These days, games that wear the “Open-World” badge, wear it proudly. There are games that boast just how large their maps are and how much there is to do in them. While this is fine and all, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed when exploring them or while progressing the story. Everything about these games feels like I’m racing the clock to get through them.
Well, after playing the first ten-hours of Square Enix’s Dragon Quest Builders 2, I’ve become thankful for the game’s open-world nature that takes a step back from overwhelming the player. Instead, it finds a way to encourage players to take on this grand adventure at their own pace, which also makes this an adventure different for every player.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 throws the player into a grand quest head first as they take on the role of a builder. Basically, players are put on the map and the game pretty much says, “Here’s the world. Create!” While this might seem a little forced, what makes this approach work is how the developers have opened up the possibility for players to take things at their own pace. Finding yourself somewhere that you shouldn’t be isn’t that big of a problem when there isn’t really a consequence for death. Failures in this game are often encouraged in the first hours of gameplay as it introduces new mechanics and features.
The way the story rolls out new systems is through missions that walk the player through collecting items, building houses, and eating. These three actions will be used constantly throughout the game in one way or another and will steadily get more complicated. However, Dragon Quest Builders 2 seems to trust the player enough to complete tasks and goals without the need for a timer or any real urgency at all.
In other ways, Dragon Quest Builders 2 rewards players who don’t rush through the game’s missions. Exploring new areas might lead players to secret puzzles or new building materials. Similarly, grinding levels will unlock new weapons and abilities. While playing through the game like this, I learned that one could easily stretch the first 10 hours of the game into 20 depending on how they spend their time. What’s most important here is that I always felt like I had something to do or complete every minute of my time playing. Whether it was my own personal goal of building complicated houses or taking on side missions from townspeople, I never felt lost regardless of how big the island became.
Furthermore, Dragon Quest Builders 2 has plenty of features for newcomers if ever they feel unsure about what to do. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t get difficult, but the steady increase in difficulty is also accompanied by the player’s personal pacing through the game. This shows some great steps forward in terms of game design and delivering a balanced open-world adventure. What’s even more interesting is how the developer has created a narrative around these features and made everything flow naturally as you go about growing crops and creating different houses.
It’s rare to find a game that can boast such a large experience and at the same time allow players to take their time and experience it at the speed that they wish. In the first island of Dragon Quest Builders 2, I was wildly impressed with the hands-off approach the developers took when letting players learn things on their own, while also offering a more detailed explanation of missions for anyone who might require it.
As I head forth to a new island, I’ll be looking forward to how the game handles late-game missions and how new materials changes the way I approach creating or exploring. As for the opening hours, I appreciate not feeling overwhelmed or lost in an open-world game for once and the fact that this world has that tasteful Dragon Quest flavor added to it made it all the better.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is headed to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on July 12, 2019
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