“ Minecraft” has inspired a generation of games. “ Terraria,” “ Portal Knights” and “ Lego Worlds” all draw from the blockbuster's idea of scavenging for material, surviving, and creating new tools and structures to thrive in the environment.
My only issue with the genre is that the games tend to be too freeform. Without many guiding objectives, it turns into an aimless grind. “ Dragon Quest Builders” fixed that by buttressing “ Minecraft”- ish gameplay with a story that teaches players different aspec ts of the system while also motivating them with a serviceable narrative.
The original offered the outlines of a great title, but the project's siloed approach and other flaws made it cumbersome to play. Fortunately, Square Enix greenlighted a sequel and the publisher's internal team and Omega Force forged a follow- up that improves on its predecessor in every way.
“ Dragon Quest Builders 2” brings together the separate parts that Square Enix showed in the first game and weaves it together in a cohesive whole. Players take on the role of a Builder who is captured by the Children of Hargon and taken on a ship. Before the protagonist is transferred, the vessel crashes amid a storm and the Builder washes ashore on the Isle of Awakening along with a mysterious amnesiac named Malroth and a demanding partner named Lulu.
They discover a Hairy Hermit spirit inhabiting the desolate island, who tells the trio that they can change the archipelago by rebuilding it and helping the inhabitants. That takes them to several themed islands — each with its own biome, history and focus. At first, the Builder and Malroth have to free the inhabitants from the Hargons' disciples and teach them the joys of crafting. They continue to build and anger the island's boss, whom they have to defeat.
As players succeed, some villagers offer to take their talents to the Isle of Awakening, where Lulu sets up shop. That's the basic narrative formula for the main islands, but Square Enix throws a few curveballs that sidetrack the Builder and Malroth on their journey. The story- driven nature of the gameplay makes it less predictable this time around while also fostering a sense of exploration, a key pillar for the genre.
Players will want to venture into the unknown to gather new materials, battle enormous monsters and find puzzle zones that reward them with mini- medals. The journey feels less lonely with a computercontrolled Malroth at their side, along with sidekicks who help out on select missions.
Along with the core “ Minecraft” gameplay, “ Builders 2” also introduces tools that the protagonist earns along the way. Items such as the water- filled bottomless jar make the creation of waterfalls and lakes possible. A Windbreaker Cape allows the Builder to glide long distances while the Echo Flute helps players find valuable gems. These tools make traveling and world- building much easier.
Another quality- of- life improvement is the fast travel system that uses Naviglobe and towns so players don't have to trudge through the same deserts and ridgelines over and over again. Players pull up the map, and they can instantly travel to a point. The second big improvement is a bag that lets players carry plenty of materials, furniture or weapons. It makes community chests less important and keeps players from spending hours sifting through several menu screens for just the right material.
The last quality- of- life improvement are material islands, which are unlocked with gratitude points. They are procedurally generated locales with different rocks, faun and flora. Players have to catalog each one, and once they do, they can get an unlimited amount of a set resource such as silver, dry grass or wood. Finishing these sidequests saves time because players don't have to hunt for a required resource.
These changes make “ Builders 2” better, but ultimately, it's how Square Enix blends the story and gameplay together that makes this title exceptional. Both manage to keep players invested in the game. The Isle of Awakening becomes a freeform experimentation lab, where players can redraw the landscape, filling a barren wasteland with rivers and new landmarks. It's where players can create their own cities or build an enormous castle.
The original siloed these elements, but the sequel shows how these separate experiences can blend to make a powerful whole in one of the best “ M i n e c r a f t ” - i n s p i r e d games to date.