We love Minecraft. In fact, so do millions of players out there, and rightly so. The title is brilliant, but if there's one thing it has always been lacking in, it would have to be an immersive storyline. Sure, there's the whole situation with the Ender Dragon, but it has never really felt as gripping as the well-written stories you'll find in lots of single-player games.
This is where Square Enix comes in, as back in 2015 when the first Dragon Quest Builders was announced, we weren't sure of what to make of it. However, players loved it, and not only did it manage to survive, but it succeeded to the point where it spawned a sequel, which is where we are today. Dragon Quest Builders 2 has developed the series into something else, bringing its very own identity in the most chibi-but-blocky way it possibly could, doing so alongside a storyline more expansive than lots of modern titles can offer.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an action-RPG sandbox title, developed by Square Enix and Omega Force. Designed as a sequel to Dragon Quest Builders using a chibi-blocky art style hybrid, it sees players pitted on an adventure where they are tasked with rebuilding the world, striking back against the Children of Hargon, a destructive cult of calamity, with the help of your trusty compatriot Malroth, a man with a peculiar aura around him (as if he's influenced by a darker force). Malroth doesn't have the skills of a builder like you, however, he is exceptional at fighting and will assist when in combat or when you are destroying things. Unlike Minecraft, this isn't a simple sandbox, but instead, there's a narrative rooted in the sandbox that allows you to be creative whenever you desire.
You play as a builder, a powerful being with the ability to design and construct countless creations using the many available blocks throughout the game. In the beginning, you start with nothing except for the clothes on your back, trapped on a prison ship with a monster crew. During this time, you are put to work, performing mundane tasks aiding your skeletal masters, in a tutorialised level that teaches the basics, such as how to pick up and place blocks, engage in combat, and even crafting. While it can feel like you spend an eternity aboard the vessel, this is incredibly minimal when compared to the rest of the game, which starts after an unusual shipwreck, leading us to the first explorable island.
One of the main things we noticed at this point was the sheer quantity of dialogue and the way it is used. Dragon Quest Builders 2 deploys witty humour and slang terms to get a point across and develop each character. Sometimes this seems funny and adds to the experience, however, in some cases (the Furrowfield Farmers, for example) the use of the Somerset country dialect feels really forced and a little bit cringy, especially if you're British.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place on a series of different islands, each with their own identity. For example, Moonbrooke is a snowy world ravaged by war, known to train great fighters, and each of the other islands has its own unique feature. The exception to that is starting area The Isle of Awakening, which is bland and filled with basically nothing. That said, as the story progresses it will be your job as a builder to fill it with creations such as rivers, forests, and even ginormous pyramids. This, in turn, is the general idea behind the story of the game - as a builder, you must travel to different locations, helping the people you meet, whilst simultaneously rebuilding the island and learning new skills to bring back to your own island, where you're trying to make a builder's paradise.
Players can move and aim the camera on the sticks, jump on Circle/B, attack with Triangle/Y, switch items and interact with Cross/A, place items with Square/X, use tools with R2/ZR, sprint with R1/R, look up with L1/L and down with L2/ZL, and change camera perspective (first- to third-person) by clicking in the right stick. On top of this, opening the options menu will allow access to your inventory, save menu, hints, and the Builderpedia, a document containing all known recipes, blocks, enemies, etc. As for the many tools, they allow different interactions with the world itself. The builder gloves, for example, allow you to carry and move blocks; the hammer allows you to destroy things; and the glider lets you fly over distances. These are just a few of the unlockable tools, some of which can be upgraded as the story progresses.
You'll need these tools to assist in the rebuilding of each destination, you will have to engage in tasks such as farming, fighting, and general construction, all in an effort to win over the loyalty of the residents there, freeing them from the of the tyranny of the Children of Hargon. The main job you will perform, believe it or not, is building incredibly large and complex structures for the people using a blueprints system. This is basically a template telling you which blocks you need and where to put them, as well as enabling the assistance of the NPCs when constructing. If you think we're exaggerating, these structures are usually over 10,000 blocks in mass, so don't expect to finish one in half an hour. Likewise, considering the sheer number of unique blocks in the game, the structures won't be made from just one material, so instead expect your inventory to be packed with entirely different blocks or placeable items.
Dragon Quest Builders II looks similar to Minecraft in most aspects except for its character design. The world and every block in it, even water and lava, are designed block by block, meaning one cube of dirt looks identical to every other cube of dirt. The difference? This doesn't use pixel effects at all, making everything look less retro than Mojang's title. The characters are where the true differences lie though, as they don't look as though they should fit in the world since they use a chibi style instead. For those unfamiliar with this style and unsure why it seems so abstract in this blocky world, think Mii characters from Nintendo, in Minecraft. The soundtrack, on the other hand, seems to have taken its inspiration from the Dragon Quest titles of old, featuring heaps of RPG-esque twangs that make you feel as though you're on a grand adventure. This also changes depending on where you are, or whether you are in combat, at which point the tempo accelerates and the soundtrack changes to reflect the danger you face.