It was only a matter of time, really, until Breath of the Wild – one of the best games of the last few years, and a valid contender for one of the best of all time – started to make its mark on other video games, but this is the first time it feels explicit. Dragon Quest Builders 2 came out in Japan towards the tail-end of last year, a follow-up to the 2016 original that itself crafted together an exquisite mix of Minecraft and the long-running, much-loved RPG series. The sequel streamlines things, throws in a dash of Breath of the Wild inspiration and comes out of it all feeling refreshed and refined.
The underpinnings are still mighty familiar from the first time out. You’re stranded in a land where building is outlawed, and it falls on you to bring back a spark of creativity, pushing out further into the wilds to pick up resources that you bring back to your base to build it up and attract more citizens, slowly providing them with facilities to keep them happy. It’s a hypnotic loop, and in keeping with the Dragon Quest vibe a sedate one too, as you engage in the lightest of combat out in the field before indulging in some light construction when you return.
You’ve a companion, too, in the form of Malroth, a mouthy, tempestuous young thing that follows you by your side when you venture out beyond your camp (later you have a dog that joins your party too, and who can sniff out certain resources – and yes, I’m delighted to confirm that you can pet the dog). There’s a through line that, if you’re a veteran of the series, might feel familiar – just as the first Builders used the very first Dragon Quest game as its template, so this sequel takes on Dragon Quest 2, with many of the same locales, characters and plot beats (which does, unfortunately, mean a key plot point is robbed of much of its power if you’ve ever played the original).