Having never played a Dragon Quest game before, I was a little bit worried about using a spin-off to jump into the series for the first time. This worry wasn’t alleviated when I found Dragon Quest Builders 2 very hard to get into for the first hours. I was afraid it wasn’t really for me, and thought it’d be one of those games that just go over my head.
I’m happy to say that despite a slow start, Dragon Quest Builders 2 eventually clicked with me like I hoped it would. I love Slimes, Rats and Akira Toriyama designs now, and there’s no going back from that.
Before we take a look at the game itself, we’ve got to give you the all-important Switch port details. Dragon Quest Builders 2 actually looks really good on Switch, and there’s not too much graphical difference between this version and the console releases. There’s obviously a little bit of a downgrade as there always is, but the style makes Builders 2 look great no matter where you play it.
The bigger issue comes with the frame rate. The console releases aim for a solid 60fps whilst the Switch can only manage 30 on occasion. Drops are frequent and can make the gameplay feel a bit choppy overall which is a shame. It’s still perfectly playable compared to other console releases, but the frame rate issues can be annoying.
The story mode doesn’t generally see the worst of this, but good luck if you want to look at other people’s creations online. I’d heard how bad it was but it is genuinely close to unplayable and ends up looking like a slideshow. For one of the game’s bigger features, that’s pretty unacceptable, even if it is dependent on how complicated the player structures are.
Beyond that, Dragon Quest Builders 2 works quite well for Switch. The pick up and play nature of the game is perfect for handhelds, and the frame rate only really becomes an issue when you venture into other player creations.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 has you playing as a builder, characters who have the ability to create things in a world that has outlawed it. You start off kidnapped on a boat learning the basics of creation, before eventually finding yourself on The Isle of Awakening with the amnesiac Malroth. Going into more depth would be spoiling it, but this is certainly a game trying to tell a story. The bond between Malroth and the player is really at the forefront here and it’s effective at keeping you playing.
The story is punctuated by the Dragon Quest charm I’d heard so much about. Every character seems to have a quip for their situation, and the story never gets too serious which was a nice change of pace. I do wish there was a little less talking though, as the more you play the more you just want to keep on playing without being interrupted. That’s a bit of a general issue with Builders 2 though, although we’ll get to that later.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 does play into the overall mythology of the series, but as someone who hasn’t played any of the other games it didn’t really do much for me. For fans of the franchise though, that may be worth jumping in for in itself.
The blocky graphic style may lead you to believe that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is similar to Minecraft, but that would really be reducing what Builders is all about. It’s much more about fulfilling requests, going out and exploring and slowly building up a community than it is just about creating. It’s definitely there on the Isle of Awakening, but on other islands it feels like a bit of a waste of time to develop anything other than your main objective.
Let’s get one thing out of the way- Dragon Quest Builders 2 is huge. What may seem like a little spin-off title is much more like an RPG adventure with building gameplay. You’ll be on the first proper island for more than 10 hours, and the overall adventure spans four of these as well as some randomised islands. This is great if you really get into the gameplay loop but the amount of content and things to learn can sometimes feel like a bit much.
Building is where the Minecraft comparisons are apt. It’s simple, yet effective and there are a whole bunch of recipes for you to discover as you go through quests. I did really appreciate that it never felt like I was running out of crafting materials and that you are given near unlimited space to carry things. These two things make building a lot more fun than I thought it’d be.
Unlike something like Minecraft, building isn’t really intended to be super freeform. You’re generally just going off blueprints and requests from villagers, and it’s up to you what else you do with the area. Unless given as a mission, you don’t have to plant a bunch of trees and make the grass greener, but I found that mixing your own creativity with the game’s objectives made things more fun.
Your creativity will mainly come from the Isle of Awakening, which acts as your own island. There are three other set islands you’ll explore in the game, and each one will have you following villager requests, exploring the island and slowly learning all of the game’s mechanics.
Exploration was my favourite part of the experience as each island has enough secrets and puzzles to keep you entertained. I enjoyed tending to my area and building things but there was something special about setting off with Malroth and doing my own thing for a while. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a lot of fun when it lets you off the leash.
Combat was one of the big improvements touted in the advertising and although I can’t speak for how it’s been improved from the first I can say that it’s pretty weak overall. It feels very flimsy and your builder doesn’t do nearly enough damage. Malroth makes up for that and it’s interesting to have a partner be more effective than the player, but it doesn’t make for a fun experience.
Despite my issues with overbearing objectives and combat, Dragon Quest Builders 2’s charm and sense of adventure shines above all else and even with some framerate issues is a great fit for the Nintendo Switch.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo