Saturday, July 25, 2020
Dragon Quest Builders 2
I have played a lot of JRPG over the years. You typically follow a main story for around a hundred hours, engage in a great number of combat encounters, and do some side activities like crafting. But what if you would reverse those activities? What if the game would be about crafting most of the time, with the occasional combat thrown in for variety? Then you get a game like Dragon Quest Builders 2, which I just played through for around a hundred hours, until the end of the world. No worry, there is a post-game after that and the credits, so I can still work on my island.
The main selling point of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is that it combines the linear structure of a JRPG with the sandbox freedom of a game like Minecraft. On the one side you have the freedom to flatten a mountain and build whatever crazy structure you want in its place. But on the other side, if you find building without a purpose too boring, there is that long story with lots of quests asking you to build specific things. Sometimes you have to follow a blueprint, but often you still have a lot of freedom to build the requested structure as you want, you just need to include certain specific elements to make the game register quest success. The great thing here is that the rooms you can build are functional. If you build a bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room and a toilet, your residents are going to use these rooms over the course of their day in the manner that you would expect. And while doing so, they drop little hearts called gratitude, which serve as a sort of currency to unlock new things.
To get to those hundred hours of gameplay without getting too boring, Dragon Quest Builders 2 uses a specific game flow structure; You play through 5 large chapters of the game, each of which are separate, and you can’t use the materials and recipes from the previous chapters in the next one. But between those chapters you always go back to the same place, the Isle of Awakening, and there you can use everything you have found in the chapters. So in the first chapter you learn about farming, and then you can build a farm on the Isle of Awakening, then in the next chapter you learn about mining, and then you can use metals on the Isle of Awakening, and so on.
Combat is on the simple side, you walk up to the monster a press a button to swing your sword, or hold that button for a special attack. However in the chapter about warfare you learn how to build a fortified castle, and how to vanquish armies of monsters by creating a gauntlet of traps. Unfortunately that ability is used only once on the Isle of Awakening later, I would have loved to be able to play around more with that feature. You can still build a castle for show, though.
I very much enjoyed playing through Dragon Quest Builders 2, much more so than Dragon Quest XI, which had too little freedom of choice for my taste. So I now consider buying Dragon Quest Builders 1, although I know that 2 is the better game. But these long JRPG have limited replayability, and I’d rather play DQB1 with a less good UI and new story rather than DQB2 with the same story again. I have some minor complaints about Dragon Quest Builders 2, like the unskippable long inner dialogue cutscenes which take way too long, but overall I can really recommend this game.