way out of place in a fantasy rural setting is great. I end up caring about each of these characters because even if their story arcs are short, we have been with them as they grow from unwitting religious zealots to people who will build their own destiny. It’s nice. This game is nice. This game is like when you are 27 and you make yourself a lunch that you had regularly as a child. Know that feeling? That is this game.

I do have some issues with the game, sometimes the camera doesn’t quite work the way it is meant to. There are times when I’ve built something on the farm and then a cutscene happens but the camera is placed inside my building so I cannot see what is going on. There are times when I’ve tried and failed miserably to place a block in the right place because the marker will move last minute. I’m not even too big on the combat which is reminiscent of a classic 2D Zelda in terms of combat but enemies respawn quickly, randomly and in large numbers. Cutting the amount of enemies in the field in half probably would lead to a better time for me when I’m trying to farm for materials, especially since the enemies are more of an annoyance than an actual challenge.

The building things works as well as it can having to accommodate a controller, but having to hold a button to make sure you’re placing a block below or above you can feel finicky. There is a lot of finicky things when trying to build that honestly does not take away from how enjoyable it is to make buildings but it can lead to some frustration when you are getting used to the process.

However, I cannot recommend this game enough if you just want something nice to play. It is Daddy Minecraft and Mummy Zelda having a baby called Dragon Quest Builders 2 but it being one of those nice babies. Rarely cries, is always laughing, will poop itself but it’s a baby so you forgive it. It will probably grow up and figure out how to save the planet. What a baby, and I say that in the nicest possible way. I think this game is great and it will definitely be one that I come back to every now and then when I just need something nice to play for a day or two.

FINAL SCORE:

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