Arriving two years after its PS4 and Switch counterparts, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is finally on Xbox and Game Pass. It is the answer to the eternal question of, “What if you took Minecraft, JRPG’s, and a basic Hack-n-Slash action game and combined them?”. Sprinkle in some genuinely funny dialogue, then sprinkle in more dialogue, then dump a truckload more dialogue on top. For good measure make the game essentially one incredibly long tutorial, up to 60’ish hours for newcomers, and lock basic things such as MP behind roughly 15-20 hours’ worth of solo play to start. If this sounds like something I found both fun and extremely frustrating then you’re not wrong. Is it worth sticking it out in the end? Let’s find out.
Taking Away User Control Is Not Good
I “like” Dragon Quest Builders 2 or should say that I want to like it. Few games have started so strongly yet soured so thoroughly for me. The act of grinding out materials and then farming, fishing, building, etc. in this game is incredibly fun. Constantly losing control of my character for fanfares to play, or the unbelievably long dialogue-driven cutscenes are anything but. Let us start with the story. You are the hero, a builder who has been kidnapped by the baddies known as “The Children of Hargon”. For all the cutesy looks there is a surprisingly adult story behind everything. After some basic tutorials in the starting ship area there is a storm, you crash, and end up on the first of many islands. With you are two other survivors, the ancient master of destruction (with no memory that he is, though the game makes sure you know it) Malroth, and an incredibly annoying character named Lulu.
The Children of Hargon believe Builders are evil, and they want to kill you and every builder out there to appease their God. Building is darned useful though and as you travel throughout the land you quickly turn their followers to your side. The first island focuses on farming, another on mining, then fishing, and so forth. Each main area becomes its own bespoke land where your inventory does not carry over to the next, and over the course of roughly 60’ish hours you’ll make people happy and uncover the truth about Malroth (well you already know, but your character doesn’t). The story was surprisingly deep, engaging at times, and way too long. The dialogue is often hilarious, and whoever did the translation to English deserves a raise. Without the laughs and wit behind it I could not have made it through as much of the story as I did. The issue that never goes away is the constant interrupting of the actual fun part of the game, playing it.
Many hours of my game were spent scrubbing through text boxes so I could desperately try to get back to having fun. The sheer amount of written dialogue in this game is staggering. If that sounds interesting to you then great, but for me I found slowly pressing A or B to get through it, the waiting as music played, and the non-stop losing of player agency as the game would pull me out of having fun to watching an animation to be incredibly frustrating. At least it looks nice.
Clean, Colorful, and Very Akira Toriyama
Graphically the game looks great. Things are clean, the colors pop, and the character and enemy models are classic Toriyama. The Dragon Ball manga’s famed creator and style are here on full display, and I love it. Playing on an Xbox Series X the resolution was crisp, and the 60fps never seemed to drop on my Variable Refresh Rate enabled monitor. As a Minecraft-style RPG having clear patterns to denote which block is which is key, and though it’s a bit odd I got used to the fact that the 3d models of food are replaced by 2d sprites once you harvest them. It can be a bit strange to plant and grow cabbage, then have it turn into a 2d sprite when it’s finally in your hand and you’re chomping away on it.
You must eat to keep up a stamina meter and to restore your health. Crops are timer-based, though once grown they never go bad. It’s a much more forgiving system than something like Stardew Valley and it is the right choice here. There is so much more focus on things outside of farming that any type of penalty system like that would have led to me quitting early on.
The Music is Alright, the Gameplay Can Be Great
The soundtrack of the game will be familiar if you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest game before. Classic synth style orchestral sounds are matched with similarly classic sound effects. There is no voice acting but there are grunts and cheers from the games humanoid and monster characters.
Gameplay-wise things absolutely shine. The controls are tight, though occasionally placing blocks can be a bit of a chore in a tight space. Slowly but surely you will unlock more options as you progress throughout the game, and the variety of activities at your disposal over time is its greatest strength. The inordinate amount of time it takes to open everything up though was unforgivable to me. There is up to 4 player cooperative multiplayer, but I doubt most people who play this game through Game Pass will ever know. To get to the point where you can play with your friends you have to complete the entire 2nd island. Even playing non-stop and focusing entirely on this it took me just over 15 hours of gameplay.
My wife had been interested in playing together after watching me, but after hearing this she immediately lost any desire to give the game a go. No dedicated “building” mode being available so that you could quickly jump into a co-op game with your friends is a major misstep here. A big part of these building games is being able to quickly jump in and have fun in a group. Time and time again the game shows that it simply does not respect your time and it is a real shame. The act of building, farming, mining, fishing, and more are all incredibly fun. The combat is boring though, and there is far too much of it. It is a basic hack and slash system, and I mean basic. You attack, you run away, then you attack again and that is it.
There is so much more I could talk about, but if you’re willing to put in the time then going in spoiler-free is the way to go. There is great fun to be had in this game if you are patient enough. The story is good, most of the time the gameplay is fun, but the constant loss of control over things can be grating. As this is available on Game Pass for Xbox consoles and PC though it is worth checking out if the premise of it interests you at all. I hope this series continues and learns that at the very least a mode where I can just have fun playing it and not skipping dialogue constantly would make it something truly special.