E3 2019: Dragon Quest Builders 2 Hands-On Preview

Rebuilding the world is better with friends.

The original Dragon Quest Builders was a surprising success. The game managed to blend the charm and style of the classic RPGs with… Minecraft. The two flavors had no reason to work so well together, but Square Enix Business Division 5 (that’s really what it’s called) managed more than just that. The developer concocted an entirely new kind of adventure that was a joy to play. Now a new studio is doing it all again. Omega Force — the group behind Dynasty Warriors of all things — is developing Dragon Quest Builders 2.

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And, from my hands-on preview at E3 2019, it looks like a changing of the guard hasn’t changed the series overmuch. Dragon Quest Builders 2 looks and feels quite a lot like the last game. Although there are still some obvious, welcome changes.

The most obvious addition is that you’re no longer alone. During my demo, a slightly sinister-looking fellow named Malroth followed me everywhere I went — helping fight monsters and offering insight. My favorite signs of digital friendship, though, came whenever we completed quests. Malroth and my silent player character would leap in the air and high five to signal a job well done. It’s cute!

Together Malroth and I saved a new character from some slightly (but only slightly) less adorable monsters. This NPC was a farmer, and wanted our help to recreate fertile land throughout the region. As such I got more of a Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon vibe from Dragon Quest Builders 2. It seems you’ll set up clockwork bases that run semi-automatically. Once I built an Irrigation Station, for instance, which let water into our first field, the farmer began to tend the crops. She took care of this part automatically, but I still had to plant and pluck the spoils myself.

As we toiled away, I got a better sense of the story in Dragon Quest Builders 2. It’s clearly set in an alternate timeline based on the original Dragon Quest 2 — much like the first Builders was based on the first Dragon Quest.

A group called The Children of Hargon has declared that builders — people who can create entirely new things — are the “enemy.” Your own protagonist escaped capture and went out into the world to recreate society. At some point before my demo, the hero met Malroth, who conveniently has a convenient case of JRPG amnesia.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 E3 2019 Demo 2

And it is convenient — if you know your Dragon Quest. Hargon and Malroth are the two central villains of Dragon Quest 2. And it’s very interesting to see how Builders 2 has chosen to represent them. Even after such a short time with this high-fiving Malroth, I’m already deeply concerned about any tragic “twists” that might be around the bend…

Otherwise, my demo didn’t shine much light on what’s different about this sequel. You still bash boulders with a hammer (and it still feels great), you fight monsters for crafting materials, and help build up individual conclaves. I did get to futz around with the new first-person perspective, though, and can report that it’s a huge boon. The first Dragon Quest Builders got dicey whenever you went inside a structure or cavernous dungeon. Now, with the ability to look around in any direction, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Other new features that have been announced — but I didn’t get to see at E3 — include hang gliding and exploring underwater. There’s also a private island where you can build to your heart’s content, without losing progress between levels. That sounds like a huge improvement over Dragon Quest Builders. Not to mention Malroth and other NPCs aren’t your only possible buddies. Dragon Quest Builders 2 will have four-player co-op as well.

All of which screams that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is your classic video game sequel. It’s bigger and better in some key ways, and that’s exciting unto itself. Although I might be even more interested to see how they play with classic Dragon Quest lore in this new timeline. We’ll all get to see for ourselves on the Dragon Quest Builders 2 release date, July 12, 2019.