Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the long awaited Nintendo Switch installment of the popular anthropomorphic-animal-filled life sim game, was first announced in the September 2018 Nintendo Direct and later shown at E3 2019. During E3, it was revealed that Animal Crossing wouldn’t see its Switch debut until March 20, 2020. Fans were understandably disappointed, but this supposed delay caused many to dust off their Nintendo 3DS and pick up Animal Crossing: New Leaf once again. While some fans were satisfied replaying an older entry, others have been looking for similar experiences on Nintendo Switch to play in the meantime. While there are plenty of somewhat similar titles from the past few years such as Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, and My Time at Portia, the most recently released somewhat similar title in North America and Europe is Dragon Quest Builders 2. Although it has some big differences from Animal Crossing, fans of the series and genre should give it a try for a number of reasons.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the sequel to Dragon Quest Builders, a minecraft-like spinoff of the popular Dragon Quest JRPG series. Dragon Quest Builders 2 originally released in Japan for PS4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan on December 20, 2018 and just recently on July 12, 2019 in North America and Europe.
You Don’t Have to be Familiar With Dragon Quest to Enjoy It (But It Helps)
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is based on — and takes place after — Dragon Quest II, much like its predecessor was based on the original Dragon Quest. Without getting into major spoiler territory — this game does have an actual story after all — there are some characters and elements that carry over from Dragon Quest II. You don’t have to be familiar with Dragon Quest II at all to play it, although being familiar with it as well the series in general could help you enjoy it more, if only to understand the in-game world a little better.
Both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Dragon Quest Builders 2 feature more character customization than their predecessors. While the first restricted players to a default male character, Dragon Quest Builders 2 player characters can be Male or Female and have hair and eye color customization options, with additional customization and accessory options unlocked later. At that point, you can even change the gender of your character if you want to. Like other Dragon Quest games, character designs are all by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, so your character will look like they would fit right in that world. You may have noticed that the main male character on the box and in promotional material even looks like a Super Saiyan, which male characters resemble for a portion of the game until the aforementioned additional options are unlocked. Sure, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has customization once you unlock it after getting a completely randomized character, but in Builders 2 you get to make customization choices at the start even if they are limited until later on.
Money Is Never An Issue
In Animal Crossing, bells have to be earned through various tasks and are used for house payments, town renovation, and shopping. In Dragon Quest Builders money is nonexistent. Finish a task, get rewarded with an item you need or might find useful later. Worried about getting new furniture for the rooms you’re building? It doesn’t matter, because you can just collect the necessary materials and build it — as long as you have unlocked those materials of course. By completing requests, you gain gratitude points which will help you get access to new islands and recipes, but once you unlock them you never have to spend gratitude points on them again. While gratitude points are a type of currency in a way, how they’re gained and help you unlock new features and progress the story forward makes for a more satisfying gameplay loop.
Quality of Life Improvements You Don’t Have to Wish For
Besides the aforementioned customization and multiplayer features, Dragon Quest Builders 2 has a handful of Quality of Life changes since the first one. The most essential of these changes is that item selection is faster and weapons don’t break, so collecting materials and building goes faster even though it still takes some time. Additionally, you no longer have to rely on save points since the game can autosave and you can also save wherever you want. That’s right! You can be out exploring and won’t have to worry about losing anything if you don’t have time to find a save point.
More Than Just One Island
Animal Crossing: New Leaf may have an island where players can collect tropical fruit, bugs, and fish, but Builders 2 has several islands throughout the game where players can find a ton of new materials. It takes a while to get to the point where you can reach islands besides the first two, but it’s worth the wait with all the new content you get to unlock over time. You’ll likely be finding new materials and coming up with new recipes more often than not, and as I said before will never have to worry about having enough in-game money to create new things. Sadly, Master Roshi’s island is not included (for now…)
Explore Faster and Freely
In addition to these building quality of life changes, there are also some improvements with exploration. The player character can now run for a limited amount of time due to their stamina bar, making traversal to a new area much quicker than before, you also won’t trip over or step on and ruin anything the way you might in Animal Crossing. There are also warp points, so you don’t have to run all the way back to base if you don’t want to. To be honest, without these warp points, walking back and forth would feel like going through Snake Way.
Besides land traversal there’s also gliding akin to that seen in Breath of the Wild as well as underwater exploration. For fans of Minecraft, the view can also be switched from third person to first person, similar to the feature in Dragon Quest XI.
You Don’t Have to Do All The Work Yourself
In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, while you spent bells you earned on town renovations and decided on their placement, you never have to build them. In the first Dragon Quest Builders, you would help the residents with their various gathering and building requests and get rewarded in return, but they never did their share of work besides protecting the area from monsters when attacked. As you might imagine, fulfilling these requests could take awhile, particularly when dealing with several at the same time. In Dragon Quest Builders 2, once you’ve fulfilled a number of requests and have leveled up your base enough, the other residents will do those activities for you. For example, say you have several crops to tend to, but if you want to spend more time exploring, you can tell these residents what needs to be planted where and they’ll do it for you as time goes by. There’s also your amnesiac buddy Malroth, who always goes exploring with you and will help you fight monsters or gather materials when needed, although he isn’t always collecting the right materials and rather just something else nearby.
The first Dragon Quest Builders severely lacked one feature other similar games, including Animal Crossing: New Leaf, tend to have: online multiplayer. While there was an online aspect where players could share their creations, there was no direct player interaction. Dragon Quest Builders 2 changes this by introducing local and online co-op gameplay. Similar to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, one to three players will visit another player’s world and then engage in whatever activities they wish. You can even decide whether you want players to help you build, or just want to show them your island, as a way to make sure they don’t break or add anything you don’t want them to. This way, you won’t have to worry about more careless players wrecking your creations, as you would when plating a lot of flowers in your Animal Crossing: New Leaf town.
You Get A Dog That Helps You Find Certain Materials (and You Can Pet It)
Do I really need to say more? She may not be K.K. Slider, but she helps you much more directly and you can also name her.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. A free demo is also available on both platforms for interested but unsure players to try out, and you can continue from where you left off once you get the full game.