Building toilets, farming veggies, and restoring nature; what’s not to love?
So, there’s this guy, right? He’s super pious, and generally pretty grumpy about the way I’m running my farm. So obviously he’s got a quest for me. He wants me to build a tiny room, with a pot and a towel rack. That’s it. Hmm… OK.
I carefully place the floor, walls, and requested items. He rushes into the room, delighted, and informs me that he has been… relieving himself (taking dumps) in the woods. As a result, one of the other town residents has seen his BUTT while he was pooping. Therefore, he needed me to build him this toilet. Excuse me?
This, my friends, is a highlight moment of my experience playing Dragon Quest Builders 2.
The Dragon Quest franchise, while popular in Japan, is a relatively new addition to the Western collection of role-playing fantasy games, with the first Dragon Quest-titled game arriving in the US in 2005. Dragon Quest Builders 2 combines the RPG elements of the original Dragon Quest games with the voxel-building mechanics of Minecraft-like games, and comes off the back of the original Dragon Quest Builders game. I hadn’t played any Dragon Quest games before, and I have to say that this game has won my heart. This is a really engaging, fun, and quirky game with an immersive set of adventures and mechanics.
With the caveat of my woeful ignorance of previous iterations of Dragon Quest, I jumped into this game with fairly low expectations. As a first time DQ player, I still felt like I knew enough to participate in the story. My character was, conveniently, a small child who wasn’t around in previous games either. You begin on a ship as a prisoner being delivered to the Children of Hargon, an evil cult who is apparently not super stoked that their overlord Hargoth has been defeated. You, a builder, are the epicentre of the blame, since builders destroyed Hargon and Malroth (the purported baddies). Convenient, no? Anyway, the ship gets wrecked and you end up washed up on a mysterious island with a fella who has also lost his memory. Well, of course, adventure awaits!
Chop chop, dig dig
Effectively, the plan is to gather materials and restore life to islands that have fallen into disrepair due to various calamities or dark forces. You journey over high seas and across a massive map to complete immersive and fun missions for the people you meet along the way. There’s your usual RPG activities of fetch quests, puzzles, and fighting mobs, but there’s also the surprisingly engaging building mechanic.
Building is a huge part of the game; heck, it’s even in the name. It also brings a really fresh avenue of interaction to the formulaic RPG systems we all know and love. If you love crafting games, this part of Dragon Quest Builders 2 will definitely appeal to you. I’m a big crafting junkie, and I found myself getting really involved with smashing stuff to collect materials, building elaborate rooms, and leveling up my skills so I could create more awesome stuff.
Who doesn’t love smashing random objects with a hammer?
This was only further encouraged by the fact that the NPCs in the game ask you to create different types of spaces for them, interact with what you build, and show you their gratitude with hearts to collect. On top of that level of cuteness, the first map you play on is a farm world, and you’re farming vegetables a la Stardew Valley. This game has everything!
Big map, big fun
Despite all these different features, the game doesn’t feel overcrowded or too busy. The maps are huge, and you have the freedom to wander around and create whatever you feel like in between quests. While the maps felt really big, I found them a bit lacking in diversity of interaction. The fights against mobs are pretty boring, but they’re also not a major focus of the game. The areas away from your base also feel a little nondescript. I struggled to differentiate different zones from each other or, frankly, remember where anything except my base was. Contrast this with Breath of the Wild, where I can literally recall where exact objects were based on just glancing at the layout of the map. This ain’t that.
In terms of style, I’m honestly not a huge fan of chibi-style characters or the voxel aesthetic, but I felt like it worked pretty well here; it’s also a game that was designed for a non-Western audience, so I may not be their target in regards to style. The interface is relatively easy to use, with a bit of friction when trying to swap items from my inventory to the main access toolbar. I also had a bit of a struggle with swapping between tools and placing blocks in the correct positions at times, but it wasn’t a huge problem. An ‘undo’ option would be handy while building, though.
Another interface issue is that there doesn’t appear to be a spot to view all the smaller quests people have given you to complete. While the main mission displays on the side of your screen, your side quests require you to return to the quest giver if you need a second rundown on what they needed you to do. Less convenient than you’d like, really.
A whimsical delight
I am happy to report that there is a vast quantity of whimsical delight in Dragon Quest Builders 2. First of all, YES, YOU CAN PAT THE DOG. In fact, there is a quest to pat the dog, so you actually have to pat the dog. That’s pretty much a game-maker right there. There’s funny little fat rats everywhere who are always trying to scab food off of you in exchange for information or quest items. Additionally, the character dialogue, while lengthy at times, is charming and well-written. This adds a lot of flavour to some otherwise slightly stale fetch quests. The whole game is pretty clean and child-friendly, but doesn’t lack a friendly sense of humour.
Though I only played up until the end of the first world, but I can’t wait to dig into it more. I really enjoyed this game. I also didn’t have the opportunity to test the multiplayer building mode, which sounds like a lot of fun with a few friends.
Overall, I think Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a great release from Nintendo, and absolutely worth the asking price. It manages to cater to a wide variety of gamers, without being too spread out across multiple categories. Give it a hoon, I think you’ll love it.