A lot of videogames are very long these days. From The Witcher 3 to the Yakuza series, some videogames make their length feel necessary. Others don’t. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is one such videogame. It is long just for the sake of being long and staying true to the JRPG series it spun itself off from. But that does not mean it is a bad game, not by any means. It is just too damn long. It is 2019. I’m tired.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set in the building genre that Minecraft pioneered but, in a lot of ways, Dragon Quest Builders 2 does Minecraft better than Minecraft. There is a central narrative, objectives, waypoints and streamlined mechanics that make the title welcoming to almost any curious person, whether they are into Dragon Quest or not. For example, I’ve never played a Dragon Quest title (who has the time for such endeavors anymore?) but I instantly fell in love with the music, overall tone and Akira Toriyama’s art—Slimes absolutely rule and I felt bad every time I beat one to death so that I could harvest its good jelly and juices for my own selfish betterment. Crafting, baby!
The story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is roughly based off of 1987’s Dragon Quest 2 and sees you, the titular builder (male or female), tasked with rebuilding society after the Children of Hargon (I don’t know) decide to make the world slowly die. Each attempt at rebuilding society in some way is met with violence. So what is the builder to do in such trying times? Collect resources and build those walls just a little sturdier and higher, of course! Dragon Quest Builders 2 is deliberately straightforward in both its narrative and core gameplay loop. Nothing is obfuscated, everything is as easy to understand as it can be, and once players fall into its task-focused rhythm, everything becomes smooth sailing. There is rarely any min-maxing and each new mechanic is introduced and paced out deliberately—too deliberately. Hell, cooperative play is not unlocked until, like, 20-or-so hours in. Some of the most fun abilities (like riding animals) are not introduced into the game until way too far in, and each island is paced worse than the one before it. Though each island varies visually, they sort of all blend together both mechanically and in the tasks asked of the player. Build this, repair that, harvest this, plant this, fight this, etc., ad infinitum.
This all makes the core experience and each island therein feel unnecessarily padded out. Dragon Quest Builders 2 feels long just for the sake of being long. It does not respect the player’s time in the slightest, but at least it is playable on the Nintendo Switch, which is arguably the best way to experience it. It runs surprisingly well and makes for a good game to have both at home and on the go. Most of my time spent with it was on two long international flights and layovers, and it really felt like the best way to play Dragon Quest Builders 2—as an escape from the mundanity and headaches of traveling.
But the pacing and length of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is not its only problem. The combat is terrible. It is a one-button “slash until a thing dies” bore, and thankfully combat is not the core mechanic of this game. The building and crafting is hyper-streamlined and endlessly rewarding. It is some of the most fun I’ve had with a videogame this year, but that fun begins to wear down after 40-or-so hours. The island hopping is fun at first, but the most fun when it comes to crafting comes when the player is tasked with building up their home island. Seeing it progress into something spectacular as the game-time runs on and on is staggeringly rewarding.
The story in Dragon Quest Builders 2 is as surface-level as a story can be. It is just place-setting and a narrative excuse for the going ons of the game to, well, go on. Thus, I can declare that Dragon Quest Builders 2 is probably the best podcast game of 2019. It is a fun experience that begins to buckle under its own weight, pacing and general lack of ambition. It never makes any attempt to be bigger than it is. It is a JRPG-themed building game that just so happens to be as long as a JRPG and it sure has no reason to be, but hey, the orchestral music is beautiful and nothing is quite as satisfying as booting up this game, breaking stuff and building stuff all while listening to whatever podcasts you tend to get into. Also, I still feel bad for killing so many Slimes. They are so cute, but the juices and goo underneath their gelatin-like skin is a necessary resource. But I still feel bad. Sorry, Slimes. When my time on this mortal coil reaches its sunset period, I’ll let the Slimes have my insides in an act of penance for the goo-based crimes I committed against them.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 was developed by Square Enix and Omega Force and published by Square Enix. Our review is based on the Switch version. It is also available for the PlayStation 4.
Cole Henry is an intern at Paste. He’s on Twitter @colehenry19.