Parents need to know that “Dragon Quest Builders 2” is a creative building experience for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. The game is a sequel to 2016’s “Dragon Quest Builders,” and has a focus on building wrapped within an old-fashioned Japanese role-playing game. The player’s customizable avatar takes on quests — such as building a house or sowing a field with seeds — from non-player characters, then goes out into the world to gather resources and fight monsters using magic and melee weapons. Combat’s mild and viewed from a raised perspective, with monsters disappearing quickly after being defeated. Strong themes of friendship, community, and providing help to those who need it run throughout the story, with subplots showing how people — including villains — can change for the better if they embrace the right ideas. Players also get to exercise their imaginations and be creative as they freely build not just what other characters have requested, but anything they like by crafting the elements they need and assembling them according to their whims.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
“Dragon Quest Builders 2” takes place about a century after the events of the original “Dragon Quest Builders.” Players take on the role of a builder — someone who has a knack for harvesting resources, refining them, and putting them together in novel ways — in a time when such people are outlawed by a villainous cult that would rather destroy than create. After washing up on a desert island alongside a mysterious boy with no memory, the player’s character begins a journey that takes him or her to nearby islands to make new friends and help them achieve their goals, from building a sustainable farm to creating an entire village. These missions are broken into a series of smaller projects that see players exploring their surroundings, harvesting minerals and resources to use in construction, and fighting roaming monsters. You’ll also solve building puzzles while making new friends and recruiting them to come back to their base and lend a hand. While players are sometimes requested to build specific things based on blueprints, they also have freedom to create whatever they like from scratch with the resources they find. This is especially true when playing in the new co-operative mode, where players work together in the same world to defeat monsters, gather resources, and build anything they can think of.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
If you like “Minecraft” but wish it had a story and concrete objectives, this is the game for you. “Dragon Quest Builders 2” keeps everything that worked in the original — including simple harvesting and building mechanics, a broad cast of mission-bearing non-player characters, and a cute anime aesthetic — refines elements that needed some work, and adds new ideas for good measure. Players can easily switch between the default third-person perspective and a first-person view, which comes in handy in some building situations and while moving around indoors.
But the real draw — and chief differentiator from other games of this ilk — remains the goal-oriented story mode, which provides a sense of forward progress and rewards for work done to players who crave such things. It’s always easy to figure out what you need to do next to progress the story, and you’ll earn plenty of new recipes along the way that will allow you to build more powerful gear and more sophisticated structures. Plus, the traditional JRPG story, while simple, is filled with positive themes, including the power of friendship and the potential for villains, in the right environment, to turn over a new leaf and become good, productive members of society. “Dragon Quest Builders 2” won’t replace or become as popular as Minecraft, but Square Enix’s series has carved out its own little place alongside Microsoft’s monumental building game by giving players a creative experience with a little more narrative structure and a polished look and feel.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 9 and older
Quality: 5 out of 5
Educational value: 4 out of 5
Positive messages: 4 out of 5
Positive role models: 4 out of 5
Ease of play: 4 out of 5
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Violence: 2 out of 5
Sex: 0 out of 5
Language: 1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5
Consumerism: 1 out of 5
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Developer: Square Enix
Release date: July 12, 2019
ESRB rating: E10+ for alcohol reference, comic mischief, fantasy violence, mild blood, mild language, suggestive themes.