If you like Minecraft but wish it had a story and concrete objectives, this is the game for you. Dragon Quest Builders 2 keeps everything that worked in the original -- including simple harvesting and building mechanics, a broad cast of mission-bearing non-player characters, and a cute anime aesthetic -- refines elements that needed some work, and adds new ideas for good measure. For example, you can now fast-travel to previously visited locations in the blink of an eye, and there are some fun new ways to get around, including gliding on the wind to cross the ocean and swimming into pools of water to find hidden chambers. Players can also easily switch between the default third-person perspective and a first-person view, which comes in handy in some building situations and while moving around indoors. And the new co-operative mode, which lets kids play with up to three other people locally or online, provides an outlet for players who want the freedom and social elements they're used to in games like Minecraft.
But the real draw -- and chief differentiator from other games of this ilk -- remains the goal-oriented story mode, which provides a sense of forward progress and rewards for work done. It's always easy to figure out what you need to do next to progress the story, and you'll earn plenty of new recipes along the way that will allow you to build more powerful gear and more sophisticated structures. The included downloadable content in the Xbox and Windows versions (which are optional in the PS4 and Switch versions) also provide a lot more options when it comes to building and shaping the world as you see fit. Plus, the traditional JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) story, while simple, is filled with positive themes, including the power of friendship and the potential for villains, in the right environment, to turn over a new leaf and become good, productive members of society. Dragon Quest Builders 2 won't replace or become as popular as Minecraft, but Square Enix's series has carved out its own little place alongside Microsoft's monumental building game by giving players a creative experience with a little more narrative structure and a polished look and feel.