Dragon Quest Builders Returns

Dragon Quest Builders was a big hit, to the surprise of…well, no one really. Dragon Quest remains one of the biggest franchises in Japan, and sales of the recently released Dragon Quest XI show how it’s still a powerful brand after three decades. Since Minecraft has also done well on multiple platforms, a title that combines the fundamentals of both franchises was destined to be an attractive product. Builders involved the mining and building features of Minecraft, and combined that with the straightforward storytelling and whimsical art style the DQ series is known for to create an experience dissimilar to previous spinoffs, but equally as enjoyable.

Unlike other spinoffs, the success also applied to western territories. The game sold 1.1 million copies worldwide as of the beginning of December. Since it was previously announced to have sold 700,000 as of the end of May, that implies it sold around 300,000 copies between America and Europe upon release, assuming it sold an additional 100,000 in Asian territories since that May report. While that doesn’t seem like much, that’s around double the sales of previous spinoffs in the west. There’s a reason why Rocket Slime 3 and the trio of Dragon Quest Monsters games for 3DS were left in Japan.

So, it’s no surprise that Square Enix is working on Dragon Quest Builders 2. This was announced a mere week after DQXI released, as if they couldn’t wait to reveal that it’s in development. There’s a good chance many who are either playing or have recently finished the game in Japan might be currently seeking out info regarding what’s next for the franchise, and the recent stream key members of the production team held answered those questions and made them take note of this.

Builders 2 is unsurprisingly similar in appearance to the last installment, as it uses similar character models, gameplay mechanics, and environmental assets. But the final version will have enough enhancements to make it feel like a sequel in terms of how it plays. The lack of slopes was a minor issue in the last game for building and exploration purposes, but this game will include them. The limit to how many blocks can be stacked has also increased three-fold, and the ability to fill places with water and create waterfalls has been added. Players can also dive underwater, and glide from high places using a Windbreaker. This should make traversing between multiple locations faster and more enjoyable.

The biggest gameplay change addresses the first game’s most significant issue: Multiplayer. The ability to play with others is a key appealing factor for Minecraft and some of its inspirations, but this was missing from the first game. Now, everyone who enjoys building and excavating with their friends and family members can do so, meaning the process of building towns for inhabitants will be much faster. You’ll be able to play with up to four others, but it wasn’t clarified whether this will be only online or local; it should be both, if they truly want to make it accessible to as large a crowd as possible.

The developers noted how the game is currently early in development, which explains why the main character is identical to the first game’s. They only provided keywords to imply what the setting will be, which included “fellow travelers” and “young Malroth.” Note that Malroth (known as Sidoh in the Game Boy versions), was the main villain of Dragon Quest II, implying this game’s connection to that one. The first Builders took place in Dragon Quest I’s world of Alefgard, one that showed what happened when the main character decided to join the Dragon Lord at the end of the game. It’s likely Builders 2’s world will have a similar kind of twist.

The first game released on PS4, PS3, and Vita, but Builders 2 will release for PS4 and Switch. While the former was a given, it’s clear Square Enix wants to establish a DQ base on Nintendo’s newest platform, since it will also be a successor to the 3DS. This will be coming along with Dragon Quest X and some version of DQXI down the line, and it’s following the release of Japanese launch title Dragon Quest Heroes I & II. The Switch version will also be the handheld alternative, taking the place of Vita, which is slowly fading from relevance.

After the stream, Square Enix mentioned how Builders 2 is around a year off, as indicated through its heavy usage of assets from the first game. It will be a short while before it’s shown on video again, but we might see something at Tokyo Game Show.

P.S. Meanwhile, though Builders 2 was the biggest announcement from the stream, there were others. Along with the Switch version, a new expansion for DQX is coming. Hearthstone-like card game Dragon Quest Rivals, which includes card cameos of characters from several games (including DQX and XI) will launch for mobile platforms this fall, with a PC release arriving shortly afterward. Itadaki Street: Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary will also release for PS4 and Vita on October 19th. Finally, Dragon Quest I, II, and III were announced for PS4 and 3DS. All three are based on the mobile versions, and sadly appear to inherit their issues. Perhaps they’ll work on porting all the games to multiple platforms, since the team is comfortable with digital distribution now.

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